by Jerry Finch, Habitat For Horses
December 6, 2011
Before I start discussing the slaughter issue, let me mention the one person that the pro-slaughter folks use as their spokesperson – Sue Wallis. While I will have intelligent conversations with anyone, I’m not sinking that low. After seeing Ms. Wallis support and promote the disturbed acts of a teenager who killed her horse and wrapped herself in its body, I have absolutely no regard for Wallis or her cult followers.
To start, I will quote the American Veterinarian Medical Association (AVMA), who allegedly represents the veterinarians on this issue. Interesting to note that while the AVMA operates through the membership fees of the vets they “represent,” those vets have NEVER been polled concerning their beliefs on horse slaughter.
What is an “Unwanted Horse?
According to the AVMA – “It may be a healthy horse that an owner can no longer afford to keep or feed. It may be a horse that is dangerous to handle and has injured (or is likely to injure) people. It may be a horse with an injury, lameness, or illness, and the owner is unwilling or incapable of taking care of it.
“The American Horse Council estimates that there are 9.2 million horses in the United States. We do not have reliable statistics on the number of horses that become unwanted each year. We do know that 90,000 to 100,000 unwanted horses have been sent to slaughter annually, and that the total number of unwanted horses is substantially greater than this.”
To arrive at this figure, I wonder if they hung around the auctions and asked the horses if they were “unwanted”? What about those that were stolen, or those where the killer-buyers outbid the family that wanted the horse? What about those killer-buyers that show up at the homes that advertise “Free horse” in newspapers and on Craigslist and promise the owner that they will love the horse for the rest of its life?
I have always been totally astounded that through some magic of the laws of supply and demand, the total number of “Unwanted Horses” seems to be almost the same as the number of horses being sent to slaughter each year.
The pro-slaughter folks want you to believe that the countryside is teaming with masses of skinny, starving horses all tromping through State and National Parks and sneaking into the suburbs at night to eat the flowers out of Mrs. Jones’ garden. While they seem to believe that the only answer for those horses is slaughter, they admit that no one knows how many “unwanted horses” there really are.
I would well imagine that should the demand for horse meat increase, we’ll find that the number of “unwanted horses” will also increase. On the reverse, when the EU suddenly is forced to admit that horses from the US are chocked full of carcinogens and stops importing the tainted meat, the number of “unwanted horses” will be dropped from all conversations. It simply won’t be a factor anymore.
The 9.2 million horse figure given above is from a survey completed by the American Horse Council in 2006. Running the population on an upward scale, I can well imagine that the current population is well above 10 million horses in the United States.
So the estimated figure of all the “unwanted horses” in the US is actually around 1%.
If you believe the hype of all the pro-slaughter folks, that 1% reflects what they term as the absolute destruction of the equine market caused of the closing of the US slaughterhouses. Yet that same 1% is what was being slaughtered when all three slaughterhouses were open, and that SAME 1% is what is being slaughtered today in Mexico and Canada.
If the number of “Unwanted Horses” is the same, why is the closing on the three US slaughterhouses being blamed for the destruction of the equine economy?
And if that extra 1% in production every year is really that much of an issue, don’t you think some wizard bean counter in the AQHA would slap his head and say, “Maybe we should cut back on foal production by 1%!”
So where is the increase in the number of “unwanted horses?”
Clue – the pro-slaughter people need to convince you that 1) closing the US slaughterhouses was the sole cause of the destruction of the equine market, 2) that this country needs to get back those wonderful facilities on our own soil, 3) that people are dumping thousands of horses in every roadside park in the nation and 4) the only reason for horse slaughter is to help us have a safe and happy way to dispose of our excess horses.
One more time – the number of horses currently being slaughtered in Mexico and Canada is about the SAME as the number that were slaughtered when the US had three operation slaughterhouses.
The destruction of the equine market was not caused by the 1% of “unwanted horses.” People lost their jobs! The housing market went to hell! The economy tanked! Yet the great American breeders kept pushing out foals, thousands of them – backyard breeders, racehorse breeders, paint horses, quarter horses – the mass production continued. I would think that someone, somewhere would finally look up and realize – “Dang, there sure is a lot of horses out there.”
Clue two – the EU will only buy X number of pounds of horse meat. If the US has X plus another 10,000 pounds, then the market is flooded. The $300 slaughter bound horse now becomes the $25 horse.
And who is at fault?
I wish those breeders would look at themselves in the mirror on occasion. Can you imagine the CEO of a car company saying, “We make $100 off of each car we produce. So let’s produce ten million cars!” It wouldn’t take long for that CEO to be replaced.
For you pro-slaughter breeders that need slaughter to dump your non-sellable yearlings – it’s time to rethink the program. Quality, not quantity. The AQHA members breed more horses each year that all the other breed registrations combined. Coincidentally, more quarter horses are slaughtered every year that any other breed of horses.
A couple of years ago, almost identical stories started appearing in newspapers across the country, supposedly written by a local reporter, about horses being turned loose in State Parks. The story would follow the same basic pattern, quoting a local official and a State Park representative, saying that they had never seen anything like this. People, they would say, were just dumping horses off in the woods and leaving them to starve to death.
To find the truth, each and every one of those stories were tracked down. Not one – not a single planted story, proved to be true. The stories were planted to make people believe that horse slaughter was necessary. Every Sheriff and every park representative contacted denied making any such statements. One park in Kentucky did have 20 horses running around, but the owner said he did that every year – same 20 horses. Whenever an “authority” stated that unwanted horses were being dumped by the hundreds, they could not produce any proof.
I am the first to admit that there is an increase in the number of horses we are being asked to take into our program and I fully understand a horse owner reaching out to find an alternative place for their horse when times turn bad. Time and again, it’s done with the preamble of, “I just don’t want them to go to slaughter.” My suggestion is – no one will ever love your horse as much as you. If you cannot place them with people that you know beyond any doubt will love and keep them, then the best answer is to put them to sleep.
“Oh, but it cost so much!”
So you had rather put your horse through the horrors of slaughter than to let him die in peace? Or are you saying that you rather have the $100 the killer-buyer will give you than spending the $150 the vet wants to charge? Do you actually care that little? Then find someone who truly knows how to shoot a horse in the head and can kill it immediately.
“There’s no place to bury it!”
Around 2% of the equine population in the US die every year above and beyond horse slaughter. That’s around 200,000 horses that are euthanized or die quietly and are disposed of properly. I’m fairly certain that your vet can figure out a way to dispose of the body.
Not Ready for Slaughter
Let’s talk about all the “skinny, starved unwanted horses.” This is one area in which we specialize. Habitat for Horses works closely with a number of law enforcement agencies. We go after people that starve horses with the primary goal of teaching them how to care for their critters. If they ignore that, we help law enforcement go to court and take the horses away. We’ve been doing that for the last 14 years so we have a little experience in this area.
First observation – slaughter is no answer for skinny horses. The slaughterhouses won’t take them. In fact, in most cases they aren’t allowed to cross the border, so the killer-buyers don’t want them. According to a survey by USDA/APHIS, 92% of slaughtered horses were in “good to excellent” condition. Isn’t it just plain logical that a slaughterhouse wants fat, healthy animals? To go through the whole slaughter process for just a few pounds of meat doesn’t make sense.
Second – it is against the law in every state to deny a horse proper food, water and medical care. This is one area that really chaps me as I listen to some livestock officer complain about all the horses wandering the roads when it is their job to track down the owner and put their asses in jail on animal cruelty charges.
Kinda’ like a cop complaining about the dead bodies they find beside the road, yet absolutely no effort is being made to find the killer. Well, duh? Isn’t that your job?
Starved horses are a criminal issue that needs to be handled through law enforcement. If law enforcement won’t handle it, then call the newspaper, get on the phone with TV and radio stations, get hold of the county commissioners and judges. Let them all know that selective enforcement of the laws in your state is not acceptable and that you will not allow it to continue. Yes, you will get a few people pissed off at you, but so what? It isn’t right and you know it, so act.
One person had a recent case involving a herd of about 50 horses, most of them extremely emaciated, and the Sheriff would not do anything. She stopped by the pasture one winter morning and saw a mare down and obviously quickly dying, with a foal trying to nurse. She called the Sheriff again, the dispatcher said, “Everyone is tied up today.” Her next call was to the TV station, who listened to the story and immediately put a crew on the road. She called the Sheriff back and said, “The TV crew is on the way and should be here in about 20 minutes. “
The Sheriff and upteen Deputies showed up in 10 minutes and did the seizure.
Personally, makes no difference if it’s a baby, an elderly person or a horse. It’s a living creature that needs help and God forbid that humans find themselves too busy to reach out to those in need.