Happy New Year! I guess everyone has made his or her resolutions by now...get in shape, ride even when the weather is bad, take more lessons, save enough money to buy that new trailer you've been wanting, be more tolerant of the vocal people of the world who mean well, but are totally clueless.

Okay, I'll confess. This is my list. At least part of it.

Let's just start right in. Proposition 6 passed in California. This is the one started to prohibit the sale of horse meat in California. The one that makes it a felony knowingly to sell or transport a horse across state lines for sale to slaughter.

First, the Legislative Counsel of California stated, in response to a request from Sen. Ken Maddy (a valuable and responsible horse proponent in the state), that "Prohibition of Horse Slaughter and Sale of Horsemeat for Human Consumption Act of 1998, if approved by the voters, would violate the commerce clause of the United States Constitution." This report was issued before Californians passed Prop 6.

Second, the Horse Industry Alliance (HIA) reports that this measure was bankrolled with about $1 million "by some of Hollywood's leading animal rights proponents and as a result, Hollywood has helped to make it a felony punishable by up to three years in prison to sell a horse to be slaughtered for human consumption."

Okay, $1 million can't do today what it used to be able to do, but wouldn't that money have been better spent offering alternatives to people who felt they had to sell their horses to slaughter? Couldn't it have been used to start a new rescue farm or support those already in existence? A million dollars can buy a lot of hay and veterinary care. Those funds could have been the seed money for a state-wide initiative to help neglected, unwanted, or abused horses--those most likely to end up at slaughter.

Unfortunately, it's easier to buy television ads and support talking heads rather than roll up your sleeves and get muck on your shoes. Buy off your conscience, so to speak.

Also, this proposition makes it a crime only if horses are slaughtered and the meat is intended for human consumption. Which means supporters think it's fine to slaughter horses for rendering or other purposes --either in or out of California--as long as someone, somewhere, isn't eating the meat?

Third, the horse population in California is estimated to be 650,000. The HIA reports that in 1997, 3,112 horses--less than one-half of one percent--were shipped out of California to slaughter. That is a small percentage, but it's 3,112 horses too many.

However, as I have said before, there are fates worse than a quick, humane death for horses at a federally inspected slaughter house (where meat is intended for human consumption). Is this group who funded the passage of Prop 6 going to assume financial and physical responsibility for all the horses which previously had a humane end?

Comments sent to HIA in response to passage of this proposition include the following:

"This demonstrates a lack of leadership from the horse industry in California."

"The agenda of animal activists is clear; when the horse industry is splintered off, the activists win."

"What's next???"

That last question raises point four: There are a lot of well-meaning, but misguided people who want a change of the classification of horses from livestock to companion animals (pets).

To that issue, I point out what a really good job we do today of rescuing, saving, and placing in new homes all the unwanted cats and dogs in the United States. I applaud how well we have trained the general population to spay and neuter their animals to prevent unwanted litters. I cheer with the masses because no one still "dumps" dogs and cats in the country figuring someone else will take care of them, or that they can fend for themselves, or they can just die out of sight and out of mind.

In an effort to pry my tongue out of my cheek, let me say that horses are livestock. They are large animals that require specialized care, handling, and management. There are laws on the books to protect livestock from abuse, and to protect those who raise livestock from the ignorance of the unschooled and from unlawful acts against their persons and property.

So to the question of "What's next?" I reply, beware of the well-meaning "uninformed" who want to control what we do with our horses. This has nothing to do with unwanted animals, but everything to do with those horses which are cared for and even pampered by knowledgeable owners.

To someone who has never been around a horse, never ridden, never trained, a bit and girth probably look cruel and inhumane. Riding and training six days a week might seem extreme to those without experience. To the uninformed, turning horses outside with other horses to run, kick, buck, and eat grass could seem inadequate to their housing and nutritional needs. We actually had people call our local humane society because horse farms were "blinding" their horses with hoods (fly masks).

Now that Proposition 6 has been passed, however, the knowledgeable horse people of California, and elsewhere, need to take action. This initiative will be tried in other states, probably without success. But before that ever happens, we should step forward and help improve conditions and options for unwanted horses in our own states. We need to encourage political leaders to strengthen abuse laws.

Transporting horses to slaughter isn't a crime, but abusing or neglecting a horse is. That is what we should focus on, and that is one of the goals we need to rally around in this new year.

About the Author

Kimberly S. Brown

Kimberly S. Brown was the Publisher/Editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care from June 2008 to March 2010, and she served in various positions at Blood-Horse Publications since 1980.

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