If A Horse Dies on the Highway, Does Anyone Hear?

Fall is upon us, and soon it will be winter. Fall marks a dying time, when trees lose their leaves...and horses lose their lives. It's tough for some people to feed their horses through another winter. Some older animals probably wouldn't have a pleasant time of it anyway, since they don't have as much ability to chew, digest, or forage. And many horses--actually, more than 100,000 of them--will be sold (some several times), shipped across the country or into Canada, and slaughtered for shipment to Europe, where there is a large demand for horse meat.

It's not the final destination of which I disapprove, it's the final trip.

The bill that allows regulation of the transportation of horses to slaughter was passed by Congress on March 28, 1996. It merely awaits the Secretary of Agriculture to deem it important enough to allocate an estimated $411,000 to begin the rule-making and implementation process. (Let's see, at 55 cents a pound on the hoof, 822 wild horses weighing 900 pounds each could be sold by the Bureau of Land Management to pay for this bill.)

When this bill was passed, I, along with most other horse people, thought that the unregulated transport of horses in cramped, sometimes deadly, "possum-belly" trailers would end.

It didn't.

When this bill passed, I thought the lawmakers had stepped up to the plate and said in a united voice, "We must make sure that these horses are not abused before they reach the slaughter houses, where we already have federal people in place to make sure the slaughter process is humane."

I was wrong.

When this bill passed on March 28, 1996, I hoped that one of the tragedies of our industry finally was being addressed.

Guess again.

What will it take to convince Agriculture Secretary Daniel R. Glickman that a $112.1-billion U.S. industry that involves 7.1 million citizens of this country deserves as much federal money as is allocated to aquaculture per year (about $30 million).

You and me.

Do you care enough about making the last ride of horses destined for slaughter at least a humane trip? There are people in place in the USDA who are ready to lay down the law and regulate the transportation of horses to slaughter, but their hands are tied by bureaucratic red tape and dollar signs. It is up to the horse people of the United States to invest 32 cents, or a phone call, to let Secretary Glickman know we are not pleased, and we will be heard.

Contact Secretary Glickman by writing: Hon. Daniel R. Glickman, Secretary of Agriculture, USDA, Jamie L. Whitten Federal Building, 1400 Independence Avenue SW, Room 200A, Washington, D. C. 20250; or call 202/720-3631.

The Horse will be taking a first-hand look at the horses being transported to slaughter in the United States and the research that is underway on transporting horses in tractor trailers. We can't see or know everything, but we can try to bring you as much detail in as factual a manner as possible.

BLM Questions

The Bureau of Land Management has come under heavy fire this year for alleged mishandling of wild horses in the federal adoption program. There have been claims that BLM employees kept wild horses and subsequently sold them for slaughter. Other reports noted that the bookkeeping on owners and what happened to the adopted horses wasn't up to snuff, and there was the possibility that those horses had been re-sold, possibly to slaughter.

There are other, more basic problems that need to be addressed with this program. According to informed sources, there are no veterinarians on staff with the BLM when they round up the wild herds to ready them for shipment to adoption points across the United States. Few, if any, necropsies are done on animals, including foals, which die at the holding areas. Horses from several states are mixed together, exposing entireherds to maladies they have not known in their part of the public lands on which they graze. There are no separate holding areas for horses which are, or become, ill during this penning process.

Again, The Horse will delve into this situation and bring you the facts behind the round-up, transport, and adoption of wild horses.

Please remember that not all wild horses are sold to slaughter. Not all wild horses are moved from one place to another seeking permanent homes. (One of our contributing photographers, Katey Barrett, adopted a wild mustang and dearly loves him.)

Our December cover story will be on feral horses, and there will be an accompanying article on the Bureau of Land Management's wild horse and burro round-ups and adoption program. While it isn't all a pretty picture, it also isn't all tragedy. And to leave the horses to overpopulate their grazing lands and either die of starvation or be shot while poaching
on ranchers' lands isn't an acceptable
alternative.

So, as the leaves begin to turn in many areas, and summer slowly gives way to fall, consider the horses who will never see another spring. We are their only hope.

California Caveat

In the Up Front section of the magazine, there is a news item about a group in California wanting to regulate whether horse owners can legally sell their own animals for slaughter. I would love to see every horse live out its days knee-deep in clover, but that is not going to happen. I would much rather see these horses humanely transported and killed than die a lingering, horrid death from starvation and neglect. What will they regulate next, what discipline we can ride?

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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