Save Horses From Humans

I want to believe...Maybe that's my problem. I want to believe that all horse owners take the best possible care of their horses, or at the very least feed, water, and care for them with proper farriery and veterinary attention. Unfortunately, too many decades of reality under my belt make me skeptical that any kind of legislation will change human nature. I'm talking about House Resolution 3781 that would ban the sale, transportation, and slaughter of horses for human consumption and ban the sale of horse meat in the United States (see page 14). I wish I were three or four years old and still believed that everyone was good and kind (and that Santa brought presents). How can a rational adult think that banning slaughter will make people take care of horses they don't want?

If a horse is so unwanted that he will be sold by the pound, banning slaughter will mean that he will either suffer from additional neglect from his owner (possibly starving to death), be illegally shipped to Mexico or Canada for slaughter, or the pet food industries will again be able to afford horse meat as an ingredient. (The bill only bans slaughter of horses for human consumption.)

Some horses are not sound for riding, yet don't have a physical disability bad enough that they can't eat, drink, and survive. Unfortunately, there are too few homes out there for those horses. Ask the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF) representatives--they are constantly looking for places where these "pasture ornaments" can live happily ever after. (If you have a home to offer to this type of horse, contact www.trfinc.org.)

Some horses are unsound and miserable--so laminitic they can't stand comfortably, have broken bones, or suffer from other severe health problems. These horses deserve a quick, humane death. Other horses have behavioral problems that make them dangerous to themselves, other horses, and their handlers. They, too, should be given a humane end.

If banning slaughter made people want horses, how come all of the wild horses and burros don't have homes? People decades ago stopped rounding them up for slaughter, yet there are thousands that need to be placed after being taken from the ranges.

Instead of banning slaughter, why not ask the federal government to tax everyone in the United States and put that money aside for humane treatment for unwanted horses? If there are 70,000 horses going to slaughter, and it costs $3-$5 per day for minimal keep (fair hay), that's only $125 million a year. Of course the government would also have to buy the horses, provide them with a place to live, hire someone to watch over them, and transport them from where they are unwanted to the place they can be kept. Add medical, dental, and farriery care and you increase the cost a few hundred million.

Why tax everyone and not just horse owners? How many people pushing for this bill have never ridden a horse, much less owned one? Will this bill be voted on only by horse owners? No. Therefore, it's only fair that everyone who thinks slaughter is a nationwide problem and would vote to change it should pay to solve the problem of unwanted horses.

And remember, this influx of horses not going to slaughter is in addition to the thousands of horses already wending their way through the "charitable" system.

A better solution to the slaughter horse problem is to attack it from the roots: Horse owners and organizations should support legitimate charitable groups with proven track records (like the TRF or the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, www.mspca.org). Provide those groups with enough funding to buy and support horses destined for slaughter. Give them the ability to rehabilitate those horses which can become ridable, provide homes for those which no longer have any athletic ability, put down the ones which are suffering beyond recovery, and educate owners to prevent overbreeding.

Banning slaughter will not end the suffering, neglect, or abuse of unwanted horses. Every person who would support this legislation should instead donate money, time, or goods to an equine charity to rescue unwanted horses. Then the law would not be necessary.

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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