A couple of years ago, the Board of Directors of the Arabian Horse Association made a decision to publicly support lifting the ban on horse slaughter in the US. They did not consult the membership. Today, the membership affirmed that support through their representatives.
I spent most of this week at the AHA’s Annual Convention in Denver, Colorado. I have been a member of the association for at least 30 years. I have been a delegate for my local club two or three times, I’ve attended at least five conventions. It is safe to say I’ve been part of the AHA for a long time. I love Arabian horses, I consider them pets, I go to great lengths to take care of them. The AHA promotes Arabians, funds activities and competitions for Arabians and their people. It’s the main club for Arab horse owners.
2012 convention delegates discussed and voted on several rule changes and association policies. We discussed whether or not adult amateur western riders should be able to ride their horses faster than a collected gait. We discussed whether children under the age of ten should have to know how to back their horses up. The delegates voted on all of this, some results made more sense than others. The final vote was whether or not the association would take a neutral stance on the re-opening of horse slaughter houses in the US, or whether they would accept the Board’s decision to support lifting the ban.
The ban has already been lifted by Congress. Technically, it is legal to operate a slaughter facility for horses in the United States. The House Appropriations Committee , however, has blocked it by refusing funds to pay for inspection of such businesses. In short, it is legal to operate a horse slaughter facility in the US, but you can’t do it legally.
Ironically, this was exactly how they “banned” horse slaughter back in 2006. I don’t know what their true rationale was either time but I am glad they did it.
Nevertheless, when asked whether the AHA should officially take a neutral stance on the matter, a significant majority of delegates voted against neutrality. That is, they voted to support the re-opening of horse slaughter facilities in the US.
For the time being, it won’t happen. With the fiscal cliff approaching, I doubt the US government is going to pony up the cash to inspect and monitor any new facilities. For the time being, all this vote says is “The Arabian Horse Association supports equine slaughter in the United States.”
Many supporters will argue that they don’t want to slaughter horses. They will say it is the only humane way to deal with abandoned and neglected horses. They will tell you that modern slaughter methods will be more humane than they used to be.
True or not, that position completely ignores the larger, far more likely result of making horse slaughter more accessible for Americans. Selling horses for meat will become profitable. If it were not, those facilities clamoring to reopen would not be interested. No one would open a slaughter facility to humanely dispose of unwanted horses.
Think about it.
If you are selling horse meat for human consumption, that animal must be free of all kinds of drugs (look at the warnings on your worming paste tube). You cannot worm that horse for a long time before you take it to slaughter. You also cannot give that animal any pain medication it probably needs since it is suffering and needs to be euthanized.
On top of that, no one is going to buy some beat up old horse, skinny or not, for human consumption. Horse meat eaters eat young horse meat, same as beef eaters eat cows under two years old, same as lamb eaters eat lambs, not sheep.
What opening those facilities within the US will do is this: make killing horses profitable. It won’t be a way to dispose of old sick horses, but young fat healthy ones. It will make stealing a horse for quick turnaround at an aution yard much more practical. It will make over-breeding less of a financial risk because you can take those sub-par yearlings off to auction to be sold without any stain on your farm, your breeding program, or your stallion.
Getting rid of horses will cost less, but the people who will benefit most from that reduced cost will NOT be the people and the horses struggling under financial hardship. That horse abandoned at the race track by someone who couldn’t afford to feed it or put it down will be just one in dozens of horses going to slaughter. Most of the horses will be fat, healthy young animals raised for the purpose, stolen, or simply not what the breeder is looking for.
Call me a cynic. Call me paranoid, but it is my understanding that no one goes into business unless they expect to make a profit.
If you want to talk about the benefits of selling horses for meat, consider France. There are several breeds of draft horse that would no longer exist if it were not for the fact that Europeans eat them. Those horses not only exist, but there are lots and lots of them, just like there are lots of breeds and registries for cows and sheep. In that case, raising horses for meat has preserved ancient breeds, horses that once carried knights into battle and plowed all the fields in France. Without the horsemeat business, they would be lost entirely.
What you should get from that information is that horse meat is big business, big enough to keep entire breeds alive. It is not a charitable mission of mercy.
Advocates of horse slaughter also argue that since horse slaughter was banned in the US there has been no drop in the number of horses being sent to slaughter. The only difference is that they are being sent to Canada and Mexico. Since we have been going through economic hard times as a country, shouldn’t the number have increased significantly?
The fact that the numbers have not gone up is likely due to the increased cost of shipping them from many parts of the US to one of the country’s outer borders.
Unfortunately, there are no hard numbers on how many horses were abandoned or seized in that same time. Anecdotal evidence says there have been more. Even if that is true, many of those abandoned and neglected animals were rehomed. Had those people been able to sell those horses for meat, they might have. Had those people known that they would not be able to afford to keep the animal before it starved, it is reasonable to think they probably would have been able to avoid letting it starve.
That starved horse would not be suitable for human consumption. That horse would end up as dog food or a circus animal’s dinner the same way they do now when they go to unregulated, non EU slaughter facilities in Mexico and Canada. Would a horse meat buyer even bother taking it to one of these new facilities?
It would be easy to assume that none of those animals people hope to help by opening slaughter houses would actually go to those facilities. They wouldn’t take a horse in need of rescue unless that same horse were also healthy enough to be adopted.
How to help people and their horses in hard times has not been adequately addressed. But making it legal to sell horses to slaughter will open a can of worms we know very well is not imaginary. If you want to help people euthanize their horses, help them euthanize their horses. Don’t pay them to do it. Don’t make it profitable for anyone to kill horses.
If you consider horses to be livestock instead of companion animals (California considers them companion animals) then it is understandable that you would consider it important to be able to dispose of them any way you like as quickly as you like at as little cost to yourself as possible. If we were discussing slaughter houses for dogs or cats, would Americans even be discussing it? But if you believe horses fall into the livestock category, sort of like live sports equipment, you believe it is ridiculous to consider them like dogs or cats.
Livestock are animals used for food, fiber or work. There are very few horses doing “work” that cannot be done better than machinery, except in sport. So if you consider what horses do for people in sport akin to golf clubs or a motorcycle, then you can call them livestock and saving money by selling them for food is reasonable to you.
I do not consider a horse a type of sports equipment. I do not consider a horse food. I recognize that this is an entirely arbitrary position, since cows and pigs and sheep are also very cute, and what did a fish ever do to me? Nevertheless, I would rather the country resort to vegetarianism than expand our meat consumption to include horses.
Ironically, it is very unlikely that Americans will ever start eating horse meat in significant or profitable numbers. Any horse meat production would be entirely for export. But make no mistake, it will be profitable or it won’t be done.
Only slaughtering abandoned or unwanted horses is not profitable. That is far too unreliable a supply chain. You need to guarantee your supply by producing those horses for your purpose. You will need people breeding lots of extra fat young horses. You will probably find more people breeding draft horses because they get really fat and heavy.
Think that won’t happen? In a world full of people who really dearly love their horses, it wouldn’t. But we don’t live in that world.
The Arabian Horse Association voted to support American horse slaughter facilities. Probably many of them really believe it would help protect horses from being abandoned or neglected. Fine, I think they are wrong, but fine. I still have to wonder how many of them don’t believe local horse slaughter would be profitable for them as well.
My mother has been telling me that I won’t help anything by resigning from the AHA and any affiliate group. Mom warns that I will lose my voice in the organization. Well, if I started trying to talk to these people who shouted “Nay” to neutrality, after lecturing me on how we need slaughter as an option for the poor people who can’t feed their horses… well, if I tried to talk to those people anymore I would certainly lose my voice period.
The AHA took their stand, I’ll take mine, small as it is. It may not mean much at all but good bye Arabian Horse Association. You don’t speak for me anymore.