Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Slaughter Issue, Con't. . . .

by Kit Ehrman
After the last equine slaughter plant in the United States was closed down, the plight of unwanted horses actually became worse, not better. Unwanted animals were hauled even greater distances under appalling conditions to slaughter houses in Canada and Mexico where the process is not as well regulated as it had been in the U.S. The method used in Mexican plants is particularly grisly. As it turned out, a bill that, on the surface, appeared to help horses actually had the unexpected effect of making the end of their lives more brutal.

So, a new bill was introduced that would make the transport of horses for slaughter illegal in the United States. HR 503, the federal Conyers-Burton Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act, would eliminate horse slaughter nationwide and prohibit the export of horses for slaughter. Seemed like a great idea.

The bill stalled.

Meanwhile, with the economy in a downward spiral, poor hay yields, and grain costs escalating along with everything else, the plight of unwanted horses grows more precarious with each passing day. More horses are bound to suffer.

Now, the pendulum is swinging the other way. Twelve state legislatures are considering measures to support or actively encourage the reestablishment of U.S. horse processing plants.

Resolutions opposing the HR 503 bill are either under consideration or have passed in:
North Dakota
South Dakota

Bills amending state law to promote slaughter plant development are pending in:

This about face was engineered by Wyoming State Representative Sue Wallis and South Dakota State Representative Dave Sigdestad in a resolution submitted to the National Sate Legislatures Agriculture and Energy Committee with the intent of generating jobs and addressing the issue of unwanted horses.

And that is the issue, really – unwanted horses. The key here is for each and every horse owner to think long and hard before breeding their animals.

The racing industry, in particular, is at fault in this regard as they seem to need to produce a whole lot of horses to come up with winners, but at least they are taking measures to curtail abuse in their own backyard.

Magna Entertainment Group has adopted a company-wide policy promoting the humane treatment of racehorses. Any trainer or owner stabling horses at one of their tracks who directly or indirectly participates in the transport of a horse to a slaughterhouse or auction house that sells horses for slaughter will be prohibited from having stalls at the track. Having stalls onsite is a big deal, so this is definitely a deterrent.

Magna Entertainment Group tracks:
Golden Gate Fields; Albany, Calif.
Gulfstream Park; Hallandale Beach, Fla.
Laurel Park; Laurel, Md.
Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie; Grand Prairie, Texas
The Meadows; Meadow Lands, Pa.
Pimlico; Baltimore, Md.
Portland Meadows; Portland, Ore.
Remington Park; Oklahoma City, Okla.
Santa Anita Park; Arcadia, Calif.
Thistledown; North Randall, Ohio

Suffolk Downs also has a zero tolerance policy. Track management will deny trainers stalls if they sell a horse for slaughter. They’ve also partnered with the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation and CANTER and have set aside ten stalls for horses that need care until they can be moved to a farm or retirement facility.

Finger Lakes Racetrack has its own horse farm and adoption program. Visit the link: http://www.fingerlakestap.org.

Legislation isn’t going to save horses. It’s up to each horseman to make smart decisions and take responsibility for their horses.

They give us so much. It’s our job to look after them.

Happy reading and riding,



Anonymous said...

The Anti-Slaughter Bill, sadly, is an example of good intentions morphing into a monster of awful results.

Jami Davenport said...

Great blog, Kit.

Gayle Carline said...

Really good post about a horrific problem. My trainer gets at least one phone call a week from someone with a horse they can't afford anymore, wondering if she can take it off their hands. She's kind-hearted, but simply can't afford to help all these horses.

Unfortunately, re-opening slaughterhouses does not sit well wth me either, ONLY BECAUSE they are not built with the horses in mind. See this week's article in Slate here: http://www.slate.com/id/2212233/.

Letting a horse suffer and die because you can't afford the vet services is no answer, but neither is subjecting a horse, any horse, to the methods described in the article. There has to be a third option, altho I don't know what it is. We're smart people; we should be able to figure this out, using both our hearts and our brains.

Plus, I gotta wonder about what kind of meat those Belgians are getting from us - how many products/medications have you used on your horse that carry the warning, "Not to be used on food animals"? I'm pretty sure the slaughterhouses don't ask where a horse came from, or what it's been shot up with...

Gayle Carline (aka GeeCarl)