Horse slaughter is a controversial topic, not only in Missouri, but throughout the United States. A variety of bans, acts, and amendments regarding the issue goes all the way back to 1998. This is not only a matter of politics, but more importantly, a matter of ethical treatment. The most recent legislation dealing with the ban of horse slaughter was in January 2014. While it did not receive much media attention at the time, it is an issue that should be brought to the forefront now.
Neglect and abuse, over-breeding and inbreeding, and turning horses loose because an owner can’t afford to feed them anymore are only some of the problems the equine industry is battling.
“I think it put more horses in jeopardy by abolishing it,” said Janine Scearce, from Curryville, Missouri. “Owners aren’t left with many options anymore.”
She currently owns four horses and a miniature donkey. Scearce’s statement touches on the fact that, since the ban, more horses have been sent out of the country to worse conditions to be slaughtered. Some of these countries include Mexico and Canada where regulations aren’t as strict as those that the USDA would enforce. A reinstatement of horse slaughter within our own borders would prevent horses from facing gruesome and sometimes inhumane death. They’d be much safer and in better condition arriving to heavily regulated slaughterhouses in the U.S.
Gabee Toth, horse owner and boarder at CMB Training facility in Moscow Mills, Missouri, sees legalization as an appropriate way to handle all of the over-breeding being done.
“The amount of over-breeding that is done these days makes a huge impact on the farms and people trying to keep quality breeding and genes to the standard they used to be,” Toth said. “It’s hard seeing anything go to the kill house, and some really nice horses get put into that situation because of all the over-breeding.”
Toth said she believes over-breeding decreases the value of the horse population because breeders look for good genetics and breeding, but can’t always find it nowadays. The type of horses being sent to the slaughterhouse isn’t limited to those that are malnourished or aging. The list also has the potential to include well-bred horses, as Toth mentioned, simply as a way to control the population.
Those who argue against legalizing horse slaughter often say that horses are different than traditional livestock because, in our country, we don’t consume the meat like we do beef, pork and poultry.
This argument, however, misses the point that the goal of legalizing horse slaughter is not to make horse meat available for human consumption in the U.S., but to serve as a way to maintain the equine population. In fact, most of the meat would be shipped overseas to Asia and France where horse meat is a delicacy. And unlike the sport of hunting deer as a form of population control, hunting and rounding up those horses that have been turned loose to try and survive would be frowned upon.
A slaughterhouse located in Gallatin, Missouri, is one of many working to legalize horse slaughter once again. Today’s ban prohibits funding to inspect slaughterhouses designated for horses, thus, preventing owners of such facilities from staying open legally.
Not only horse enthusiasts, but animal lovers in general, should attempt to decipher the bigger picture of what they want to see happen to the horse population. Horse welfare is being negatively affected without horse slaughterhouses open in the United States. Unwanted and unfit horses, abused and neglected horses will always be in this world, and they have to be taken care of somehow. It is important to educate those uninformed on the issue that this is not a law being pushed to promote horse meat consumption in the United States. Legalizing horse slaughter would simply create a humane method of controlling the population.