All of the concerns of abandoned horses and the other consequences of the US laws to shut down the commercial slaughter of horses seem to be coming to pass.
There is a national epidemic of “surplus” or “unwanted” horses. Domestic horses are being abandoned as never before. Some are being released as “strays” on public lands. Others are being left to starve in pastures denuded of grass. The reasons are various and excruciatingly complex.
There are, to begin with, too many horses in the USA: 9.2 million as recently as 2005, up from 5.3 million in 1999. Indiscriminate breeding leads not just to too many horses, but also to too many with physical or behavioral faults that render them unsuitable for domestic uses.
Then there’s the economy. Horses are not cheap to keep. Factor in training, vet care, tack and feed, and the expense averages $1,800 to $2,400 per animal, per year — and rising, as grain and fuel costs increase. According to the American Horse Council, a third of horse owners have household incomes less than $50,000 a year. When it comes to feeding your horses or putting gas in the car, the choice is simple, if painful.
But the single overriding cause of “surplus” horses is the movement to ban the sale of horses or their meat for human consumption. Activism forced the last three horse slaughter plants in the U.S. to close last year. They had hitherto processed about 100,000 horses annually, mostly for meat sales to France and Japan, where horse meat is considered a delicacy.
Not that facts and common sense carry any weight where emotional issues are involved.