In 2007, the last horse slaughterhouse in the U.S. was shut down, the end result of a campaign by horse lovers and animal rights organizations to stop the killing of horses for human food consumption.
It was a fight based on emotional appeal and on the part of the non-affiliated and bona fide horse lovers it was made, from their viewpoint, with all of the best intentions.
Opponents argue that domestic horses shouldn’t be used to satisfy foreign palates. Horses played a special role in U.S. history, they say, helping conquer the West, providing the sinews of early commerce and serving as majestic friends — but not food animals.
It was also a perfect battle for animal rights groups who would like to see all slaughterhouses shut down but are quite happy to take what they can get, one step at a time.
“It’s a step closer to the long-term goal of banning slaughter in North America,” said Wayne Pacelle, chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States. “There are fewer horses slaughtered.”
Like so many laws that are passed based on passion and pandering to a narrow vision, this one had its own set of unintended consequences.
No one disputes that slaughter-bound horses have it far worse today than before U.S. courts, upholding state bans, ended horse slaughter at two plants in Texas earlier this year and at the nation’s single remaining one in Illinois on Sept. 21.
The forced closure of the last horse-killing facilities in the USA, done at the urging of animal rights activists, has caused a herd of unwanted horses in animal shelters nationwide, according to breeders, ranchers and horse rescuers.The surplus threatens to worsen if Congress passes a bill to ban the selling of unwanted horses to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico.
The fact is that although the law shutting down the slaughterhouses in the US may give a warm glow to those who see horses as an icon animal and may satisfy the animal rights groups ongoing agenda, those horses that have outlived their time will still be dead, although not eaten – and maybe that is what this is all about. You can kill them when they become redundant but for God’s sake, you can’t eat them!
I would guess that very few horse owners have the facilities or the finances to maintain an animal once it has gone lame or simply aged beyond its useful days. As sad as that may be, it is just a fact of life. Those animals will be disposed of one way or another.
Where prior to the legislation they would have been sold to a US slaughterhouse where the methods used can be monitored and controlled, now there is no control.
The American slaughterhouses killed horses quickly by driving steel pins into their brains, a method the American Veterinary Medical Association considers humane. Workers in some Mexican plants, by contrast, disable them by stabbing them with knives to sever their spinal cords, said Temple Grandin, a professor of animal science at Colorado State University.
“My worst nightmare has happened,” Dr. Grandin said. “This is an example of well-intentioned but very bad unintended consequences.”
It isn’t the first time that misguided laws have been passed and it certainly won’t be the last. Politicians have a strong tendency to vote where the noise comes from.
All of this could easily lead me into a rant about Canadian gun laws, but I will forego that indulgence.