Sunday, August 1, 2010

Midnight Hour for Horses: The Slaughter Issue

First of all, thank you to those who have been with me through this journey of my passions: writing, art, horses.  I am more than halfway through now, and I’ve been deeply moved by the responses I’m getting to my horse stories and interviews.

As I have your attention, I hope you will indulge me as I take a moment to talk about a more controversial topic:  Horse Slaughter

I’ve mentioned how some of the bright stars of the BSER have escaped slaughter.  These are beautiful animals who have touched more lives than I can count.  They have grown to be happy, healthy, loves of people’s lives. 

They could have ended up on a plate at a gourmet restaurant overseas.

Now, when I started working with rescues, I knew very little about slaughter.  In fact, not only did I know very little, I knew a lot of misinformation.  I thought that horses were slaughtered similar to cows and pigs and such.  I am not a vegetarian, but I do buy food I know has been slaughtered humanely (I research brands or buy local, natural products).  I THOUGHT – or rather, I didn’t think – that horses were treated humanely at slaughter and that they would feed hungry people.

I was very wrong.

Let me address some myths and facts about horse slaughter.

From Mary Martin, the Massachusetts Representative for New England Equine Rescues:

Myth:  Slaughter is a service to get rid of unwanted horses

Fact:  Demand for horse flesh abroad is what feeds the slaughter pipeline.

Myth:  Only old and useless horses go to slaughter - foals do not go to slaughter

Fact :  *USDA 's own statistics say that over 90% of slaughtered horses are in good condition and a study says that 80% are under age 10.   Also,  many foals go to slaughter from the PMU industry as they are a byproduct from the making of the drugs Premarin and Prempro.

Also, rescues see chestnut QH babies thrown away for being born the wrong color - like the Pure Thoughts babies Abercrombie and the late Fitch.

From Susan Sheridan, president of the Bay State Equine Rescue:

“There are two reasons we have horse slaughter.  On the private side, people are irresponsible and want the easy way out for themselves with no thought of the consequence to the horse.  These are the people who would say, ‘Oh, I had no idea.’ And to that I would say, they had no idea because they are so self absorbed.  On the business side, it's all about the money.  Whatever way they can make a buck.  No matter what, it is the horse that suffers.” 

She also cites Marge Mullen who wrote a great article in the July edition of New England Horse Talk.  It is about slaughter and auctions.  Her quote: "Shipping your horse to auction, where he has a 70% chance he will end up at slaughter, is the easy way out." 

Susan also directs people interested in learning the disturbing truth about horse slaughter here: 

“Go to this link:
then scroll down to the first red url:  If that isn't enough to convince people that slaughter is wrong then I do not know what it will take.”

From Judith Vanderkey, a volunteer and supporter of New England Equine Rescues: 

Myth:  Horse slaughter when it was available in the United States was humane and overseen by USDA veterinarians and inspectors

Fact:  Horse slaughter was extremely cruel in practice, and the inspections were almost always nonexistent; for one period at the end of US slaughterhouse operations, the slaughterhouses themselves paid the inspectors.

Myth:  Now that horses have to go to Mexico or Canada for slaughter, it is much more cruel and inhumane

Fact:  It is about the same in Canada and, though more brutal in Mexico, horses were shipped across both borders for slaughter even when the US abattoirs were open. 

Myth:  If horses have to be killed, at least their meat goes to feed the hungry

Fact:  Horsemeat is marketed as a gourmet foodstuff -- it sells for $20 a pound in Europe, not the range that lower-income people can afford

Myth:  Horsemeat is good for you, being lower in cholesterol, etc.

Fact:  American horses, being raised for purposes other than food, are chock full of toxins from substances that are illegal to use in animals intended for food, such as "bute," pesticides/flyspray s, topical ointments, wormers, etc.  US horsemeat is not safe for either humans or pets.

From Kathryn Webers, MA Anti-slaughter representative:

Myth: If horses can no longer be slaughtered, their welfare is at risk due to the lack of adequate equine rescue facilities and uniform standards for them.

Fact: Standards of care have already been developed and embraced by the hundreds of equine rescue and retirement facilities that exist throughout the country that routinely rescue horses from slaughter. All must comply with state and local animal welfare statutes. In an effort to end the slaughter of racehorses, the New York Racing Association has partnered with other groups to launch the "Ferdinand Fee" to raise funds for the care of retired racehorses, and to honor Ferdinand, a former Kentucky Derby winner who went to slaughter. Racetracks also have post-racing programs, such as those at Philadelphia Park, Finger Lakes Race Track and Suffolk Downs as examples.

Myth: If a slaughter ban is passed, the federal government will face the financial burden of care for horses no longer going to slaughter.

Fact: This assertion rests on the false premise that all horses currently going to slaughter would become the financial responsibility of the federal government. Horse owners, not the government, will remain responsible for the care of their horses. Owners who no longer wish to keep their horses and who cannot sell or place their horses in a new home will have the option of humane euthanasia. The average cost for veterinarian-administered euthanasia and carcass disposal—approximately $225, the cost of one month's care—is simply a part of responsible horse ownership.

Myth: Ending horse slaughter will cause environmental harm.

Fact: Hundreds of thousands of horses are safely disposed of annually by means other than slaughter, and the infrastructure can absorb an increase in numbers. Conversely, the operation of the horse slaughterhouses results in negative environmental impact. This industry is known for violating environmental laws related to the disposal of blood and other waste materials. Then-Mayor Paula Bacon of Kaufman, Texas—then home of one of the last US horse slaughter plants—desperately stated "Dallas-Crown is operating in violation of a multitude of local laws pertaining to waste management, air quality and other environmental concerns... Residents are also fed up with the situation. Long-established neighbors living adjacent to the plant cannot open their windows or run air conditioners without enduring the most horrific stench." In 2007, Cavel in DeKalb, IL was charged and fined for pollutant violations to the DeKalb Sanitary system and to the nearby Kishwaukee River.

The Bay State Equine Rescue is 100% anti-slaughter.  Our job is to save these horses from this cruel fate.  Most times, we actually have to purchase these horses from auctions and kill pens.  Why?  Because we have to out-bid the meat buyers.  We also have to ship these horses and then provide extensive care because of the neglect and abuse they suffer from the auction and the shipping prior to auction.  Please help us keep horses from slaughter by supporting us below. 

Click the apple to donate now to help the BSER horses!


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