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HSUS Horse Slaughter Myth is a Reality

I was always ambivalent about the horse slaughter ban, not because I think horses should be slaughtered or eaten by anybody, but because pro-ban people aren’t saying it’s wrong to slaughter and eat animals. The objection is that the slaughter-ees are horses, and well, that would be unAmerican (or not).

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which, by the way, I used to be a member of and I’ve even had a fundraiser for their legal fund, was at the forefront of the push for the ban, and you may recall they have a list of Common Myths about Horse Slaughter. Number two on the list is: "A slaughter ban will increase abuse and neglect cases." Here’s the "Fact:"

There is no evidence to support these claims. According to the USDA, at least 5,000 horses have been imported into one of the three foreign-owned slaughter plants in the United States for slaughter since August 2004. If there were "too many" horses in the United States, then there would be no reason to import horses for slaughter. Furthermore, a ban on horse slaughter will not lead to an increase in horse abuse and neglect. In California, where horse slaughter was banned in 1998, there has been no corresponding rise in cruelty and neglect cases. In fact, horse theft has dropped by 34% since enactment of the ban. Allowing one’s horse to starve is not an option—state anti-cruelty laws prohibit such neglect.

Unfortunately, in Kentucky Overrun with Unwanted Horses (AP), Jeffrey McMurray reports that the myth of abuse and neglect is a reality, at least in Kentucky.

Let’s deconstruct:

  • There are starving, broken-down, lame, and even blind horses are roaming the countryside. "There have (even) been reports of horses chained up in eastern Kentucky and left for days without food or water. "
  • The cost of euthanasia and disposal is expensive, as is the cost of feeding them, and rescue groups are at their limit, so many horse owners are simply dumping the horses. For the HSUS to say, "Allowing one’s horse to starve is not an option–state anti-cruelty laws prohibit such neglect" is ridiculous. Of course it’s an option–they’re doing it right now. And I haven’t heard about anyone prosecuting them for it.
  • "It is legal in all states for owners to shoot their unwanted horses,
    and some Web sites offer instructions on doing it with little pain. But
    some horse owners do not have the stomach for that." Yet, they have the stomach for dumping them or chaining them without food or water?
  • Chris Heyde of the Society for Animal Protective Legislation said, "Once you remove slaughter, you remove a release valve for irresponsibility . . . . These are animals. They’re not a pair of shoes." That’s a fascinating idea–that the slaughter is what reminds people that horses aren’t shoes. I find it (probably true, but) quite disturbing. The fundamental problem isn’t the ban or the effects of the ban, though. The problem is that the horse people treat the horses like pairs of shoes all the time. When you read the words of the horse people, the horses are merely things. They exist to make their owners money, and when they are no longer profitable (and in this case, cost prohibitive), they are merely discarded.

Forget about ridiculing the French for eating horses. And ditch the idea that it’s unAmerican to eat horses (that’s the real myth). Put culture aside, as all it is is an excuse to do something that otherwise would be inexcusable. It’s inhumane, unjust, and unethical to bring a life into the world (or BUY one), and then neglect her when she can’t provide you with entertainment, profit, or food.

UPDATE: Please note that McMurray’s article has been shown to be misleading and incorrect, and perhaps the horse slaughter myth really is a myth.

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