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On Homeless Horses and Hawking Happy Meat

My quest for what appears to be the truth about horse slaughter appears to be over, and though individual owners can certainly slaughter their horses, and even eat them if they wish, they cannot send them to a slaughterhouse to be chopped up for human consumption, here or elsewhere (at least not legally). They can still truck them to Mexico.

Ron directed me to the AP’s "Abandoned Horses Pose Dilemma for Ranchers," which states that horse owners are just leaving their horses on ranches and public lands, to fend for themselves, because the price of hay is high and they can no longer send them to be slaughtered for their flesh.

Closure of the plants has resulted in a 400 percent increase in shipments of U.S. horses to Mexican slaughterhouses this year, said Sally Baker, spokeswoman for the 9,000-member Association of Equine Practitioners in Lexington, Ky.

Can’t they at least "euthanize" them, you ask? Well, as it turns out, you can’t abandon a horse carcass after the horse has been "euthanized" because the drugs used are harmful to scavengers.

Oregon brand inspector Rodger Huffman of La Grande said even a horse that dies of natural causes cannot be left within a quarter-mile of running water or within half a mile of a dwelling for more than 15 hours without being buried or incinerated.

But, they shoot horses, don’t they? Can’t they just do that? One horse owner interviewed said he "just couldn’t bring himself to do" that.

Let’s recap:

  • Humans have domesticated horses.
  • We breed them for our use.
  • We profit from their bodies, their natural abilities, and their desire to carry us around on their backs (no chance).
  • And then, after we’re through with them and we’ve taken from them all we can, we want to be done with them.
  • If we could kill them and send them overseas to be eaten, we would. That’s how much we love them. That’s how fond of them we are. As the American Quarter Horse Association spokesman said, "A horse is a pet in America. IT’S like a dog or cat." And that’s true. We abandon and kill dogs and cats all the time, too, but it’s easier because they’re smaller and more easily incinerated or buried.

Is it just me, or is it unfathomable to domesticate animals and continually bring them into the world for your use, then abandon or kill them when you’ve had your way with them? The comment section has an interesting suggestion by a Steve F.

Every government "solution" just creates new problems.

Perhaps we should force the animal rights activists to take care of the unwanted horses?

I don’t know whether or not he is serious, but that’s a great idea. However, in order for it to work, we would need cooperation: People would need to cease the breeding of horses. It might take a generation, but it would indeed solve the problem.

Finally, a friend who is transitioning to veganism saw I Am An Animal and said: "That Ingrid Newkirk woman is insane, and all those other PeTA people seem just as bananas. Maybe I’ll give to the Humane Society. That  handsome Wayne fellow seems nice and sane." Can you imagine?

Speaking of HSUS, check out the debriefing from a lunch they were invited to speak at by the folks at animalblawg. The topics were along the lines of climate change and decreasing your carbon footprint. Being an animal welfare group, you’d think HSUS would concentrate on the overwhelming evidence that all of the misery we continue to create–and then eat–is largely responsible for the no-longer-alleged warming of the globe. But it didn’t really pan out that way. They did promote happy meat, though, which is nice. I mean, breeding someone to kill her is perfectly humane, right?

Here’s what I don’t get: HSUS doesn’t even pretend to be in favor of animal rights. We need to stop caring about what they do, regardless of Wayne Pacelle’s handsomeness (which, you know, is clearly relevant) and veganness. Him being a vegan is actually part of the problem, it seems, as many people seem to think that means HSUS is going in that direction. But they’re not. Look at what they say. Look at what they do. They’re not interested in stopping the breeding, using and slaughtering of animals by humans. They’re just interested in finding ways to help people feel better about it.

11 Comments Post a comment
  1. On the up side horse breeding is declining and is way down on 20 years ago. The pregnant mare unrine industry in the US is basically extinct (along with the unwanted foals) and the PMY foal imports from Canada are more likely to be homed. There is still a problem that the ubrupt end to slaughter and sharp increase in hay costs has made more acute — but over the long term things were moving in the right direction. We are being given an opportunity to avoid the need for 'kill' shelters for horses (previously a two step 'auction with the possibility of slaughter' version)– I hope it is seized. People rightly say horses are mainly companion animals in the US. But without then thinking about the fact that we kill dogs and cats too–we just don't sell them for food.

    November 30, 2007
  2. Christopher #

    Since I've become vegan, one thing that's continually vexed me is the issue of "horseback riding." A few weeks back, I was invited to the birthday party of a movie producer in Beijing which promised lots of "fun, BBQ and horseback riding." Well, "fun" sounded fun, but BBQ and horseback riding obviously gave me pause.

    So, I searched the PETA website to get their official stance on horseback riding and, frankly, was surprised by what I found:

    "How does PETA feel about horseback riding?

    When there is a respectful, loving bond between horse and human, then horseback riding is as much an act of companionship and exercise as walking one's dog. However, just as we oppose the use of "choke" collars on dogs, we also oppose the use of whips, spurs, and other devices that cause discomfort and pain to horses.

    PETA supports humane, interactive training. Just as a dog can be lovingly or abusively house-trained, gentle methods can be employed to teach a horse to allow a rider on his or her back. PETA does not support training methods based on punishment."


    Frankly, this answer doesn't at all match PETA's mission statement!

    * Animals Are Not Ours to Eat
    * Animals Are Not Ours to Wear
    * Animals Are Not Ours to Experiment On
    * Animals Are Not Ours to Use for Entertainment
    * Animals Are Not Ours to Abuse in Any Way

    This surprised me. But then again it didn't. I know that both Peta and HSUS have important relationships with folks in Hollywood, and having grown up in Southern California, I know how big a deal horseback riding is among the affluent.

    Does anyone have further insights on this? As a vegan, isn't horseback riding just a wee bit exploitative? Near where I live now in Beijing, I see mules everyday hauling small mountains of bricks to and from construction sites. It is a really heartbreaking sight. They are nothing less than slaves, and lead miserable existences. (Btw, just another reason I despise the Olympics and the unnecessary and reckless burden it's placed on the people, animals and infrastructure of Beijing. Everything has to be done in a huge hurry, without regard for the environment or safety.)

    So, what's the difference between a Beijing brickcart mule and a "riding horse" in some wealthy person's ranch? Sure, one is more comfortable than the other, but they're both saddled with the same gear, the same unnatural constraints on their movement, and they both serve the utility and whims of human beings.

    Anyhow, appreciate any insights people have on this issue.

    December 1, 2007
  3. I had no idea PeTA wasn't against using horses. Welfarists will say it's okay if it's done humanely (see, but abolitionists don't believe in using horses for their own gain at all. Check out the video from the link, and the history of the bit and all the rest. I do have a friend who has horses and doesn't ride them often but runs around with them and even swims with them. Once in a while she'll hop onto a bare back for a bit. She doesn't truck them anywhere for anyone else's use, and she does intend to care for them for their entire lives. They're just like her dogs, to her. That's as good as it gets for a captive horse, but it is certainly the exception.

    I don't believe horses exist for people to ride them. And they certainly should never be burdened/tormented with a bit, bridle and saddle. Their breeding should stop (and Emily wrote yesterday that it thankfully is in decline). We must also cease thinking that nonhumans exist for our domestication as pets. I therefore consider cats, dogs and horses to be similar in that regard. We breed, domesticate, use/abuse, then inevitably slaughter when there are too many or when we've had enough of them. None of that is necessary, and all of it, for me, is unethical.

    December 1, 2007
  4. Christopher #

    Thanks, Mary. This information is really useful (and sad), going to pass this along to several friends who ride horses, and now I'm clear about my position on horses!

    December 1, 2007
  5. Lee #

    I think if organizations like PeTA and HSUS were around during the age of slavery and they were for human welfare instead of animal welfare their focus would be to change the type of material used for nooses to a softer more delicate fabric to ensure that the slaves neck did not chafe too much while they were frantically fighting for their life. They would then praise all the slavemasters who transitioned to the "friendlier fabric" and help promote them as being compassionate and forward thinking.

    December 1, 2007
  6. Yes they would, because welfare groups do not oppose the use and slaughter of animals–of course they also don't see the moral equivalence of animals and people. Stating that ewuivalence hostiley from an abolitionist norm is useful only as abolitionist bonding material. Like quoting the Bible helps Christians bond but doesn't do much, as an argument, for Athiests. I'm just saying. What is egregious to one group may not be to another. Like interum pet ownership–rescue or 'good' slavery?

    December 3, 2007
  7. POrtia Winters #

    I fell upon this blog by accident looking up a horse rescue group for a client. I would be interested to know if any of the people on this subject are actually horse people. If it was not for the horse being utilized in sport or recreation(hence being ridden as they have always been thruout history) they would become extinct and/or suffer even more neglect than some experience now, like other animals that are not used for meat. I am a licensed vet tech, hunter/jumper trainer and an avid ,actually obsessed horse owner. All 3 of my horses are retired racehorses who yes are shown in jumping and dressage, except my old mare who is retired, they are healthy,happy horses whom would never survive on the open range as some people have told me that is where they belong. I think it is easy for people to judge what is right or wrong in the animal world when they are not actually educated enough to make that judgement. THe activists are actually as far away from being animal supporters as I am from being the Queen of England. Nature is Nature she can be beautiful and gentle but reality is she is also ugly and hard and only the strong survive. IN other words if you really want to help animals let nature take it course. Just a few words from a real animal lover.

    January 10, 2008
  8. Portia,

    Some vegans and animal rights activists are "horse people," some are "cat people," and I suppose some might be "polar bear people." Love of animals (or any particular species) is not what unites us. What we have in common is that we don't think animals are here for us to use, show, eat or breed. They are not commodities for use to create, use and discard, and they are entitled to their natural lives, however they would play out, without being under our "management." WE are the ones who want "nature to take its course."

    January 10, 2008
  9. L. Miller #

    There are people who race horses, show horses, ride horses in rodeos, etc. for their own monetary or personal gain, and then they discard them when their use is over. The act of riding these horses and the work that they are forced to do can cause injury, lameness, and reduce longevity. These people exploit horses.

    There are others who rescue horses and work overtime to earn the money to rehabilitate them and pay their vet fees. And there are people who either ride or do ground work with horses as part of this rehabilitation. It is possible to improve a horses soundness and longevity with a riding style that is akin to yoga. There are people who ride or exercise their horses to keep them fit and a good weight (and yes there are medical issues that arise when a horse is overweight, and yes a horse can become overweight even when it is free to exercise in a pasture 24/7). Yes, these people enjoy riding their horses. Yes these horses benefit from improved health if they are ridden correctly.

    To compare the weary, worn out pack horse, rodeo horse, etc. to such a cherished pet is, well, ridiculous.

    January 23, 2008
  10. L Miller,
    If one does not believe we should be using horses, the comparison is not at all "ridiculous," as it is all use.

    With that said, some people (check out this post and the links: ) do indeed appear to have wonderful relationships with horses. They would never use a halter, bridle or bit, and I'm hoping the people you're referring to don't use such things either, as they (particularly the cruel bit) are simply vehicles designed for ease of dominance.

    No one is knocking people who rescue horses, as long as the horses have plenty of room to live out their natural lives. However horses do not "need" to be ridden by people, particularly if that riding involves instruments of control such as the bit.

    The perfect world for horses, which we won't see in my lifetime, is one in which horses don't have to be rescued and rehabilitated, because we wouldn't have been using them in the first place.

    January 24, 2008
  11. Portia #

    OK, Let me get this straight. We are not supposed to ride horses or use them in any way? Where would you suggest all the pampered and cherished show horses go? Do you really believe they will just exist in someone's back yard as a lawn ornament? Horses would not still be in existence if it wasn't for the want of people to use them in sport. Sorry but I find some of the animal activists to be out of touch with reality and extreme. By the way bits, saddles, spurs, crops etc… are only as harsh and cruel as the human using them. Honestly I think most people of teh opinion horses should not be ridden do not own horses. I do agree that non domesticated animals Ex;Elephants should not be used for our entertainment.

    April 14, 2008

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