Reaction Mixed to Return of Horse Slaughter

The Wild, Wild West
2011-12-05T14:00:00Z Reaction Mixed to Return of Horse SlaughterBy Kimberlee Kruesi Twin Falls Times-News

TWIN FALLS • Eating horses may not be popular in America, but the U.S. horse-slaughter industry is making a comeback.

A recently passed bill that lifts what amounted to a five-year ban domestic horse slaughter has readied the federal government to resume inspections of U.S. slaughterhouses, should they reopen.

The 2006 ban that cut funding to inspections meant that horse meat slaughtered in the U.S. couldn’t be sold for consumption. With meat that once fed both people overseas and captive predators devalued, domestic slaughterhouses were forced to close. The ban also unintentionally increased the amount of horses shipped across U.S. borders for slaughter. According to a report released by the Governmental Accountability Office, horse exports for slaughter to Canada increased by 148 percent and by 660 percent to Mexico over the past five years.

The increased exports meant that more horses were subjected to neglect and abuse as they moved outside the gaze of U.S. law. Outcry by animal advocacy groups over horses’ treatment across borders contributed to the lifting of the ban.

Responses are varied. In Idaho, many horse trainers and owners are hopeful the ban’s removal will raise the value of horses. At the same time, some horse rescue shelters are worried that the return of the U.S. slaughterhouse as a viable option to get rid of unwanted horses will only increase the amount of unnecessary breeding and irresponsible horse ownership.

Steve Hutchings, a local horse owner and trainer, began collecting unwanted horses from south-central Idaho shortly after the ban was set in place.

Once he picks up a horse, he then tries to improve its health so it can be sold. Hutchings declined to comment if the horses he’s collected have been sold to slaughter buyers.

“I don’t call what I do a rescue shelter. I fatten them up to a point where someone will want them,” he said. “I was tired of driving around and seeing horses starving or abandoned. People are not taking care of their horses and I’m trying to help them out.”

While people don’t want to see horses killed, Twin Falls licensed equine veterinarian Dr. Melinda Roche said sometimes it is the best option for an older or injured animal.

It’s become a monthly routine for the county sheriff’s office to call her to inspect a suspected abused or starving horse, she said.

“I think this bill will improve horse welfare,” she said. “It didn’t stop horse slaughter. It took away the value of the horse. Once people weren’t getting any money from them, the abuse and abandonment went up.”

While more U.S. horses have been in need of rescue from neglect or abuse, that doesn’t justify slaughtering a horse, said Doro Lohmann, founder of Silent Voices Equine Rescue in Ketchum

“Just because the horse doesn’t do what the owner wants it to do isn’t grounds for a slaughterhouse,” she said. “We need to be more responsible. People are used to slaughtering horses as an outlet for when they’re done with them.”

At this point, there are no open horse slaughterhouses in the U.S. However, interest has already been gathering in western states that have high amounts of abandoned horses, said Sue Wallis, vice president of United Horsemen.

Idaho is considered an ideal spot for a slaughterhouse because it is agriculturally based and contains high amounts of unwanted horses, Wallis said.

“There’s a whole network of folks scouting the nation for plants that can process large animals,” she said. “Idaho was being considered, but the locations fell through — but it’s a logical place for one.”

Copyright 2015 Twin Falls Times-News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(3) Comments

  1. just wondering
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    just wondering - December 05, 2011 3:46 pm
    I don't agree that it is supply and demand. The demand was there when they shut them down. They are opening them back up because the abuse to horses was rampant. Too many people found themselves burdened, like you say, with horses they didn't want, or couldn't support. Those animals were suffering as a result. What were they supposed to do with them. They tried to give them away, that doesn't work very often. Turn them loose? Give me a break.
    Some people were shipping them to Canada and Mexico. The horses spent days in trucks, go weak, went down, died. The fact remains that there is a need for a way to dispense with certain animals. It is not a happy thought, it is necessary. Also, I'd like to remind you that it is not pretty to watch an animal live to the very end of it's life. They get weak, can't stand, can't eat. They struggle to stand, fall, hurt themselves. If a horse is not longer useful to anyone I believe it more humane to put them down before they are suffering.
  2. anitac
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    anitac - December 04, 2011 8:01 am
    I urge all horse lovers to read this article:

    It is an extremely well-researched article about how the slaughter ban has backfired.
  3. RMmvny
    Report Abuse
    RMmvny - December 04, 2011 5:54 am
    The horse slaughter industry is only an end to a means in the United States. Repealing the ban is evidence of horse slaughter is simply an example of supply and demand. Too many suburban backyard horse owners “want their own stock” or “it’s wonderful to have the kids see a baby horse brought into the world!” So what happens to the animals when the initial endearing effects wear off and they are too expensive to keep or the kids lose interest? These are the animals that eventually end in abuse or neglect cases.

    If there are 100 horses in a pasture odds are that only ten of them are worth carrying on lineage. The rest of them are dime a dozen mutts. Horses are livestock, albeit they have more intelligence than cattle or hogs, they are more often treated as pets. There is a national campaign to spay and neuter pets; perhaps it is time to launch another campaign for responsible breeding practices in the horse industry. With controlled and regulated breeding within the horse industry less of the “wannabe” back yard breeders would contribute livestock that possibly would end up as unwanted cases of abuse or neglect. Regulating the supply to the horse processing facilities will inherently limit the demand.

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