Friday, August 22, 2008

USA Today ProSlaughter Crap (again)

Homeless on the range
Horses are being abandoned by the thousands across the USA. Some are strays, others a result of overbreeding or a sour economy. How should we humanely lessen their numbers?

By Mary Zeiss Stange

It's a climactic scene in the 1962 Kirk Douglas film, Lonely Are the Brave. The cowboy, Jack Burns — fugitive both from the law and the civilization overtaking the open range — confronts a choice: He can scale a steep rock face and escape to Mexico. But to do so, he must leave his palomino mare, Whiskey, to either be recovered by the posse pursuing him, or to run wild in the New Mexico desert.

It takes him but a moment to decide: Whatever the outcome, he and his horse are in this together. It is a noble sentiment and an ultimately tragic decision. In the end, the horse is literally dead and her rider at least metaphorically so.

No one who owns and loves horses, as I do, can fail to note the counterpoint the film provides to what is happening to horses in America today. There is a national epidemic of "surplus" or "unwanted" horses. Domestic horses are being abandoned as never before. Some are being released as "strays" on public lands. Others are being left to starve in pastures denuded of grass. The reasons are various and excruciatingly complex.

Overpopulation problem

There are, to begin with, too many horses in the USA: 9.2 million as recently as 2005, up from 5.3 million in 1999. Indiscriminate breeding leads not just to too many horses, but also to too many with physical or behavioral faults that render them unsuitable for domestic uses.

Then there's the economy. Horses are not cheap to keep. Factor in training, vet care, tack and feed, and the expense averages $1,800 to $2,400 per animal, per year — and rising, as grain and fuel costs increase. According to the American Horse Council, a third of horse owners have household incomes less than $50,000 a year. When it comes to feeding your horses or putting gas in the car, the choice is simple, if painful.

But the single overriding cause of "surplus" horses is the movement to ban the sale of horses or their meat for human consumption. Activism forced the last three horse slaughter plants in the U.S. to close last year. They had hitherto processed about 100,000 horses annually, mostly for meat sales to France and Japan, where horse meat is considered a delicacy.

On its face, the closings would seem to be a victory for horse lovers. Former New York representative John Sweeney, who sponsored a bill in 2006 to curtail horse slaughter, told Fox News that slaughter is a "brutal, shady practice" because horses such as Mr. Ed, Secretariat and Silver are American icons.

Julie Caramante of Habitat for Horses, a rescue operation in Houston, told USA TODAY in March that horses are pets, and that "we wouldn't even dream of selling our pets" for food.

Supporters of the horse slaughter ban include the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, as well as such major animal rights groups as the Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. But most major veterinary medical groups oppose it, as does the American Quarter Horse Association.

Why would advocates of horse health and welfare oppose a ban on the slaughter? Mostly because humane slaughter is preferable to neglect or abuse. But there is an additional irony: Horses bound for auction, even if that means eventual slaughter, are better cared for than those that have little economic value. Auction prices have plummeted since the slaughter ban went into effect. And so, too often, has the level of care afforded many unwanted horses.

Bought for slaughter

An increasing number of these horses are now bought to be shipped to slaughtering facilities in Canada or, more likely, Mexico. In the latter case, their treatment is liable to be nothing short of barbaric, compared with the methods employed by the now-shuttered U.S. slaughterhouses, which had conformed to the standards of the Humane Slaughter Act. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reports that horse slaughter exports to Mexico have in a single year increased by 312%, to more than 44,000 horses in 2007.

In response, animal rights activists are pushing the extension of the ban to include the transport of horses to other countries for slaughter. Federal legislation to this effect — the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2008 — was introduced in the House just ahead of Congress' summer recess. The AVMA calls the situation a horse welfare crisis. It attributes the cause primarily to the coalition of slaughter-ban activists spearheaded by the Humane Society, and its failure to suggest viable alternatives.

The way to the current crisis was, of course, paved with good intentions. But the options available, for dealing with 100,000 unwanted steeds, are unfortunately limited, and largely unfeasible:

Euthanasia is a possibility. But it is costly, $100 to $600 per horse. The cost of burial or cremation could add several hundred dollars.

Rescue facilities are an option; many already exist. But their capacity is about 6,000 horses, and we are looking at a surplus of roughly 100,000 horses every year. At $1,800 to $2,400 to keep each animal, that comes to $180 million to $240 million annually. Because many of these horses will live several years until their natural deaths, the cost could balloon exponentially. Who will bear it?

A limited number of suitable horses can be donated to schools and therapeutic facilities, and for veterinary research.
In the longer range, the breeding of horses must be sharply curtailed. In the meantime, the resumption of humane slaughter in this country should be seriously considered.

The Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act, should it eventually become law, does not mandate funding for the support of surplus horses. And opponents have failed to raise the funding for rescue facilities, adoption programs and so forth.

Meanwhile, ever-increasing numbers of unwanted horses are languishing in grassless pastures, dazedly roaming desiccated public lands, and living with disease and chronic pain. Whatever you might think about the relative merits of horse meat, this is a hell of a way to treat an "American icon." The cowboy Jack Burns wouldn't have stood for it.

Mary Zeiss Stange, a professor at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., is a member of USA TODAY's board of contributors. She rides a Peruvian named Amante.

Overpopulated, emaciated, overwhelmed
Most states do not record exact numbers on abandoned horses. In 2007, the Unwanted Horse Coalition estimated that 170,000 abandoned horses lived in the U.S. Abandonment takes various forms, as recent news reports illustrate:

It is estimated that 200 of 1,200 wild horses overpopulating the Virginia Range near Reno, are actually "strays." Many won't survive in the wild, and the mustangs could be at risk of disease from domestic horses.

In January, 48 emaciated thoroughbred horses — some believed to be descendents of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew — were rescued from a farm in Loudoun County, Va.

In March, 70 Tennessee Walking horses were removed from a farm in Jessamine County, Ky. Officials said that on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the worst condition, most of the horses rated a 1.5.

In May, 120 starving horses were rescued from a ranch in Central Florida when, according to reports, their owner "had become overwhelmed by the demand of caring" for them.

Posted at 12:16 AM/ET, August 14, 2008 in Animals - Forum, Forum commentary, Stange | Permalink
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horsedrag wrote: 8/14/2008 8:37:29 AM
Dogs, cats, horses, children all can be "unwanted" the price shouldn't be the burden of the unwanted but one to all of society to keep all life precious. When exicution, war, and slaughter are common place then so is the number of unwanted. Animals seem to be beter suited to regulate themselves then we do and would be beter off without our intervention. We are the problem.

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drsoos wrote: 8/14/2008 10:20:33 AM
Resuming horse slaughter does seem like the thing to do in the short term. It sounds terrible but their doesn't seem like a real alternative out their.

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Lacey Matthews wrote: 8/14/2008 11:23:25 AM
Would Mary Zeiss Strange be willing to send Amante, her Peruvian mare, to slaughter? Presumably not. So why is that horrific fate acceptable for other horses?

Irresponsible people have been neglecting their horses ever since the beginning of the horse/human relationship, both when slaughter was legal and when it wasn't. Legalizing abuse (slaughter) doesn't make other forms of abuse go away.

This is illustrated by the rampant abuse and neglect of dogs and cats, despite the fact that they can easily be taken to animal shelters if their guardians no longer can or want to care for them. Just as people commonly dump their dogs on deserted roads to "save" them from euthanasia at a shelter, people will rationalize letting their horses wither away because they are "saving" them from slaughter.

Legalizing slaughter is not any kind of viable solution, humane or otherwise.

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horsesaverlb wrote: 8/14/2008 1:49:26 PM
First let me remind the author that our American horses are still sent to slaughter in Canada and Mexico every single day. That every horse owner in this country still has the option of sending their horses to slaughter. Nothing has changed for American horses.
Horses that have been found starving this year were do to neglect and the illegal actions of their owners, plain and simple. Any one of the owners of the farms that were used here as examples could have called numerous kill buyers, brokers, or traders who would have come to their farm and paid them for the horses, which they would have shipped legally over the border to be slaughtered for a PROFIT. Why is it that this fact is always ignored?
People who leave their horses to starve or release them have no intention of shipping their horses to auction or calling someone to come get them. They were to lazy, have mental illnesses, or simply no ethics to even bother throwing some hay out or put grain in a bucket, do you really think they ever were worried about the welfare of their animals? No. People who leave their animals to starve as these owners did, made a choice to not feed or provide proper care for the animals they had under their supervision. After they were caught they claimed it was because they couldn't afford it or cried foul because the slaughter plants closed. Pro-Slaughter Propaganda that has been shoved down our throats now for years and those without the real facts or experience eat it up as the whole truth.
Secondly, Horse Slaughter for human consumption is not only horrifically inhumane but may be causing long term health problems for consumers overseas. American horse meat is loaded with carcinogens from chemicals, drugs, and feed. Quarter horses and thoroughbreds go to slaughter more than any other breed, off track thoroughbreds are loaded with drugs and steroids and that is what people are eating. Consumers in Europe and Japan do NOT know this. The companies selling the horse meat are perpetuating the belief that the meat being consumed is coming from horses kept out on the range like cattle.
Americans were screaming from the rafters when China was sending us goods that were contaminated with harmful chemicals. The hypocrisy is unbelievable. Our government is looking the other way while foreign companies are lying to their countrymen. Any horse that is fed a name brand horse feed or grain has levels of carcinogens. On the side of a bag of grain it clearly states that it should not be fed to animals that are going to be slaughtered for human consumption.
Wake Up America, this is not just about ending an inhumane practice but about protecting fellow World citizens from greedy Big Business.
Let's not forget that according to the USDA that 90% of horses sent to slaughter are healthy, serviceable animals. They are of good weight under 7 years old and are not lame or sick. It's actually illegal to ship sick(such as cancer), blind, or "three legged" horses to slaughter.
Laura Boothby

Laura Boothby
Pure Thoughts, Inc

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L Matte wrote: 8/14/2008 2:03:53 PM
People who starve their horses would NEVER let their horse go to slaughter under any circumstances. How is a horse abandoned in their own back yard? Where did the UHC get the data to come up with 170,000 abandoned horses? This is all rubbish. Horses are being slaughtered at the same rate as they were before. Horse slaughter is NOT illegal. Can you Ms. Strange spell ECONOMY??? Didn't think so. While the pro slaughter camp spews their lies that horses are being abandoned because of slaughter houses being closed in the US, horses are still being slaughtered? None of you make a lick of sense and your twisted lies are pathetic.

Americans do NOT eat horse meat. Horse slaughter is horrifying, brutal and the worst abuse that any horse could suffer. This is the USA not China for crying out loud.

Why doesn't the AVMA, AQHA. UHC. AHC and other horse organizations with their deep pockets do something to help people that are having a hard time because of the ECONOMY? Instead they pump 100's of thousands of dollars annually into lobbyist pockets to lobby against a ban on horse slaughter. They spend all their time with their underhanded scare tactics trying to convince the American public that torturing a horse and then butchering it alive is good for the horse. They could care less about the horse all they care about is putting more money in their bank accounts.

America do your research Google horse slaughter. Then call your legislators and tell them horse slaughter is un-American and to pass HR 6598 the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act. The horses are a victim of these organizations and their deep dirty bloody pockets. Don't let them victimize you.

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knaug60 wrote: 8/14/2008 2:05:06 PM
Well, I disagree that horse slaughter for the purpose of animal food or even human consumption is "horrifically inhumane ". I think Congress erred in passing a law banning such practice in the United States. Now, horse owners who can no longer care for their animals (yes they are not people) have little option but to abandon them. Either way, inhumane is inhumane, but horses now die more slowly and painfully than before this silly law.

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knaug60 wrote: 8/14/2008 2:06:22 PM
Another thing, have you ever considered just how difficult it is to dispose of a horse carcas? These animals can weigh 1000+ pounds!?

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PolishBear wrote: 8/14/2008 2:10:40 PM
I know a lot of people will consider me a barbarian for saying this, but I honestly don't know what all the fuss is about over eating horse meat. It is my understanding that the older the horse is, the more tender and flavorful the meat. So it makes sense that when horses near the end of their lives, the meat ought to be put to good use. We eat lots of other hooved animals without giving a second thought to how they were slaughtered. Why should horses be considered somehow "special" when we think nothing of biting into a juicy double cheeseburger? I would love to be able to purchase some horse meat and experiment with different recipes, but apparently I can't do that anymore here in the United States.

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DLN wrote: 8/14/2008 2:13:49 PM
Please check your facts - people still can sell their horses to feedlots, auction and kill buyers - no one is stopping them If they are determined to have their horses butchered - no one is stopping them. At least for now. People who abandon, abuse and starve horses are going to do it whether slaughter houses are open or not - they are called criminals and it's against the law to do these things.

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MCStinson wrote: 8/14/2008 3:02:06 PM
Yet another example of Congress rushing into something that sounded all warm and fuzzy, only to leave us with a result that is worse than the original problem. Just wait until next year when Congress decides its time to save us from the economic "crisis" (in actuality a slowdown, but folks have been too spoiled for too many years to recognize the difference). They should be able to obliterate the market economy, guarantee full employment for trial lawyers, and restrict many of our basic rights in no time - all in the name of saving us from ourselves.

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tvnewsbadge said...

To my mind, the answer is to curtail and regulate the breeders. Simple, clean, and effective.

But that won't be done.

Beyond that, it seems to me that the problem might not be so much with the killing of these animals but the way in which it is done.
If news reports are to be believed, it seems that more often than not, it's a task carried out by people who barely qualify as human... witness that famous story about the sick cow who was dragged across the killing floor by a forklift driven by scum.

Pet cats and dogs are routinely "put down" every day in this country when they can no longer have a comfortable life.

If it IS neessary to reduce the numbers, it can certainly be done without the torture that supporters of horse slaugher so passionately defend.


CJ said...

TVNB, are correct when you say this, of course,...
"Pet cats and dogs are routinely "put down" every day in this country when they can no longer have a comfortable life."
But dont forget, these animals are not slaughtered, they are humanely euthanised...why not horses too?