I’m no fan of the current administration (Not hard to tell if you follow me on any kind of social media), and because of that I do my best to follow exactly what’s going on in DC as. Imagine my surprise when I learned that some new equine regulations were going on. The House Appropriations Committee is lifting the ban on slaughter in the United States.
I found this oddly well timed, as Eddy’s story with me begins with his rescue from a slaughter bound truck in Shippensburg, PA and his one year adoption anniversary is later this month. As I understood it, a Democract from California made an attempt to renew the ban but was defeated in a 27-25 vote. The reason that horse slaughter is effectively banned in this country is because the USDA was stripped of its funding to pay for equine slaughterhouse inspectors. The vote today means that starting in 2018 the US may look very different for horses. I’m not going to jump to conclusions and say that there will now be farms where horses are raised for meat the way we have it set up for cows and pigs, but I do wonder about the kinds of drugs horses will be allowed to have if there’s a chance they may wind up on a dinner plate. Or how this will affect wild horse populations, horse rescues and anyone in the equine industry.
Horse slaughter has always been a touchy subject for me. After all, I spent the past 5 years working at a horse rescue that was strictly anti-slaughter. I own a horse who was rescued at the last second from boarding the last trailer to Canada and to certain death. If it weren’t for the people who stepped in to intervene Eddy and I wouldn’t be together. I’d never have met some of the incredible beasts I know who move mountains for the people they love. These horses were once dumped because they weren’t deemed worthy, when they were ones who had won hundreds of thousands of dollars for their owners, or worked hard pulling, plowing, and carrying us. They deserve a dignified end, whether it’s at a home of their own or through a kinder and more humane end of life.
However, I can’t help but think about all of the unwanted horses around the country. Horses who are broken, old, sick, too difficult to train or who are wild horses running through the rocky western terrain. I am by no way saying that they’re all unwanted. I’ve met plenty of nutty and wonderful folks in the horse world who admire and relish in the challenges of a difficult horse, or who have the time and money to devote to the elderly and infirmed equines. These are the people in high demand and are unfortunately the minority.
The horses that remain are then either crammed into trucks to go to overworked and overwhelmed slaughter facilities in Canada and Mexico, where they may meet a fate worse than death. If they manage to be rescued from this scenario they could wind up in a crowded rescue where they are building stalls in the middle of barns and arenas to accommodate these unwanted horses with nowhere else to go. They take in the broken, sick, old and difficult ones to find homes. They do their best to get young, healthy, sound and sane horses but the ones coming from auction are accepted sight unseen. This is something I encountered routinely as I worked my way through the ranks at the rescue. There was always a waiting list a mile long from racehorse owners to people down the road looking to drop their horses off. Others were desperate calls to rescue a horse from the trailer of a slaughter bound truck. And unfortunately a rescue still has to make money. So having a horse with a sordid past means money comes in donations to rescue, so those other horses are forced to wait.
Well what about the other horses? Some owners feel they have no choice; they need the money from a sale because of divorce, job loss, property loss, debt, you name it. I feel for them. I wish there was more that could be done.
Then you have idiots on the animal rights side clamoring for the end to carriage horses and show horses all in the name of “A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.” PETA was actually okay with the idea of slaughter being allowed in the US again because it meant less horses owned by people and “Free from the enslavement placed on them by man.” If these jobs for equines end I can bet there would be an influx of perfectly trained, healthy horses appearing in kill pens. Then what?
I’m also not opposed to eating horse meat. After all, one of the reasons horses were domesticated was for consumption. In many countries it’s a delicacy, and I’ve been a carnivore since I was small. I live by the motto “If it’s meat I eat.” But I draw a line at American horse meat because of the questionable level of drugs that can be found in a horse’s body. There is much less regulation on the kinds of medications we can give horses here since we don’t eat them, whereas cows have very specific rules to follow regarding the administration of any meds and when a cow can be shipped off to slaughter.
So that’s it. I guess I’m more on the fence than I thought. The realist in me wants to be okay with slaughter as horses are edible, there are so many unwanted horses across the country and in all honesty, reopening slaughterhouses means some job growth in the country. But I have a personal connection to slaughter. My own horse was nearly a statistic you’d find on the ASPCA’s website.
One thing is for sure, Eddy is guaranteed to live out his days with me; however long or short they may be. I will give him a good and fulfilling life, and when the time comes I will provide him with a dignified end. If I’m lucky I’ll be there with him, just as a reminder of how loved he is. It’s a happy ending to a story that almost wasn’t. I can’t tell others how to live, what to think and what to do with their own horses and property. Everyone has to do what’s best for their own horses.
So Eddy will stay with me.