Disclaimer - This article is intended as general discussion and information on the topic covered, and is not to be construed as rendering legal advice. If legal advice is needed, you should contact an attorney. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in any manner without prior written permission of the author.
The horse slaughter issue has been discussed in The Draft Horse Journal (See Winter ’06-07, Spring ‘07, Winter ’07-08) and it appeared a dead issue when the last of the horse slaughter plants in the U.S. was shut down. After extensive lobbying by animal welfare advocates, including Bo Derek and Whoopi Goldberg, the then Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, signed into law a ban on horse slaughter for human consumption and the DeKalb, Illinois, plant was closed.
Since then, there has been a sharp rise in the number of abandoned and abused horses nationwide. Since the closing of the processing plant in DeKalb in 2007, the Illinois Department of Agriculture has received 730 reports of neglect and abuse in 2008, compared to 461 in 2006. In 2007, the year the plant closed, the number of neglect and abuse complaints rose to 681.
As a result some Illinois State lawmakers introduced House Bill 583 which would repeal the ban. The logic behind Senate Bill 583 is that horses are now shipped to Mexico or Canada for slaughter where the slaughter conditions are not regulated as they were in the U.S. and where the conditions are anything but humane.
Dr. Temple Grandin, an associate professor of animal science at Colorado State University, called the conditions at horse slaughtering plants in Mexico, “hideous” where horses are many times stabbed in the neck. Grandin stated, “I’m not saying that our horse slaughter plants are problem-free, but even a poorly-run slaughter plant in the U.S. would be preferable to horses going down to Mexico.”
The Missouri Senate recently passed a resolution calling for a renewal of horse slaughter and urged Congress to offer incentives to open horse processing plants in the U.S. The resolution also denounced legislation that would make it illegal to export horses to Mexico or Canada for slaughter. A group of Missouri Senators said the unintended consequences of the slaughter ban has resulted in an ever-increasing number of abandoned and neglected horses in the state that are nothing but “skin and bones” and are suffering tremendously.
The North Dakota Senate is considering a $50,000 study to determine the possibility of building a processing plant in that State. The Bill’s sponsors presented evidence from two recent horse auctions where 30 horses, normally meat horses, received no bids and the owners did not want the horses back. It was noted that horse auctions across the country are experiencing the same thing as the number of unwanted horses continues to rise.
The Montana House of Representatives passed a bill on May 1 that allows for the construction and operation of investor-owned horse slaughter plants within the State. House Bill 418 prevents Montana courts from issuing an injunction stopping or delaying the construction of an equine-processing facility. It also requires anyone who challenges a facility’s environmental permit to post a bond. Many Montana ranchers have been struggling as there simply is no place to go with old, sick or injured horses. The proponents of the Montana bill contend that the bill provides a humane and well-regulated processing plant.
In addition to the states mentioned above, South Dakota, Idaho and Wyoming have also passed bills concerning the legalization of horse slaughter. In all, the AP has reported at least 10 states which have approved or are considering resolutions on horse slaughter, transport and financial incentives for processing plants.
However, the animal rights activists have taken note of this trend and the Equine Welfare Alliance has promised to mobilize to assure defeat and end the political careers for the legislators in Montana who voted in favor of horse slaughter. The Equine Welfare Alliance has stated, “We call for the defeat of every self-serving politician who votes to bring the awful practice of horse slaughter back to our shores. We are motivated, we can raise millions in donations and we will use it.”
In addition, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) are continually contacting our lawmakers and HSUS has asked their members to call the Montana Governor’s Office and state that they will not visit any state that allows horse slaughter.
The HSUS is a wealthy organization that deserves scrutiny. Most people believe HSUS is a pet shelter or pet adopting agency. Not so–it has been widely reported that HSUS does not operate any pet shelter at all. In 2006, HSUS contributed only 4.2% of its budget to organizations that operate pet shelters. HSUS is nothing more than a wealthy animal rights lobbying organization which has many of the same goals as PETA.
HSUS has reportedly raised $34 million dollars to help reunite lost pets with their owners as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Louisiana’s Attorney General conducted an 18-month investigation into the matter and noted that public disclosure of the spending added up to less than $7 million dollars. HSUS finally agreed to contribute $600,000 of the $34 million dollars to construct an animal shelter on the grounds of a state prison. Most of the money remains unaccounted for.
In 2007, HSUS raised monetary contributions online for the purpose that it would “care for the dogs seized in the Michael Vick (NFL Quarterback) case.” However, The NY Times reported that HSUS wasn’t caring for the dogs at all and that HSUS President, Wayne Pacelle, told The NY Times that his group recommended that the dogs be put down. This, however, did not prevent many from contributing under the guise that HSUS would “care for” the dogs.
In many respects, animal owners, including horse owners, are in the middle of a fight for our souls. Government officials, (see recent articles on teeth floating, horse massage, NAIS and horse slaughter) and private organizations such as HSUS and PETA are attempting to control every aspect of animal ownership. Little will be left to the ingenuity of the animal owner. I believe many of these organizations, especially PETA and HSUS have, as their ultimate goal, the elimination of any type of animal slaughter/processing. (Note the protests against bison slaughter, chicken and hog farms, etc.)
Many of these protest groups are vegetarian and are slowly pushing their agendas through unsuspecting lawmakers who are having the wool pulled over their eyes. As we slowly head down that path, the anti-meat eaters gain more and more control. I have no problem if an individual does not want to eat meat, but I resent that individual taking away my steak!
We must become ever vigilant to these groups and government control. Contact your representatives and senators and express your concern. We cannot continue to lose control of our animals. If we don’t stop this trend, we will wake up someday and be served with a copy of do’s and don’ts from PETA, HSUS and the federal government!
Enough legal talk–it’s time to hitch horses.
Ken is a practicing attorney in Myerstown, Pennsylvania, where a good bit of his practice involves negligence cases. Ken and his wife, Karen, own Sunny Hill Farm Belgians, and they have been exhibiting their six horse hitch for the past few years at most major shows in the east.