JANUARY 5, 2011
Horse Slaughter Is Reconsidered
Animal-Welfare Groups Are Joining Ranchers in a Push to Revive an Industry That Died in 2007
By STEPHANIE SIMON
Less than four years after the last equine slaughterhouses in the U.S. closed down, an unlikely coalition of ranchers, horse owners and animal-welfare groups is trying to bring them back.
The group, gathering in Las Vegas this week for a conference called Summit of the Horse, aims to map out a strategy for reviving an industry that slaughtered as many as 100,000 horses a year in the U.S. before it was effectively shut down by congressional action in 2007.
Advocates say the slaughterhouses could bring an economic boost to rural areas and give owners who no longer have the means or inclination to care for the horses an economical and humane way to dispose of them.
"We believe that humane processing is absolutely a moral and an ethical choice," said Sue Wallis, a Wyoming state lawmaker who organized the event.
Animal-rights supporters have been lobbying Congress for a ban on exporting horses for slaughter. They've had no success—but even if a ban did pass, some activists say, it would do little to ease suffering, as owners desperate to shed responsibility for their animals might simply abandon them to starve. Hiring a veterinarian to euthanize and dispose of a horse can cost hundreds of dollars. Horse-rescue groups take in some unwanted animals, but they don't have the resources to care for them all.
"Every day, I'm turning horses away. I feel like I'm playing God, because I have to pick and choose," said Whitney Wright, director of Hope for Horses, a rescue group in Asheville, N.C. She worked to shut down slaughterhouses but now would like to see a few reopen under strict guidelines for humane handling.
There is no doubt that there is an over-abundance of horses in this country. The availability of a domestic harvest facility would greatly reduce the suffering that is currently taking place. The Summit of the Horse is currently taking place where discussions about this very thing are taking place. While animal rights activists like to spend their time mocking those of us who raise livestock and provide food for this country, we are having the serious discussions that need to take place.