Archive for Friday, December 8, 2006

Legislation would prevent horses from being killed and sold for meat

December 8, 2006


The United States exports more than $26 million worth of horse meat to Europe and Asia, some of it from Kansas.

Yet the industry has seen its numbers dwindle from around 300,000 horse slaughters a decade ago to between 65,000 and 95,000 this year.

Some want that number to be zero and have support from the U.S. House, which voted 263-146 in September to prohibit the sale and transportation of horse meat for consumption.

The Virgie S. Arden American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act is still an issue in the Senate, which is back at work this week.

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., opposes the slaughter ban and believes the bill won't make it out of committee before the new Senate takes over in 2007, said spokeswoman Sarah Little.

Though supporters aren't giving up on the bill - especially in light of the bipartisan support it took to win House approval in the Republican-controlled 109th Congress - a Democratic majority with new slaughter opponents such as Missouri Sen.-elect Claire McCaskill in the 110th Congress bodes better.

"With a Democratic leadership, we've got a very good chance," said Chris Heyde, deputy legislative director of Society for Animal Protective Legislation in Washington, D.C., which supports the ban. "If we have to come back, I think there's a very good chance."

In the House, all three Kansas Republicans voted against the bill, including outgoing 2nd District Rep. Jim Ryun.

Only 3rd District Rep. Dennis Moore, a Democrat who represents Johnson County and parts of Lawrence, voted in favor of the bill and will support its reintroduction if need be when the new Congress convenes next month, according to spokeswoman Rebecca Black.

U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., could not be reached for comment.

Economics of the issue

With some 1 percent of horses slaughtered in 2006 out of a 9.2 million horse population nationwide, including about 100,000 in Kansas, some point to what they consider a practical reality of using unwanted horses that range from blind, lame or old to healthier animals no longer used in horse racing or recreational riding.

"We've got to do something with cull horses," said Ted Schroeder, professor of agricultural economics at Kansas State University whose specialty is livestock marketing. "If you've got a horse that's being removed from recreational or commercial activities, you have two options: You can euthanize or destroy it. Or you've got to somehow turn it into another product.

"We're taking a product that is otherwise costly to dispose of and processing it into a food that has a value in the export market."

If horses are to be put down with chemical euthanasia instead of slaughtered, part of the concern is the cost.

The cost for chemical euthanasia and burial can range from $200 to $450. Cremations can cost $1,000.

It costs about $2,400 annually to care for a horse, said DeeVon Bailey, professor in the economics department at Utah State University in Logan, Utah. This compares with the average $350 profit a horse brought at sale in 2004 specifically for slaughter, Bailey said.

Steve Gannaway tends to some horses that he and his wife, Vera Gannaway, have on their ranch near Baldwin City. Two of their horses are animals that they rescued from slaughter. Some federal lawmakers are pushing for the Virgie S. Arden American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, which would ban the sale and transportation of horse meat for consumption.

Steve Gannaway tends to some horses that he and his wife, Vera Gannaway, have on their ranch near Baldwin City. Two of their horses are animals that they rescued from slaughter. Some federal lawmakers are pushing for the Virgie S. Arden American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, which would ban the sale and transportation of horse meat for consumption.

"You have to look at the alternatives and how they're going to be cared for or put down," said Bailey, author of "The Unintended Consequences of a Ban of the Humane Slaughter (Processing) of Horses in the United States" for the Animal Welfare Council in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Vera Gannaway, owner of about 30 horses - two of which were rescued from slaughter - at Stepping Stone Ranch outside Baldwin City, broke down the cost to own a horse as $325 a month for food and board, $15 for worm shots every other month, $35 for trimming, with another $50 to $150 for shoes, $200 for annual shots and $100 for dental, or more than $4,000 annually.

Charles Musick, 61, owner of a feedlot on U.S. Highway 56, part of his 600 acres in Overbrook, grew up in a family that sold horses - draft horses, standard breed, quarter and paint - for riding, labor and slaughter - some healthy, some not.

He blames ban supporters for driving down all horse prices by several hundred dollars per head during the last couple years.

"These people just don't have a clue what they're doing on this horse deal. They don't have a clue to what the real horse business is," Musick said.


But opponents of slaughter - a term used by people on both sides of the issue - look as much if not more to the cruelty of the process while claiming that good, healthy horses are going to slaughter despite what the public thinks.

"There's a misconception about the types of horses that go to the plant. Many people believe that it's the old, sick, crippled horses, and that's simply not true. They're beautiful, healthy horses that are not sick. They're wanted." said Julie Carramante, investigator in Texas for Habitat for Horses, a Houston-based nonprofit organization that watches for abuse and neglect of horses.

"There's just no way you can slaughter a horse humanely," said Carramante, who thinks that culturally the United States is better suited for horses as pets rather than food.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which objects to the killing of any animal, is especially critical of horse slaughter, which it claims cruelly subjects horses to cross-country truck rides to several processing plants limited to Texas and Illinois.

"Horse slaughter does bring some special cruelties that are worth noting," said Bruce Friedrich, vice president of Norfolk, Va.-based PETA.

Opponents of slaughter claim part of what differentiates a horse from other slaughter animals, such as cattle and pigs, is the horse's sensibilities. They say horses are more aware of their impending death as they come off crowded trucks down a shoot where a captive-bolt gun, like those used for cattle, drives a steel bolt into the horse's brain and kills it.

But some experts disagree and claim horses today are treated ethically in the slaughter industry in general.

"The slaughtering itself is done humanely. I know that it's a concern of horse lovers," said professor Bailey of Utah State University."

What to do with them?

If horse slaughter is prohibited, both sides disagree about how an additional 90,000 horses will be absorbed into the 9.2 million total nationwide.

California, which banned horse sale for slaughter in the early 1990s, hasn't seen an increase in neglected horses, said Carolyn Stull, animal welfare specialist for the school of veterinary medicine at University of California-Davis.

So what will happen nationwide?

"That's the big question. Will their welfare be improved?" said Stull, who added that California is difficult to use as a model because slaughter horses simply can be shipped to other states and sold where there is no ban.

It's the message the newly created Unwanted Horse Coalition, part of the American Horse Council in Washington, D.C., is trying to send by developing a Web site where horse owners can search their best options other than slaughter.

"We want everyone to be aware of the responsibility," said Katy Carter, coordinator for the coalition, which takes no position on the horse slaughter bills. "It's a lifelong commitment. As long as you've got that horse, you've got to take care of it."

But the Amarillo, Texas-based American Quarter Horse Association, which is part of the coalition, does not support either House or Senate prohibition proposals because alternatives such as adoption are impractical and costly to taxpayers and retirement facilities wouldn't be able to handle the projected overflow.

But proponents of the legislation claim slaughter numbers have been reduced by two-thirds in the last decade, with the difference being absorbed without additional abuses.

"We've seen it go from 300,000 to 90,000," said Karen Sussman, president of the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros in Lantry, S.D. "And if we can do that, we can do 90,000."


Kelly Powell 11 years, 6 months ago

so if Itrain a cow to the saddle, does it become a "companion animal"? a responsible owner, after putting down a horse would figure out ways not to let the carcass go to waste......Hell one horse would go a long way at the jubilee cafe.

Kelly Powell 11 years, 6 months ago

this sounds cruel, but for one, the use of horses as meat goes back a long,long time....and if it was offered in grocery stores i would buy it....second the horse flesh industry sets the bottom price for horses....and the standard for quality......get rid of the bottom and in ten years all you will have on market are nags. and swaybacks.

carolannfugate 11 years, 6 months ago

For God sakes I would hope they get this bill passed.

Kelly Powell 11 years, 6 months ago

And please do not give me the "but horses are so beautiful" line....emotion based arguements have no place here....i've seen a lot of horses limping through life in pain because their owners have no idea about horses other than "their beautiful".

carolannfugate 11 years, 6 months ago

This has nothing to do with Beauty, it is about them being Companion Animals, but I guess you are grumpy over the whole Leach case so I will allow you to have your anger. Have nice day.

miniflavors 11 years, 6 months ago

I agree with you Carolannfugate, I am the proud owner of American Miniature Horses and Miniature Donkeys. I for one didn't know about the slaughter houses, if this bill doesn't get passed, we are gonna see things like the puppy mills popping up, except they will be horse mills, breed them just to kill them. I don't care what anyone says, it isn't right to eat a horse.

pelliott 11 years, 6 months ago

I'd eat horse meat. I like horses, I like cows, pigs, fish. I probably wouldn't eat a cat, but if someone wants to , as long as it isn't my cat. The horse meat industry should be a regulated industry with standards and very strict rules about ownership tracking. I am against rustlers, always have been.

Kelly Powell 11 years, 6 months ago

i wasn't being angry.....but you proved my point about emotional arguements.

Sigmund 11 years, 6 months ago

I feel a GREAT disturbance in The Force. As if a thousand Chinese and Mexican restaurants screamed all at once...

blessed3x 11 years, 6 months ago

Sigmund, I almost choked on my coffee!!!! Thanks for starting the morning off right!

J Good Good 11 years, 6 months ago

I grew up on a farm - we always ended up bottle feeding a calf for some reason and they were sweet and some had a lot of personality - then they grew up and we ATE them. Some people have a real emotional thing about horses, but there just isn't that much difference between a horse and a cow when it comes down to it. Any animal can develop a bond with humans and show personality and intelligence. My dogs are like my kids, but some asian cultures eat dogs, too, and who am I to say that all dogs are in a special class of animals that no one should eat.

I would like to think there are standards for how an animal will be killed for human consumption, but I've never really understood the vehemence about which dead animal should be food. Maybe people who feel that way should try to be vegan.

cowboy 11 years, 6 months ago

There is no reason to slaughter these spirits ! They can be humanely euthanized and buried. Loading them up for slaughter is greedy , lazy , and irresponsible. Kind of like the people who dump thier dogs and cats in the country for us to deal with.

riverrat2 11 years, 6 months ago

I personally prefer tiny reindeer butt only as a snack.

J Good Good 11 years, 6 months ago

I wouldn't eat dogs at all. I've never eaten horse either. But no one is forcing anyone to eat a horse or a dog at all as far as I am aware. My point was that if humans are going to eat animals - as they always have - then making special classes of animals that are too "special" (smart, beautiful, cute & fluffy) for ANY human to eat doesn't make sense to me. Too many cultures in the world with too many different tastes and circumstances.

Probably a lot of animal lovers would never eat any meat again if they didn't have this nice sheltered disconnect from what they are eating and where it comes from.

LG 11 years, 6 months ago

Unwanted horses are just that- unwanted. And unless supporters of this bill want to take in the 90,000 unwanted horses ANNUALLY that would ordinarily be euthanized under the supervision of a vet at a horse processing plant, we don't have a solution to the problem of properly caring for these animals.

And if the ban were to pass- I can practically assure you that people will being sending horses to auctions over the border in Canada and Mexico where the slaughter IS NOT regulated strictly as it is here in the states...

I've found to be a great resource for information, and encourage you to sign up there as well.

Horses are magnificent animals, but we have to seperate the emotion from the facts and face REALITY. In the long run, banning this option for unwanted horses will end up hurting more horses than helping.

redmm 11 years, 6 months ago

Wherever man has left his footprint in the long ascent from barbarism to civilization we will find the hoofprint of the horse beside it.

      John Trotwood Moore

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 6 months ago

The Chinese have crickets as pets-- hope none of you have ever squashed any of those lovely little creatures.

Baille 11 years, 6 months ago

What do we do with all the extra horses? Turn them loose?

ksgal 11 years, 6 months ago

For the economy we need to keep horse slaughter going but we also need to get backyard breeders to get their stallions gelded. And by backyard breeders I mean people that have un-registered, never been broke muts that are breeding their sibling's, mother's and daughters. There is already a hay shortage across most of the US. Do we just let them starve and suffer?

bunnyhawk 11 years, 6 months ago

You gotta love America.........we're willing to send our sons and daughters off to die in a foreign land because our president and his buddies lied to us.........and a really scary number of us seem to be ok with that.......and at the same time we're going to up in arms over horsemeat??? priorities people! no matter how you feel about our equine friends, there are some bigger issues on the table!!!!!!!! Let's worry about keeping iraqi children alive instead, what do you say???

BOE 11 years, 6 months ago

The bill will only create more problems... and expensive solutions.

Most likely, it'll mean more food for coyotes and carrion feeders.

blessed3x 11 years, 6 months ago

bunnyhawk, I'd be willing to bet that those citizens that support the war would see this horse situation as a joke. More likely than not, the people that are protesting the war standing on the street corner are going to be the same people that are up in arms about the horses.

Sigmund 11 years, 6 months ago

Well there goes my idea for a chain of "My Little Pony" family styles restaurants ...

tlm 11 years, 6 months ago

Professor Schroeder should attend some local auctions. Many of the horses being sold to slaughter buyers are not "culls". The USDA reports that approximately 92% of horses slaughtered in the United States are in good, usable condition. The myth that only the old, sick and lame horses go to slaughter is just that. Just ask the tens of thousands of people in this country who have committed to buying only "rescue" horses that have gone on to become healthy, usable and sound.

Anyone close to the equine industry knows the expense involved in caring for one. Certainly, if you own enough land to keep a horse rather than board one, it is much less expensive. However, if you use the figures in this article, humane chemical euthanasia and burial costs run parallel to the cost of a month's board and care.

The horse market is slow right now for many reasons, but I would not include "these people" as the reason. Several year droughts that have plagued different parts of this country, coupled with farmers being able to sell their hay crops overseas at a higher profit have helped to drive hay prices through the roof and forced many horse owners to sell out. I've seen huge dispersal sales, related to drought conditions and the inability to provide quality, affordable forage, take place this past year. I was raised on a horse farm and I do have a clue.

From the time an equine enters the "slaughter pipeline", they are most generally exposed to an inhumane environment. Packed in to trailers, often times with more aggressive horses, they suffer injury, dehydration, starvation and extreme temperatures. The USDA, who is supposed to regulate the transportation of horses to slaughter, are painfully inept in this area. I have been at slaughter plants and never seen an inspector leave their office, while truckload after truckload of horses are unloaded and processed, another area the USDA needs to work on.

As a point of clarification, the captive bolt gun is not intended to kill the horse, it only stuns the horse. Death is by exsanguination.

In many people's minds horses are different. We used horses to help settle this country, to fight wars, to raise crops, and to work cattle. Today, we now use equines for competition, leisure, companionship, and therapeutic programs for the mentally, emotionally and physically challenged. Still others help us with our "work", which can include cattle ranches, dude ranches, police horses, search and rescues, as well as a host of other jobs.

To dismiss the anti-slaughter groups as emotional is a very typical response. It seems that any time people try to talk about morals or ethics, the subject of emotion comes up as a way to dismiss the argument. It seems to me this country could use a little more ethics and morals and not just when it comes to horses.

justthefacts 11 years, 6 months ago

First off: Horses are ALREADY being eaten by (a) people in other countries and (b) dogs/pets whose manufactured foods contain such products.

Secondly: I personally have eaten horse (not knowingly) while in other countries. Tasted JUST like beef (which is what we were told it was!)

Thirdly: I am a huge animal lover and always have been. But unless you give up wearing, using, and/or eating all animal by-products (good luck with that), you are being hypocritical to condemn those who do. Personally, I would eat/use anything if my survival (or that of my family's) was at stake.

The lines drawn between companion animals and other animals is fairly arbitrary and personal; e.g. in some countries, their sacred cows are our McDonalds meals and their companions include crabs, spiders or/or insects.

The government doesn't appear to have enough to do. Instead of fixing a debt that now threatens to destroy our way of life, or finding a sensible way to exit stage left from Iraq (or make people in countries where war is a way of life play nicely with each other for the first time in their lives) our leaders find things to worry about that don't really matter to most people.

We need leaders and lawmakers who don't try to distract the masses (and press) by waving shiney non-issues around. What we need is fewer laws and more solutions to the very real threats to our saftey and future!

Carl Edwards 11 years, 6 months ago

Horse meat is good. I ate it with gusto while living in the Netherlands. Over there, it's known as "rookvlees." Give it a try!

Celeste Plitz 11 years, 6 months ago

I am a horse lover. I train horses. I am also vegetarian.

I think that a ban on horse slaughter is the wrong way to go about things at this point in time. A) There is no solution to the problem being offered if this bill comes to pass. What do you do with the old, the infirm, and the dangerous that cannot be rehabilitated? Especially if the owner can not afford to have the horse humanely put down. B) We should enforce the laws we have that are in place NOW to ensure that horses are treated humanely in the slaughter process. I support this for all species, not just horses. If horses were treated humanely, slaughter would be a non-issue. Well, not for everyone, but for those who understand the practical side, it should be enough.

I'm vegetarian because I find factory farming and the slaughter industry as a whole to be inhumane. Horses are wonderful creatures, they deserve to be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve. However, I don't think the ban on horse slaughter will actually improve the situation. What really needs to be done is to start regulating the slaughter process and ensuring that said process is humane.

What also should happen is that no horse should be bred that is not a top-quality individual. Too bad that isn't likely to ever happen. Taking care of the root problem would fix things, but of course that is a very unlikely scenario.

redmm 11 years, 6 months ago

Monday, Kaufman, USA

Monday in Kaufman, USA Just another working day All around the sound of life But not for those beneath the knife...

The slaughter house is busy killing Owned by greedy killers, willing Horses, ponies, mares and foals No gentle beast escapes their hold

These precious friends will die today Undignified, but their deaths will pay Their bodies will be broken, slain Such gentle creatures, culled in vain

For meat on plates in foreign lands Whose buyers now have blood soaked hands Whose leaders do not care to still The brutal crime of the cashier's till

And all around, as life goes by This tragedy takes place inside The walls of houses built for death Are stained with blood from gracious necks

In Mexico, from Alberta stalls Their bodies hang and line the walls And Congressmen in highest call Have let them go, to fail them all.

Shame on those who commit the deed Shame on those who ignore the greed Shame on those who look away Shame on bloody, bloody... Monday.

Maria Daines

cowboy 11 years, 6 months ago

Listening to a bunch of know it alls discuss something they know nothing about ...

It costs about 120.00 for the backhoe guy , about 80 for the vet call , less than a big night on the town to humanely put a horse down. There is no reason they should have to go to slaughter. And yes they are spirits !

djazz 11 years, 6 months ago

Horses are "companion" animals as earlier comment suggested. Not to be confused with dogs, cats, pigs, "cows," Llamas, and others. Animals with lower intelligence and bonding capabilities.

Having said that, we did bottle raise a calf or three. They become pets, like anything else. A lot moreso than snakes or birds of any type.

But, they ended up in Eudora being processed.

And then we consumed them. Never a horse. Never will.

Sigmund 11 years, 6 months ago

Got to feel bad for Taco Bell. First E-coli in scallions and now this.

cowboy 11 years, 6 months ago

lets see... if you have a horse you have land , if you have a horse youre responsible for it , if you have a horse you need to take care of it and put it down when its time.

if youre an irresponsible owner , a greedy owner , or maybe just a rotten person , you would send it to slaughter.

Or maybe you should just turn it loose.... the auctions are full of crazed horses , sick broken down horses , and just plain dangerous horses taken to auction by iresponsible owners , nuff said.

Celeste Plitz 11 years, 6 months ago

I see where you are coming from Cowboy-but the fact is, this world unfortunately is not ideal, and not everyone is a responsible horse owner. Shoot, some people shouldn't have animals at all, let alone horses. But they do. So do we allow these horses to suffer for years, abused and mistreated? Or do we allow these owners to send them somewhere where at least the end will come more quicky? If all horse owners were responsible, then the auctions and slaughter houses would not be necessary. But since this is not a perfect world, all we can do is try and find ways to counter the resulting numbers of unwanted horses. If anyone here has a solution that is truly realistic, I would be the first to say "let's end horse slaughter!"

As far as humanely putting the horse down, you're looking at a minimum of 125 plus the barn call. Then you figure in cremation, which is about a dollar a pound. That's realistic. Most people can't afford that. Sure, if I had land, I'd bury the horse, but I board. I have no other options. So I send the horse to auction, due to pure economics.

That's just a scenario. In fact, I faced something similar last year after spending 20K trying to save my horse. I had him cremated which cost me about 1200 dollars. We had the money-of course, that meant we had no savings after, but we had the money to cover it. What about those who don't have that much money laying around? Then you are looking at the above scenario. Before a ban goes into effect, there needs to be a solution to help those people out.

tlm 11 years, 6 months ago

The USDA has fallen pitifully short when it comes to transportation laws related to slaughter-bound equines, even they have admitted to that.

As far as disposal of the animal, there is also composting and the rendering plants. When you take on the responsibility of an equine, the possibility of having to euthanize them should be considered.

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