Sunday, October 11, 2009

Big Thanks to Linda Jean: Dispelling the Myths

For the Love of Horses

by Linda Jean

I've always admired the beauty and strength of horses and long ago realized our own human survival has been dependent on horses throughout the history of our species. Horses have no doubt increased our quality of life by providing our ancestors with transportation, labor and even food. Even in less developed countries it is not unusual to see a horse pulling a plow in a field.

Therefore, when I read the following article in my local paper that the Nebraksa state legislature is discussing the need for a horse slaughterhouse, the hairs on my neck began to rise. Currently, slaughterhouses for horses are illegal when used for human consumption. Although Americans don't eat horses, they are a popular food stuff in Europe and Japan. The last US horse slaughterhouse closed down a few years ago, so now many horses are being "shipped" to Canada and Mexico for slaughter. In this article there is a claim made that more horses are neglected and abandoned because of a lack of slaughterhouses in our country. The facts counter this argument as a letter to the editor that I wrote states. Here is the original article (published October 3) and my comments that were published on October 10 of this year:

Lawmakers hear of need for horse disposal

LINCOLN— State lawmakers were told Friday of the growing need for low- cost disposal of unwanted horses in Nebraska, given federal and state restric- tions against horse slaughter. Debby Brehm, director of the American Quarter Horse Association’s Nebraska chapter, said more horses face abandonment or neglect now that slaughter is less of an option. “Slaughter is not pretty, but it does provide a humane, economical way to euthanize a horse,” she told the Legislature’s Agriculture Committee during a hearing on the issue. Brehm said neither she nor her group support slaughter, but they recognize that horse owners need more options for unwanted or ailing horses, particu- larly in the current economic climate. She said it can cost $1,900 to feed, water and shelter a horse for one year — not including veterinary care. The nation’s last three horse slaugh- terhouses closed in 2007. Some states — but not Nebraska — have banned the slaughter of horses. Congress, which is considering a federal ban on horse slaughter and transporta- tion of horses to slaughterhouses, has eliminated funding for inspections of horses to be used for human consump- tion. Horses are exported to Mexico and Canada for slaughter. A record 78,000 horses were sent out of the country in 2007, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics. Much of the meat is exported to countries in Europe and Asia for human consumption. Critics say slaughtering is inhumane. Don Wesley of the Humane Society of the United States said Friday that he sees a need for disposal services, but that slaughter should not be an option. He didn’t present alternatives. But supporters of the practice say that without slaughterhouses, more older or otherwise marginalized horses are neg- lected or abandoned. Ross Garwood of the Nebraska Farm Bureau said he supports horse slaugh- ter to help supply horse meat overseas. He said he would like to see a slaugh- terhouse built on tribal land, which would be exempt from federal inspec- tions. Several cases of horse neglect have come up in Nebraska over the past sev- eral months, including one involving more than 200 horses at a ranch south of Alliance. Scores of horses and burros were found ill and emaciated in April; about 74 horses and burros were found dead. The owner of 3-Strikes Ranch faces a January trial on 149 felony counts of cruel neglect of an animal. Gretna veterinarian Larry Henning said Friday that he’s been asked to corral abandoned horses that have made their way into traffic. “Death is not inhumane,” he said, tes- tifying on behalf of the Nebraska Veterinary Medical Association. “Starvation and neglect are, and that’s what we’re starting to see.” State Sen. Russ Karpisek of Wilber said legislation will be introduced in January that would allow authorities to act faster in confiscating neglected horses. A legislative study of horse slaughter alternatives has been proposed by state Sen. Cap Dierks of Ewing, who owns several horses. He said Friday that without slaughter- houses, the only option for an owner of an unwanted or ailing horse is to “dig a hole and cover it up.”

My Letter:

Dear Editor,

A recent article in the Tribune titled “Lawmakers hear of need for horse disposal” left out some pertinent and factual information about horse slaughtering. It mentioned in the article that Don Wesley of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) who opposes horse slaughter, presented no other alternatives to the problem of over population of sick, injured or abandoned horses. I cannot speak for Mr. Wesley, but I was surprised by that statement because on the Humane Society’s website there is a thorough and factual discussion of alternative and viable options to horse slaughter (Google: "HSUS horse slaughter myths").

For example, horse sanctuaries and rescues, contraception and as a last result, lethal injection, are more humane options to horse slaughtering. The HSUS states that there are over 400 sanctuaries and rescue operations in the US that participate in helping to care for unwanted horses.

The Tribune article suggests that a ban on slaughtering horses causes more horses to be neglected and abandoned. This is a myth and there is no evidence to support it. California has had a horse slaughter ban for over 10 years and there has been no increase in neglect and abandoned horses. There has been, however, a 34% decrease in the number of horse thefts.

In the case of the 300 neglected horses in Alliance, there is no evidence the horses were neglected because of a ban on slaughtering. Generally speaking, horses are neglected because of a lack of responsibility on behalf of the owners due to a variety of reasons including economic hardships, lack of education about caring for horses, drought and even the price of hay. People who own horses have a legal responsibility to take care of them and there are state laws prohibiting abuse and neglect of horses. As the HSUS states, “horse abandonment and abuse is a sad reality whether or not slaughter is an available option—there is no causal connection between the two issues.”

It is also a myth that slaughter is a humane way to put down a horse since the website has videos from undercover investigations showing horses who are still alive as their throats are slit and they are dismembered. According to surveys on public opinion, an overwhelming majority of Americans (69%) support bans on horse slaughter.

The article stated that a proposal for a legislative study of horse slaughter alternatives has been recommended. It is important that our state lawmakers separate fact from fiction regarding horse slaughter and educate themselves on the effective alternatives available.

For more information about the cruelties of horse slaughtering read the House Judiciary Subcommittee's animal cruelty testimony at:
Posted by Linda Jean at 5:56 PM

Be sure to thank Linda Jean for her wonderful advocacy and encourage her to go on exposing the Myths...

Click on title above to go to her blog;

1 comment:

Linda Jean said...

Just ran across my post on your blog. I got a lot of reaction from my letter here in rural Nebraska--opposing my view of course. Anyway, I have changed the name of my blog and you can access it here: