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The Slaughter of America’s Horses
Any one who has wanted to travel to Europe or Asia, or go on a cross-country trip should follow along with one of many horses at local auctions. That s right, the symbols of the Wild West get to travel where most Americans will never go in their lifetime. However, its recommended that traveling and housing accommodation be booked separated from the horses.
One morning they get on a trailer, a week or two later they are on plates as delicacies in other countries. For years the slaughter of horses has been a highly profitable, low guided practice and what takes place from the time killer-buyers get hold of them, to the time they become another dish, has been kept from the public. Horses are inhumanely transported and held, for no other reason than enjoyment of those in other countries. What can be done to end this violation of animal rights, and why has it been allowed until now? These are the questions racing through avid horse fans’ minds.
Exposed to the eyes of the people is the slaughter of pregnant mares, foals, potential pets, and young but not-fast-enough racehorses. The need for explanation and reformation is at hand. Information ripped from the grasps of the unbeknownst is the best tool in this war. It is mandatory, that the atrocious violation of the animals that helped make America what it is today become know to every person. These pets have been there to help get food, carry materials, and take humans to go where they need to go. Nevertheless, more than helpful objects they have become our friends, loyal companions, and the subject of fantasies and never forgotten stories. A legend would have been lost had famous racehorses such as Eclipse, Flicka, Secretariat, Black Gold and many others been sent to slaughterhouses, all for the sake of taste.
It is true that the demand for horsemeat in this country is virtually non-existent, because it has said to be “tough and tasteless.” (McGraw, 1) However, horsemeat is highly coveted in countries such as Mexico, France, Italy, Belgium, and Holland. (1) The business is booming, and as it grows, so does the interest of the public as to how the horses are treated. Its estimated by the USDA that 346,000 horse were killed here in 1990 for shipment overseas, and 70,000 more were sent to Canada to be slaughtered (USDA,1) Another startling revolution: from 1986 to 1995 2,500,000 of America’s horses were doomed to that ill fate. However, for the Humane Society and a large portion of the concerned population it is not so much the use of the horse as it is the treatment. (McGraw, 1)
For example, the horses are led into auction rings, hair brushed, tails and manes combed, hooves shod and polished. These are the pets the family has lost funding or interest in, so they are up for sale. The selling owner assumes that the horse is off to a new home where it can be better cared for or where it will get the time, they just did not have for him. In addition, these promising homes sit in the viewers at the auction, checking available money, picking and choosing, and bidding. Also in these crowds of family’s, horse-lovers, and prospectors are killer-buyers. Their lack of emotional attachment to the proud magnificent animals allows them to buy large quantities, barely out-bidding the families. All so they can make a few hundred dollars profit and indulge the tastes of over charged well-to-do people in other countries.
Once a killer-buyer purchases the horse, it is led out of the auction ring, unaware it has just been appointed to a miserable death. The horse waits, as the buyer’s stall is steadily filled with more and more horses, some young, some old, some in their prime of health, and some with fractures and breaks that inflict pain with every step. This is the start of the trouble. Mares, geldings, all types of horses wait in one stall, scared, and uncomfortable: fights start. Sates Temple Grandin (noted animal behaviorist) “The number-two thing (largest problem) is horse fights.” (Lehr,1) She was subject to view the many horses, of which had large cuts, knocked out eyes, bite marks, and kick wounds. Horses are then loaded onto a trailer, usually a stock trailer made for hauling animals with no-necks, because they enable the buyer to transport a greater quantity of animals that he will collect on the way to the slaughterhouse. Carolyn Stull, Ph.D., found that 29.2% of horses shipped in such trailers had abrasions and lacerations. Fifty eight percent of these were on the head and face, due to a low second level, which even prevents some horses from standing. This is in contrast to 8% in straight-decked trailers: typical “horse” trailers. (Lehr,1)
The cattle trailers allow room for forty to forty five horses, while the straight decked only allows room for thirty-five to forty. During the trailer ride, the bewildered horses go without food or water. These are horses that come from as far as Washington, New York, and Missouri which often are taken to Texas or Canada, the two places where slaughterhouses are most prominent.
They arrive at their “grave” usually early in the morning, before the vacant, looming buildings have even come to life, but the forbidding silence is enough to keep eyes darting, and ears rotating, as the worn and exhausted horses struggle to figure out what’s next. The buyers wait in their cold metallic trucks, catching up on sleep lost in order to get the horses delivered by the appointed date. When the workers of the factories finally arrive, the truck is directing to the cement loading ramps. Out of fear and longing for freedom, the horses stampede off the truck. Young horses become knocked down and trampled, while others slip down the ramps that are slick with waste. They mill about trying to hide from what they sense is coming. They shake and whinny nervously; UN-fed and dehydrated they struggle to stand. One by one, they are ushered into a single file chute.
This aisle leads inside, where they are shocked, and struck with cattle prods. Then the horses are isolated in a small pen, which allows them no room to turn or move. The are struck between they ears on the forehead with a bolt-gun, which drives a four inch bolt into their heads to stun them and render them unconscious. The first blow does not always succeed in this. Though upon impact the skull shatters, driving bone fragments into the brain. Still alive and sometimes conscious, the once valued animals have their throats slit. The walls then open wider, and a chain pulls the horse up by a back leg, bleeding “clean” as they hang. Later skin is peeled away as the docile animal becomes nothing more than pieces of meat, to be shipped overseas. Hindquarters are cut as steaks and flown immediately to those counties that consume horsemeat. The rest is generally minced, packaged and sent over by boat. “Are horses primarily recreational companions or ranch work beasts and an occasional meal?” (McGraw,1)
The USDA projects that in this coming year alone 89,000 horses will be subjected to the same treatments and slaughtered. Their predictions for last year were off by a negative four thousand. They also estimate that it will bring in fifty eight million dollars in private revenue. (USDA,1) That means, in this year, around 90,000 horses will suffer for the sake of money. Remember that the horsemeat does not go to feed the poor who cannot afford food, in-fact it tends to sell for a higher price than filet mignon. Its no wonder the slaughter industry makes an effort to keep the truth tucked away.
One of the major facts the companies try to hide is that the horses that go to the slaughter houses generally aren t the old ones that don’t have any where to go any more. In honesty, the buyers look for fat and healthy horses, as those bring the most revenue when the pound pays profit. The prime target, ten to twelve year old, well developed quarter horses. (Economist,1) They are young and have double the meat of old and weak horses. Comparing that to the fact that most of the horses that show in the Olympics are around thirteen years old can make most people think twice about taking their horse to sell at the auction. Horses from children’ s summer camps, old riding ponies, and unworked with horses also end up in the slaughterhouses. Another outrage is in the discovery that a large percent of Thoroughbreds, who just are not fast enough for the racetrack, take the long and modern Trail of Tears. (Hollandsworth,1) The horses slaughterhouses buy fall into a lower price ranges. The contractors and killer-buyers want people to believe that the community as a whole makes more off the horses going to the slaughterhouses than it would for the horses to live. This however is false misguided information, the slaughterhouses are primarily foreign owned, they, and a few killer-buyers contractors, and truckers are the ones who benefit from this inhumane treatment. Furthermore, these lesser-cost horses are what “green” or beginner riders need. They are the tamer, calm trail horses that people getting into the sport require.
If these horses sell to good homes they would generate millions of dollars in revenue for state in many ways, feed, tack, veterinarian bills, trailers and vehicle sales. Not only, that, the sale of the less inexpensive non-competitive market to the killer-buyers, virtually wipes out the rest of the horse market. (McGraw,1) Because there are less riders due to less schooling horses means less competitive riders in the long run, and no need for the well bred and trained horses, and as the need drops so does the price. When the price of these horses drops they to will end up at the slaughterhouse. If the slaughter business continues will also see a loss in horse for trail rides and summer camps, both of which generate money for the state through taxes. On the profit side there is also the fact that horses that are too old and weak and at the end of their line can generate money through the state.
One of the common humane ways to put older horse out of their misery is euthanasia. When horses undergo euthanasia, it is true that they may not sell for horsemeat. They would not make it past USDA inspection for human consumption. Nevertheless, this method of disposing of older horses can generate profit. They can be taken to rendering plants to be used to products such as glue, dog-food, and other such products. (McGraw,1) When these products sell the taxes on them go to the state. Therefore, from the covered points, it seems as though states themselves, should be against horses from their state lines to be sent to slaughter, and they are.
A law recently by legislation and the voters of California makes it a crime for horses to sell for human consumption. This is bringing to life similar ideas in other states. So the owners of slaughterhouses not only are starting to sweat laws on the transportation laws the are starting to see their extinction at hand. It is a public campaign to make sellers more aware of the situation. (Hollandsworth,2) The slaughterhouses went to high measures to deflect this outcome with no avail. They came up with plenty of excuses Which Cathleen Doyle, founder of Save the Horses, referred to as “prepared by those who work for slaughter companies.” (McGraw,1) Apparently, thousand of Californians who showed up for the poles also felt the same. California also includes Hollywood, and it is a known fact that actors and actresses, such as Robert Redford have spent over one million dollars on campaigns to make the sale of horses for human consumption a felony. This was the law that passed, Their campaign showed the faces. It seems once the truth is out their, Americans stand by the protection of our symbols of western culture. The animals we have come to see as companion animals.
So if dogs and cats are not slaughtered for meals in other countries, why are horses. (Economist,1) All because the on going battle to have horses legally considered companion animals instead of live stock. The United State Department of Agriculture has been “stingy” (McGraw, 1) to give out any information on horse slaughter. (Economist,1) except to say “Horses are livestock, same as cows and pigs” (McGraw,1) Many people around the country beg to differ. It can probably be agreed by most that horses are owned for recreational purposes, generally not for work any longer. However, it can be found in the far western states that horses still work dawn to dusk, the long hours of cowboys. Which brings about the point that horses are not raised as cattle, they are not raise in large numbers to be sent off to eat here in the United State. These horses going to slaughter have been raised in an environment with people, they have been trained and cared for and taught to trust people. They have been raised as companion animals not livestock. Therefore, they should not be killed, transported, and sold for consumption as live stock.
The fact that the animals we see as highly regarded symbols in this county are allowed to suffer and be inhumanely slaughtered every day is inconceivable. Horses helped to build our way of life, so is our return of the favor allowing them to fall victim to greed, the greed of a few people who profit off foreign owned slaughterhouses. If you have ever been that horse crazy kid, ever dreamed of riding off into the sunset, then you should know what it means to be a horse person. Being a horse person is not based on whether you own horses, it is in you. It occurs when the thought of horses running free across an open plain triggers a sense of independence. Horses are a majestic sign of freedom, power, and strength, which is what we have built this country around. Gentles giant with the ability to over power us that have been seen tagging along behind kids at rodeos. The sights of powerful thoroughbreds thundering down the track, the roar in your ears, the breeze as they fly past you. From carriage rides to trail rides, horses are apart of the best pieces of our lives. A moment touched by a horse never becomes a faded memory. The grace with which a horse prances is like no other, so how can we allow this creature of beauty to befall such a horrible death. This is not a call to run and set fire to the nearest slaughterhouse. All I am asking you to do is realize the problem, consider the solutions and inform others. Horses are not live stock, they are companion animals, that have carried us into war, taken us through the spring time meadows, and been there always in our hearts and imaginations. Horses have a direct place in our pasts and hopefully our futures. Look at all the facts and think about where you stand.
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