Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Let's Blame the Horses!

Midwest Thoroughbred

Let's Blame the Horses!

"It's like déjà-vu, all over again."
—Yogi Berra, New York Yankees
By Mike Porcaro
So it goes with the debate on horse slaughter in Illinois.
Despite the 2007 ban on horse slaughter in Illinois, on Feb. 23, a hearing took place, and the Agriculture and Conservation Committee voted to approve H.B. 4812, a bill to repeal the 2007 ban on horse slaughter for human consumption. And while it appeared that the bill would soon be on the House calendar for second reading, its sponsor, Rep. Jim Sacia, pulled it from the table on March 11. Sacia said the state Senate “has put a brick on the bill,” in reference to Senate leadership’s apparent refusal to call the bill if it was passed by the House.
At least temporarily, those in Illinois who oppose slaughter, not to mention the horses, have been granted a reprieve, of sorts. But the “fat lady” hasn’t sung yet, as this could resurface later.
Those who oppose slaughter think the practice is cruel with no place for it in our culture. Those who support it say that no slaughtering results in more unwanted and abandoned horses, especially during these hard economic times.
In my research on the topic, I’ve read as many pros as cons. One of the most pro-slaughter groups on record is the Cheyenne, Wyo.-based “United Organizations of the Horse (UOH),” which said in a recent press release that horses need to be “processed” because, you see, they run free in rangeland areas with “almost no apex predators and no viable market (existing) to sell them.”
Describing itself as “Horse owners and concerned citizens (who) have come together with real solutions,” apparently, UOH thinks it is horses that are to blame for a variety of ills plaguing America, and seemingly causing more problems than former Illinois governors.
Whew! For just about a minute, I thought that I had lost my mind to actually think that it was human beings who are responsible for “horse processing.”
Horse processing? It’s like old Uncle Louie used to say to me. “Mikey, dress that pig in top hat and tails, pour Chanel No. 5 on him ‘til he passes out, and you got yourself a real nice pig.”
Call it what you want. Horse processing means one thing…SLAUGHTER!
UOH is headed by Wyoming state representative, Susan Wallis, who serves as executive director. They call themselves a “benefit corporation,” and state that they work to control the overpopulation of horses and to want to restore humane and regulated horse meat processing.
According to their Web site, UOH wishes to “ensure the humane care, management and euthanasia of horses; to ensure the long-term sustainability and viability of the equine industry; and to restore the market for all horses.” This is a philosophy that suggests that the real solution to ensure humane care of horses is to kill em’, then turn their carcasses into a gourmet feast for Rin Tin Tin...”
In an absolute fit of irony, Native American organizations are solidly behind the movement. UOH says “feral horses and unwanted domestic horses being dumped in the country due to the economic meltdown are now destroying rangeland forage needed to feed livestock and wildlife and to retain soil in place. They are also eating special plants of spiritual and nutritional significance to the local tribes…something must be done to reduce the number of wild horses grazing in the West, and fast.”
Katherine Minthorn Good Luck, a spokesperson for the Northwest Tribal Horse Coalition, said that as the result of a meeting of tribes throughout the country, a policy resolution regarding the culling of the horse population was passed by the National Congress of American Indians.
“The tribes stand shoulder to shoulder with the United Organizations of the Horse to call for the return of humane and regulated processing of horses in the U.S.,” says Good Luck,” and for the ability to manage feral horses in a sensible way that will actually protect our precious lands, maintain our sacred horses at sustainable levels and provide much needed jobs for our depressed economy.”
You’d think that with all the dough that’s rolling in from casinos they own that the tribes would find a sensible way to maintain the tribe’s sacred horses, other than all-out slaughter. I quake at thinking they would take this position given how this animal has been such a rich and integral part of the Native American heritage.
Wallis says, “Our main objective is to be a voice for horse owners at every level, and to every audience…we strive to be a voice that is capable of coherently and articulately communicating to a misinformed and emotionally manipulated American public, and to policymakers.”
Well, I’m a horse owner and an “American public,” but, Sue, you sure ain’t my voice, or that of many Midwest horsemen. There are good and decent owners, trainers and breeders who care as much or more about horses than almost anything in their lives. Are these the “misinformed and emotionally manipulated American public” to whom you refer, Ms. Wallis?
Here are some facts about the horse processing industry, and maybe we can calculate the real motives of those espousing slaughter…
  • Until 2007, when the federal courts closed the last horse meat processing plant in the U.S., about 100,000 horses were slaughtered for meat for export.
  • Horse values have plummeted by 30-80 percent according to sources, with many horse owners not being able to afford the estimated annual cost of $1,200 for care.
  • Horses destined for slaughter once sold for 40 cents to 80 cents per pound. Today, processors in Mexico and Canada pay about 6 to 10 cents per pound. Now owners who cannot rid themselves of an animal, pay as much as $600 to have horses euthanized.
  • Exporting meat is a big business, and has the potential to be even bigger with sales to emerging countries like China, and other nations where horse meat is a delicacy.
Let’s get this straight. The industry has gone from 100,000 slaughtered horses to zero. The value of horses decreased as much as 80 percent. Horse meat prices are down to 6 cents per pound from a high of 80 cents. There is “new demand” for horse meat.
Now, I might have graduated from a state school, but, even I can spell M-O-N-E-Y. And isn’t that what this is all about?
Is it the “need” to control population, or is it the need to create a market for horses that’s the reason behind push? Phrases like “no viable market …to sell in,” “restore the market for all horses,” and “regulate meat processing” desecrate the words “humane” and “sustained.”
Make no mistake. It’s the hunters, not the hunted, who stand to gain the most here. By pushing the Feds and states like Illinois to cough up legislation that allows slaughterhouses to flourish benefits those who would be in the best position to purchase wild horses and rid them from federal lands, or from places like Mexico, at cheap prices, all under the guise “to restore the market for all horses”…the words of UOH, not mine.
If UOH thinks for a Secretariat-fraction that any forthright and caring horseman believes that their organization’s primary goal is in the best interest of horses, then they must think we’re all pretty damn dumb here in the flatlands! And if they think we’ll fall for the blarney that horses are to blame, rather than those who wish to profit from their demise, they’re dead wrong!
Hiding behind a platform of controlling the overpopulation of horses to promote a suspect agenda is just plain deceitful in my book. And those who call horses “sacred,” but would rather send them to a kill pen, should be ashamed. Very ashamed!
Mike Porcaro is co-publisher & editorial director of Midwest Thoroughbred. Porcaro can be reached via email mike@mwtmag.com. 
Mike Porcaro is co-publisher & editorial director of Midwest Thoroughbred. Porcaro can be reached via email mike@mwtmag.com

Posted with Permission.

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