Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Horse Slaughter Just The Beginning

Straight from the Horse's Heart

Story by John L. Smith of the Mesquite Local News

Wallis and Duquette may want to eat more than just Horse

Wallis and Duquette's Dream

I have concluded it’s a good thing Sue Wallis isn’t a welfare department director or superintendent of public schools.

Wallis is a Wyoming rancher, state legislator, and the vice president of a group called United Horsemen.

Wallis and her group were among the sponsors of the recent Summit of the Horse event at the South Point casino in Las Vegas. “United Horsemen” and “Summit of the Horse” have proud, high-minded rings to them, don’t they?

United Horsemen exists in large part to work to lift the ban on the practice of horse slaughter in the United States. The summit provided a forum mostly for advocates of the practice to express their deep concerns about conservation and the preservation of the wild species through effective management. That is, by rounding up the beasts, killing them, and butchering them so the meat can be sold to countries where horsemeat waters mouths instead of turn stomachs.

Federal spoilsports have made it unprofitable to keep horse slaughterhouses open in the U.S., and they’ve also banned the export of domestic horses for meat to Canada and Mexico.

Public opinion has turned against the horse killers, too. A 2009 Public Opinion Strategies poll found 69 percent of American voters opposed horse slaughter for human consumption. Unless Congress is unexpectedly overtaken by delegates from France, Mexico, Japan, and China – nations where you can still find Seabiscuit on restaurant menus – it’s difficult to imagine the American ban being lifted any time soon.

But that doesn’t stop folks like Willis from dreaming of the day when wild horses are reduced to steaks, roasts, and ground round, and ranchers have made a tidy profit.

Taking the folks with United Horsemen at their word, that they are interested in seeing healthy wild horse populations instead of, as their critics suspect, no wild horses at all, for a moment I thought Wallis and her friends might be onto something.

If wild horses have overpopulated, kill them and eat them. But why stop there?

If this is, as they claim, more about politics and public perception than the best interests of the species, why not continue the theme? Surely there are other critters in our midst whose existence is hard to justify.

Stray dogs, for one. Millions are in animal shelters across the land.

And don’t forget cats. They breed prolifically. When they turn feral, they’re bad for the environment.

The solution is simple. Round them up and slaughter them. Hey, we’ve all heard of people in distant lands eating Spot and Fido. I’m sure there are examples of humans dining on Puff and Garfield, too. It’s just a matter of politics and perception, right?

Moving to the next level is difficult, but, well, you can’t deny that there are an awful lot of Americans out of work these days. Call it a modest proposal, if you will. With the economy in recession, there are a lot of folks who, it could be argued, have outlived their usefulness to society.

And then there are the elderly. Are they proliferating, or what? Everyone talks about fixing Social Security and Medicare, but nobody seems willing to do anything about it. Well, now’s your chance. Perhaps someone will create a high-minded group called “United Seniors” and work toward a solution.

At the risk of sounding soft on this issue, I think the day of horse slaughter in America is over. Other countries have many practices and culinary traditions we don’t share.

Wild horses aren’t simply pests or nuisances. They’re somewhat federally protected animals. They’re majestic symbols and part of our Western heritage. And if that description is too poetic for you, remember ranchers use the same romantic imagery whenever it suits their political purposes.

The horses should be protected through management, private and public, not by bringing back the glue factory.

John L. Smith writes a weekly column on rural Nevada which appears on every Wednesday and in the print edition every Thursday. His Las Vegas Review-Journal column appears four times a week.

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