Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tell Nebraska Lawmakers No to Horse Slaughter

From Animal Law

Posted Oct 3, 2009 by lauraallen

* Horse Slaughter

HorseNebraska lawmakers are holding hearings to address what is described as the "problem" of disposing of horses now that slaughter in the U.S. is illegal.

The legislature claims there is a "problem" of unwanted horses but now no way to dispose of them.

The hearings are expected to result in legislation that will be introduced when the legislature reconvenes next year in 2010.

These so-called problems, however, are simply myths perpetuated by the horse slaughter industry and its supporters.

There is no "problem" of disposing of horses in the U.S. 920,000 horses die each year in the U.S. They are not slaughtered but die from a variety of causes including humane euthanasia. They are then rendered or buried without incident. The number of horses sent to slaughter in 2008 was approximately 133,000. As Americans Against Horse Slaughter points out, " If slaughter were no longer an option and these horses were rendered or buried instead, it would represent a small increase in the number of horse being disposed of in this manner - an increase that the current infrastructure can certainly sustain. Humane euthanasia and carcass disposal is highly affordable and widely available. The average cost of having a horse humanely euthanized and safely disposing of the animal's carcass is approximately $225, while the average monthly cost of keeping a horse is approximately $200." Indeed, the Humane Society of the United States has compiled a List of resources by state for euthanasia and disposal of horses and applicable laws . There are innumerable resources for disposing of horses. Slaughter should not be one of them.

There is no "problem" of unwanted horses in the U.S. because of the closing of the slaughterhouses in 2007. Nor would there be if American horses could not be transported to other countries for slaughter. There have been a number of reports in the media that there are unwanted horses, horses abandoned, horses left to starve. It has become accepted that there is a problem of unwanted horses. This is now repeated over and over as if it is true.

But researchers investigated these media reports and found each one was simply not true. The alleged sources for these reports, sheriffs, police, animal control, federal government officials, all denied they had said there were abandoned or unwanted or neglected horses or their statements taken wildly out of context. Download at the end of this article the compelling results of this investigation.

Also, during hearings this year in Montana, legislators supporting pro-slaughter legislation, particularly, Rep. Ed Butcher, claimed repeatedly there was a problem of unwanted horses in Montana. But a 2009 study of every county in Montana revealed there were only 4 horses in the entire state that could be verified as abandoned in the past year. 2 other horses had been left by an owner to pay a debt. Hardly a "problem".

Indeed, horse slaughter has nothing to do with controlling numbers of unwanted horses. It is a business driven by a demand for horse meat primarily as a delicacy in foreign countries.

As John Holland, a free lance writer and researcher on horse slaughter and consultant for Americans Against Horse Slaughter and founder of Equine Welfare Alliance, has explained, "Kill buyers do not go around the country like dog catchers gathering ‘unwanted horses' as a public service." Kill buyers are not looking for unwanted, neglected or abused horses. They are looking for the healthiest horses. They are buying American horses because of the demand for horse meat in parts of Europe and Asia. If everyone stopped eating horsemeat tomorrow, there would be no more horse slaughter, regardless of the number of unwanted horses.

Kill buyers buy horses at auction for slaughter, and the USDA has said over 92% of American horses slaughtered, are healthy, not old, sick, injured, or neglected. These horses were not unwanted; they were simply sold at auction, and their owners had no control over who purchased them. Without the kill buyers who skulk around horse auctions, looking for the best potential horse meat, most of these horses would be purchased by others or end up in rescues or sanctuaries.

A study released last year showed a decrease in horse abuse and neglect cases following closure of the last U.S. horse slaughter house in 2007.
Any abandoned or neglected horses are not a result of a lack of horse slaughter houses.

horsesHistorically, there have not been increases in abandoned, neglected or abused horses following closures of horse slaughter houses. In 2002 the Illinois slaughter house burned to the ground and was out of commission for some time. Reports of abandoned, abused and neglected horses in the Illinois area were actually on the rise in the 2 years before the fire but decreased afterwards.

Remember the number of horses slaughtered in the U.S. dropped significantly from over 300,000 annually in the 1990s to 66,000 in 2004. There was no notable increase during that time of abandoned, abused or neglected horses.

When California banned horse slaughter in 1998, there was no rise in cases of cruelty or neglect to horses. In fact, there was a 39.4% decrease initially and that rose to 88% eventually in horse thefts. (What does that tell you about this "business"?)

Also, from 2005-2007 14,375 horses were imported from Canada into the U.S. for slaughter. If horse slaughter occurs because of all the unwanted horses, why would these horse slaughter businesses need to import them? The answer is, of course, they wouldn't.

Horse slaughter is not humane euthanasia. It is reported that proponents of pro-slaughter legislation have told Nebraska lawmakers that slaughter is "unfortunate" or "sad". It is far worse than that, however. Despite the requirements of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, 7 USCS § 1901-1906, the captive bolt gun used in the U.S. slaughterhouses did not typically render horses senseless before slaughter. The slaughter houses never bothered to restrain the horses' heads or use only trained personnel to operate the gun.

The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act is clear that "[n]o method of slaughtering or handling in connection with slaughtering shall be deemed to comply with the public policy of the United States unless it is humane. ...[I]n the case of ... horses, mules, ...all animals are rendered insensible to pain by a single blow or gunshot or an electrical, chemical or other means that is rapid and effective, before being shackled, hoisted, thrown, cast, or cut".

As John Holland has explained, "In its 2000 report on methods of Euthanasia, the American Veterinary Medical Association stated that the captive bolt gun should not be used on equines unless head restraint could be assured. This is because of the relatively narrow forehead of equines, their head shyness and the fact that the brain is set back further than in cattle for which the gun is intended. It is difficult for an operator to assure proper placement of the gun.

"No slaughter house ever found a practical way to restrain the heads of the horses, so by the AVMA's very definition, the process was not acceptable. The result was a very large number of ineffective stuns. These misplaced blows undoubtedly caused severe pain until a stunning or fatal blow was delivered. "

Imagine the pain and terror experienced by horses as bolts were repeatedly fired at their heads many times by untrained operators.

horse slaughter facilityBecause horse slaughter could not be made humane according to the standards in its 2000 Report, AVMA simply changed the requirements in its 2007 Euthanasia Report! In that report the AVMA removed any mention that horses' heads should be restrained during use of the captive bolt gun. That pesty requirement that slaughterhouses ignored anyway simply got in the way of the AVMA's campaign to convince Congress and the public that horse slaughter is "humane". Now the AVMA and other pro-slaughter advocates are telling Congress and the public that it is humane euthanasia for an untrained operator to fire metal bolts at a horse's unrestrained head until it is more or less unconscious and then, still alive and perhaps even conscious, subjected to the slaughtering process.

In 2004 the Government Accountability Office found the most frequent violation noted by inspectors in slaughter houses was ineffective stunning, meaning "in many cases ..a conscious animal reach[ed] slaughter" in violation of Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, 7 USCS § 1902(a); 9 C.F. R. §313.15, 9 C.F.R. §313.50(c). See GAO-04-247, GAO-08-686T. GAO also noted there had been no effort made to stop the ineffective stunning and the records kept by inspectors were so poor, it was impossible to tell even by 2008 that there had been any improvement.

Go here for testimony about horse slaughter that was submitted to Congress in 2008.


Tell Nebraska lawmakers horse slaughter has no place in a civilized society. Tell them the U.S. has no problem of disposing of horses. Tell Nebraska legislators there is no problem of unwanted or abandoned horses as they have been led to believe and that horse slaughter has nothing to do with controlling numbers of unwanted or abandoned horses anyway, that it's a for profit business, driven by a demand for horse meat, something Americans don't eat.

Go here to find your Nebraska legislator. If you don't live in Nebraska, write or call anyway; this affects horses all across the U.S. Go here to find all Nebraska legislators. Just click on the names to get contact information. (Faxes are best.)

Call on your U.S. representative and Senators to pass the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act, H.R. 503/S.B. 727. Go here for information and how to contact your federal legislators.

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