By Christopher J. Heyde
April 7, 2006
Unlike the mythical tale of the
Trojan horse, horse slaughter in the United States is a cold, brutal and
senseless act played out daily in the three foreign-owned slaughterhouses in
Texas and Illinois.
The debate over whether horses should be slaughtered in this country for human consumption abroad is one that deserves the dissemination of accurate information, unlike what lobbyist Charlie Stenholm recently put forth in the recent commentary "Meat plant ban a Trojan Horse."
Mr. Stenholm would like the public to believe that horse slaughter is a common option used by horse owners, when, in fact, less than 1 percent of all horses in this country end up at slaughterhouses. The overwhelming majority of horses are brought in by middlemen known as "killer buyers" working for the plants who do not reveal their true business when buying horses from unsuspecting sellers.
An estimated 900,000 horses in this country die naturally or are humanely euthanized and disposed of properly each year. It is illogical to conclude that by ending horse slaughter, we would be overwhelmed with bodies or even live horses. As one person noted, "it is a wild assumption that every horse will die the same day, week, month or even year."
Sadly, wild assumptions are what the pro-slaughter folks want the public and legislators to base their decisions on, because they have no evidence to support their position that horse slaughter in America is necessary.
Thankfully, the overwhelming majority of American horse owners realize that horse slaughter is not euthanasia by any definition. They do what is right by having a veterinarian humanely euthanize their horses when the time comes, an expense which is less than one month's board for the average horse owner.
I can understand why Mr. Stenholm is so uninformed about the mistreatment of horses, since he has only recently been hired by the slaughterhouses. I suggest he read the various outstanding editorials in The Washington Times exposing the cruelty of this unwanted industry. There is also ample evidence from the Department of Agriculture that slaughterhouse cruelty is an ongoing problem. Documents recently obtained from the USDA through the Freedom of Information Act reveal numerous citations of federal law pertaining to the treatment of horses in these plants over an incredibly short period of time.
I am one of the few people who have witnessed horse slaughter firsthand without being expressly brought in by the industry to show how "wonderful" it is. I was accompanied by a licensed veterinarian who sought out a USDA inspector when we were no longer able to tolerate the abuse we witnessed. Unfortunately, she was unable to find the inspector in the facility. In the mere 45 minutes we were there, we witnessed several acts of cruelty. I can assure you from my own experience that the video, photographs and USDA documents depicting slaughterhouse cruelty are brutally accurate. (To learn more about horse slaughter and to see a video of this cruel practice, please visit www.saplonline.org/horses.htm
The effort to ban horse slaughter in this country has brought together one of the largest and most diverse coalitions ever assembled to promote a single animal-protection cause -- more than 200 horse industry, rescue and humane organizations have joined together in solidarity (most of the pro-slaughter organizations are not even horse-related).
Support has also been garnered from every living owner of a Kentucky Derby winning horse, horse-industry leaders, Hall of Fame trainers, veterinarians and horse-owning celebrities such as Willie Nelson, Bo Derek and William Shatner. This unequalled collection of horse enthusiasts and experts looked at the facts and came to one unified opinion: Horse slaughter is cruel and must come to an end.
It is time to stop the rhetoric and ban horse slaughter once and for all. Those working to end horse slaughter have had to divert much-needed resources because a few individuals continue to misrepresent the issue. If we could swiftly end slaughter, those diverted resources currently being spent by the anti-slaughter movement could be returned to the goal of helping horses in need.
Congress heard the facts, saw the documents and listened to the American people when it overwhelmingly passed an amendment banning horse slaughter for a year. It is now time for Congress to once again respect the will of the public and swiftly enact the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (H.R. 503/S. 1915).
Christopher J. Heyde, a former Republican Senate staffer and Army veteran, is currently with the Society for Animal Protective Legislation.