Suspending disbelief on horse-slaughter issue

Sports Views
Shelley Sawhook
Special to The Augusta Free Press
August 6, 2004

As the president of one organization and member of others, I volunteer my time to assist horses in need. I receive no pay, and the cost of the rescues is mostly borne out my own pocket and others that also volunteer.

The American Veterinary Medical Association has stated that ending horse slaughter could cost the taxpayers millions of dollars. This statement is erroneous. If we are no longer forced to run to auction weekly to rescue horses from the kill buyers and slaughter, we could in turn use those funds to assist horses from abuse and neglect and spend more funds on education.

The AVMA has issued a statement that they would support the bill if certain items were added, but it boils down to them wanting a piece of the pie, and it isn't there for them. They aren't satified with their members earning more money with more patients to care for; they want to dip into my rescue's pockets, which are already stretched thin by caring for horses they feel should have died at a slaughterhouse.

In fact, not ending slaughter could cost the taxpayers in more ways than can ever be counted. Not only would (and should) horse owners fight to gain the tax exemptions owed to those producing a meat animal and cease to pay sales tax, but they would be entitled to any property exemptions. At a time when school districts nationwide are struggling to raise enough funds for their schools, this loss of income could have tragic results.

States are also struggling, and the loss in sales tax could create a huge deficit. Live horses contribute to the economy more than $250,000 in their lifetime, but cut that life short, and we lose that. According to records just obtained from Bel-Tex in Tarrant County, we have proof that young colts are being processed. These animals have not contributed one dollar; how can we in this country afford the loss of a quarter of a million into our struggling economy? Not to mention that when we begin looking at pets and companion animals as nothing more than a commodity, we lose our humanity. Next our society will turn a blind eye to Korean companies heading here to take care of our dog overpopulation problem by slaughtering dogs and cats.

I am a Republican, and am currently struggling with how to justify my belief in my party when people like Rep. Goodlatte are representing people without listening to them. Is it because the largest contributers to his campaign come from outside his district and his state? Do those dollars count more than the votes and the voices from his own district? Apparently so, because Rep Goodlatte states that horse slaughter is good for the horse. Tell that to the lady in Texas who recently had to identify her dead horse's hide after it had been stolen from her backyard and then slaughtered.

Thanks for the column looking at Rep Goodlatte's opinion. It sheds a light I had not previously known. Silly me, I thought he was just getting bad info, I didn't know that he had made up his mind so long ago.

We are planning on going to Washington on the seventh and eighth of September and lobbying for HR 857 and S 2352. Goodlatte will once again have to face his constituents, as will others that haven't signed on to support these worthwhile bills.

We invite anyone who is interested in trying to end this terrible practice to join us. More info can be found at

Shelley Sawhook is the president of the United Equine Foundation. 

The views expressed by op-ed writers do not necessarily reflect those of management of The Augusta Free Press. 

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(Published 08-06-04/Sports)