Horse slaughter takes center stage

Your Nation and You
Stephen Winslow

Last week I wrote about the issue of horse slaughter. The article pointed out that there is an active slaughter plant a stone's throw away from the Breeders Cup, which is taking place in Texas this year.

It also painted a clear picture of the atrocious acts committed by slaughter facilities, and further pointed out that Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Sixth District, chairman of the House Agricultural Committee, lacks the character to allow the bill to come to a vote on the House floor. Instead he abuses his power and sits on the bill in an attempt to kill it before anyone has a chance to vote on it. Instead of allowing the political system to work as it was designed, Goodlatte chooses to manipulate the rules for his sadistic personal ideology.

The response to that column was overwhelming. I received letter after letter from one end of this nation to the other. The responses were coming in faster than I could respond. I have received only one response that supports these foreign-owned horse-slaughter plants.

I have decided to share that letter with you. To be fair, I thought it was important to allow the reader to see a view not in line with my own. However, I have included my response below.

There are many issues that should be reported without bias. I do not believe that this is one of them. There are times where right outweighs wrong to such an extent that people must take a stand no matter what their role is in life. I feel this issue represents one of those times.

In fairness, it is right as I see right. I recognize that I do not corner the market on the right view of the world. That is why I am sharing these two perspectives for you.

Now, you decide:


Dear Mr. Winslow,

My husband and I own and operate a carcass-removal company and I have to say, I hate my job. But what keeps us going is knowing I give horse owners some comfort in knowing that we are taking their loved ones and burying them with as much dignity and respect as we can, by law in Colorado.

We should be the first to supporting this bill because we have something to gain. The slaughterhouses are taking money out of our pockets! I know that if this bill passes, we are going to see more cruelty cases and honestly, that is worse. At least, at the slaughterhouses, the horses have to be healthy, be disease free and walk on their own. (No broken legs or any thing like that.) The slaughterhouses have to humanely euthanasia the horses. It is over quick, and there is no suffering.

But if the slaughterhouses get shut down, that will all change. Horses will suffer long, painful deaths because people won't have a place to take their unwanted horses. And the horse rescues just don't have enough room, and they are begging for money just to take care of the horses they have. You yourself said that horses are a "tremendous financial responsibility," and you're right. But who do you think is going to take care of all the unwanted horses? Are you? Do you expect our government to?

I also think you are trying to mislead people. There are laws now to protect horses going to slaughterhouses. Federal laws, and if the slaughterhouse and the companies hauling the animals aren't following these laws, then they need to be reported. And do you really think that by shutting down the slaughterhouses in the U.S. this bill is going to save all these horses from going to slaughter? Hello, what about Canada and Mexico?

If U.S. horses end up going to Mexico, then they will suffer! I would think people in the U.S. would rather have slaughterhouses here in the U.S., so they could be regulated. I also know they don't "bludgeon horses until their skulls are crushed." By law the slaughterhouses have to use a euthanasia that is humane, such as the Captive Bolt.

I know in some states it is legal to bury horses on your property, and it is legal in Colorado, but is it something we should be doing? We live out in the country, and every one around us has horses, and we all have well water. Would you want your neighbor burying their horse or horses on their property that has euthanasia in it blood? I don't.

We need to think about what is going to happen to these animals. Are you sure you want people to start burying their horses on their properties? Has anyone thought about how that might contaminate our ground water? I don't want to think about my horses being used for any type of food, but if we don't have that option, has anyone really thought about the future? And what is going to happen to all the unwanted horses? And what is going to happen to your horse after death? Is throwing our horses out with the trash really a better option? And yes, there is cremation. But let's be realistic. I have picked up horses worth tens of thousands of dollars, and after people have invested thousands into saving their horses, most people, who could afford cremation, still would rather put that thousand dollars into their own horses or a new horse.

I just want people to think outside the box! Don't be so closed-minded. You might think this bill is the answer to saving all these horses, but in truth this bill is going to make a lot of horses suffer slow, painful deaths. The sponsors of this bill need to address these future problems before this bill is passed. And I would think, that you as a journalist, would feel it is your responsibility to view with an open mind and address some of the problems with this bill is going to create.

- Angry Horse Owner


Dear Angry,

Let's see if we can put some rational perspective on some of your comments. You stated that you "know that if this bill passes, we are going to see more cruelty cases." That is a falsehood. There is nothing to support such a claim. In the two states that have active slaughterhouses the number of abuse cases went up when the slaughterhouses came into existence.

Illinois is a great test for my claim. When the Cavil plant closed, the number of abuse cases went down rapidly. When it reopened, the number began to climb immediately. The proof is in the statistics. In California the number of such cases also went down as soon as they closed their plant. This is an argument that simply does not hold water and is laughable. In no way, shape or form has any state been able to make the claim that abuse and theft cases did anything but increase when a slaughter plant opened.

You actually said, "The slaughterhouses have to humanely euthanasia the horses." You must be kidding! Either you have a vested interest in keeping this activity going, or you simply have not witnessed the reality of a slaughter plant. I have. There is nothing humane about it. It is a disgusting practice. Is smashing the skull what you call humane? Is cutting a horse's throat and hanging them by their hind quarters what you consider humane? You are completely wrong when you suggest that these horses are humanly treated, and you need to do your homework before making such a claim, because you are living in denial otherwise. It makes me laugh to think anyone would be so naive as to think that the Captive Bolt is humane. What a sad statement that is.

You feel that if these houses stop operation that "horses will suffer long, painful deaths because people won't have a place to take their unwanted horses." There is no supporting documentation for such a claim. Healthy, vibrant horses have no problem being absorbed into the horse community. If you are suggesting the abused, dilapidated horse, then you have to remember that the slaughter plant doesn't want them. Again, the slaughterhouse provides no solution for the horse you claim is suffering needlessly.

The last thing I want is for government to take care of horses, but spare me. The cost to render a horse after humane euthanasia is around $150 to $200. There are many states, such as Texas, that will render a horse for free. You seem to continue to confuse the argument surrounding burial or disposal of the dead horse with how the horse meets their end. It is a poor diversion from the reality of the inhumane treatment that takes place in the slaughterhouse.

In one breath you claim federal law is there to protect from inhumane treatment, and then you ask a question about Mexico and Canada. To use your words, HELLO! There are already laws prohibiting the transfer of horses across the boarders for such practices. Just as the laws regarding humane treatment are not enforced, neither are the laws regulating illegal transport over the border. Once again, you make a weak claim within a closed-minded argument that refuses to see the many options available for horse owners.

Furthermore, the slaughterhouses in the U.S. are not regulated, at least not to the extent your remarks would suggest. These plants are foreign-owned. They pay no taxes. They pay no export fee, tariff, etc. They are not subject to environmental laws in the same capacity as American-owned companies. Please, you really must research your own claims. You are climbing into this argument very late, and your positions have been clearly defeated on the national stage. You really must think outside the box if you are going to be part of a solution rather than part of the problem.

I would agree that in some locations burial is not the best alternative. That is why rendering is much more suitable for many people. Your attempt to suggest that having the horse carted off to a slaughterhouse is in some way more just then rendering is juvenile at best. It really makes me laugh because it makes no sense. At least rendering allows the horse owner to oversee the process of death rather then the sadistic treatment that slaughterhouse represents.

As a journalist, I have spent a lot of time researching the slaughter side of this issue. After all, as a horse owner, I didn't need to research the horse side of the issue. If anything about your statements represented an effective argument, I would entertain them with a little more veracity. However, they are little more than ramblings with no factual support behind them, but don't worry. I'm going to publish your position because I want people to read the one dissenting opinion I have received, which happens to be the only one that has come to me with a fake name ... how interesting.

Stephen Winslow is a regular contributor to The Augusta Free Press. Look for Your Nation and You each week on Thursday. 

The views expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect those of management of The Augusta Free Press. 

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