Bill subverts natural human instinct

By Susan Clay
The Daily News, Galveston, Texas

Published May 28, 2003

On May 12, I received a 15-page fax from State Rep. Betty Brown’s office in response to my request for information on why she is sponsoring House Bill 1324.

The bill allows Texas to continue the practice of slaughtering horses for human consumption in foreign countries.

That same evening, I saw evidence that contrasted sharply with the pro-slaughter arguments on those faxed pages. It was a graphic video of horses being slaughtered, shown as part of a special report by Houston’s ABC affiliate.

The horses were corralled into pens, pushed through narrow chutes, stunned unconscious and given repeated blows to the head before losing consciousness.

The subject of horse slaughter, its legality and morality, is a highly charged one. It pits hard economics against soft emotions.

With the issue up for a vote in the Texas legislature, I have forced myself to digest the points made by both sides so that I might come to a conclusion that is informed and humane.

Proponents of horse slaughter argue that its idea and execution are just like slaughtering cattle. I find that defense disingenuous because it disregards our unique bond with horses.

Our attachment to them is leagues apart from the kind of relationship we have with cows, sheep, pigs and chickens.

Most horses are raised to be our partners in work and play. Many of us treat them as favored pets, family members and best friends.

Pro-slaughter people contend that horses are transported and killed humanely. What is humane about squeezing them into double-decked cattle trailers, in a jumble of ages, genders and temperaments, and hauling them for hours, if not days on end, without food, water, rest or exercise?

Contrary to Brown’s statements, horses bought for slaughter are not “unwanted.” Even those equines that appear to be “unwanted” by their owners are in fact wanted by someone else — by horse rescue organizations and new adoptive parents.

Watching Habitat for Horses, the Houston SPCA, the Texas Humane Ranch and hundreds of other rescue groups around the country rehabilitate and find homes for thousands of horses has proven to me that there are many Americans whose principles are high enough and whose hearts are big enough to take in one extra horse — a horse in need of love, care and respect.

It sickens me to hear Brown rationalize that it makes economic sense for people to profit from their horses’ dead bodies.

Is it not hypocritical to tell our children to be kind to animals, then turn around and violently kill creatures that we would not dream of eating?

As long as we keep disposing of our horses at slaughterhouses, we are harming ourselves — even more than the horses. We are inverting — and subverting — our natural impulse to be tender and compassionate.

Now’s the time for those who support HB 1324 to let that tough, inhumane stance be “tenderized.” Now’s the time for those who oppose it to call their state senator and say “no.”

Susan Clay lives in Houston.