Roanoke Times
Opinion Editorial
August 19, 2004

Stephen Winslow
Winslow lives in Waynesboro
and is a drama teacher.

That wasn't horse sense

If you believe ignorance to be a dangerous commodity in the hands of decision makers and citizen activists, then it is important to clarify the ignorance in Frank Epperly's Aug. 1 commentary, "Kudos to Goodlatte for exercising horse sense," regarding Rep. Bob Goodlatte's position on HR857, a bill to prevent the slaughter of horses for human consumption.

Myth No. 1: Epperly suggests that horses are better off if they are slaughtered because their quality of life declines as "Painful structural problems such as arthritis and bowed tendons, as well as poor nutrition and old age, cause animals to suffer unmercifully every hour of every day it is alive."

Fact: Epperly's argument would hold merit if the slaughterhouses concurred. However, the horses Epperly describes are not accepted by slaughterhouses. Horses that are old, ill or physically deficient in any way cannot be slaughtered for human consumption. France and Belgium, who own the three active slaughterhouses in the United States, refuse to eat your dilapidated nags, Mr. Epperly. These countries want to inhumanely slaughter young, healthy, vibrant horses.

Myth No. 2: Epperly states that people attempt to "convince the rest of us that a life of suffering for these large animals is better than a humane death."

Fact: Either Epperly has an ulterior motive for his position, or he is ignorant of the facts regarding the treatment during transfer and the act of slaughter that horses endure. In many cases, horses are placed on multilevel trailers where they are pinned down, not fed, not watered and refused medical treatment for more then 36 hours.

Once the horses reach the slaughter facilities, their end is not at all humane. The horses cannot be euthanized because the drugs are poisons not acceptable in meat meant for human consumption. They can't even be shot because of the potential damage to the meat. Instead, these horses are electrocuted or, in many cases, bludgeoned on the head. Many times these great animals do not die as a result of such barbaric means.

So, the slaughterhouses simply cut their throats, hang them by their hind legs and let them bleed to death. We may accept such live hang activities at a turkey plant, but I seriously doubt that most horse owners, and I dare say most Americans, would tolerate such actions if they witnessed them.

Myth No. 3: Epperly suggests that a plethora of "American jobs are created by these businessmen," and that "The profit earned by the owner who sold a horse is no different whether the horse is going to a riding stable or a slaughter plant."

Fact: The three plants in the United States create fewer than 100 jobs. Many of those are not held by taxpaying American citizens. Furthermore, the horses are sold for between $300 and $500 to slaughterhouses. Anyone who knows anything about horses sold in the United States realizes they are worth much more on the open market. This final myth/fact may be the greatest example of Epperly's ignorance.

If he truly wishes to prevent these horses from suffering, perhaps he could write about humane measures taken by vets to put down such animals. His blind support for horse slaughter is dangerous rhetoric.