Provided by: The Horse Interactive

Throwaway Horses (Banning Slaughter)

by: Jerry Finch
April 2002

Habitat for Horses is an equine rescue and sanctuary located near Houston, Texas. We are involved in helping law enforcement handle abuse cases and rehabilitating abused, neglected horses. Over 200 horses have passed through the gates of Habitat for Horses in the past year--horses that otherwise would be headed for the slaughterhouse. We've adopted out 60% of those horses; another 25% of them are being used to help people work through a wide variety of mental health issues using equine-assisted psychotherapy. The others are either retired or were humanely euthanized.

By utilizing rehabilitation and adoption techniques, we have shown that if given a chance, slaughter-bound horses can have a wonderful and fulfilling life. Troubled youth often have life-changing experiences through their involvement with these horses. The ability of horses to touch the souls of troubled youth has been proven time and time again.

The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (HR 3781), introduced by Congresswoman Morella, is a long overdue piece of legislation aimed at stopping the brutal practice of horse slaughter in the United States. In the past decade the number of horses slaughtered has dropped from 300,000 down to 55,776 in 2001 according to the United States Department of Agriculture. It's time to bring it to a complete stop.

The claim that only sick or abused horses are killed is false. John Hettinger, owner of Fasig Tipton (the second largest Thoroughbred auction house in the United States), Chairman of the Grayson Jockey Club Foundation, member of the board of directors of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, and New York Racing Association Trustee, states that between 7,000 and 9,000 Thoroughbred racehorses are slaughtered every year. Camp horses, carriage horses, wild horses, PMU foals, stolen horses, rodeo horses, pleasure horses, unwanted pregnant mares, and barren broodmares make up the rest. Slaughterhouses pay top dollar for healthy horses, with the price decreasing for thin, sick horses. Because quality brings the best price, many high-quality horses find themselves destined for slaughter.

The "horse industry" supposedly represented by the American Horse Council (AHC) quotes a "white paper" opposing the bill. Hettinger refutes that paper by saying, "I doubt if there is complete unanimity on this issue, but have no doubt that if all horse owners were polled the slaughter of horses would be a thing of the past."

A scientific poll taken in California showed that 70% of those polled support a ban on horse slaughter. Non-scientific polls show up to 90% in favor of banning horse slaughter. Amazingly, 60% of those polled were not aware of the horse slaughter industry.

The AHC also states that, "...leading equine veterinary and regulatory organizations such as the American Association of Equine Practitioners, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and the USDA have experts who make professional recommendations and enforce regulations, ensuring that horses destined for human consumption are treated humanely and with dignity." Having visited one Texas slaughterhouse, I reject that statement. The terror of the horses, the missed stun bolts, and the agonizing death will always remain with me. It wasn't until Dec. 7, 2001, that regulations even existed governing the treatment and care of horses during transport to slaughter.

The existence of the horse slaughter industry is based on the demand for horseflesh on the dinner plates of diners in foreign countries. It is not driven by sympathy for the plight of forgotten horses, nor any other altruistic desire. It's driven by money. The families that own the slaughterhouses, the killer-buyers, the auction houses, and others that profit from horse slaughter will fight the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act.

Those who love horses, who promote the sane use of horses, and who care about the plight of horses, need to back this act with the same level of enthusiasm. To accept the slaughter of horses as a necessary evil is to give in to those who find money more appealing than giving sanctuary to the horses that have given us their lives.

Our appeal is to support the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (HR 3781) and to support those horse rescues and sanctuaries that offer retirement, adoption, or retraining and utilization of the horses to help people. For those too sick or injured, we ask that they die not in the terror filled pens of the slaughterhouse waiting for the slamming impact of the stun gun, but with the honor and dignity they deserve.