There are arguments on both sides of the horse slaughter issue

March 18, 2007 - Posted at 12:00 a.m.

Jim Bishop: News To Me

"Wherever man has left his footprint in the long ascent from barbarism to civilization, we will find the hoofprint of the horse beside it."


That quotation was sent to me by Marge Mullen, president of the New England Saddlebred Association Inc., in response to my column last week opposing the two horse slaughterhouses operating in Texas.

"Thank you for your article and support," was her brief message.

But Ms. Mullen's e-mail was only one of many I received in response to that column. I want to make it clear up front that I can't print all the responses in full. There simply isn't room. But I'll do my best to give a good sample of the pros and cons I received.

First, though, let me review my article of last week. In it, I explained that the slaughterhouses have operated illegally since 1949 but are finally about to be closed down unless a bill in the Legislature is passed that would enable them to continue. More than 100,000 horses a year are killed in those two slaughterhouses and a third that operates in Illinois.

I pointed out that those businesses are owned by Europeans who import the horse meat for human consumption. And, I said, supporters of keeping them open sometimes use the argument that it's actually good for the horses because the old ones and the mean ones and the sick ones get thinned out. Well, when I sarcastically called that "an intelligent argument," I evoked a response from Tom Batts at the Double O Bar Ranch in Cuero.


"I have enjoyed your column for years, but I feel you have stumbled into an area 'cement dwellers' do not completely understand," Mr. Batts said. "In the U.S.A.," he continued, "horse owners are not interested in a market for horse meat. We are interested in a humane ending for horses that are old, suffering, etc."

In his own words and in an article he sent with his e-mail, he said, "The grisly alternative to humane slaughter is a slow, painful end for tens of thousands of castoff animals every year," and he said for that reason, "major veterinary groups are lined up against a slaughter ban."

James Evans of Hallettsville also responded strongly: "Please reconsider your position on the slaughterhouses for horses," he said. "I am 66 years old. I have owned horses all my life, and I can truly say I love horses. Today I own 14 horses. Most of these are good horses, but in my life I have owned many 'bad' horses. Some were dangerous, one was blind, several were too old and it hurt them to ride them."

Mr. Evans concluded, "There is no market for horses today because of the outcry against the slaughterhouses. What do we do with these horses that are useless? All the horses are going to die some day. Is it kind to the horses to keep them until they die of old age and in their misery? What do we do with the mean and dangerous horses? What do I do without a market to sell them?"

But Ms. Mullen, whose e-mail I talked about first today, had lots of company on her side of the issue.

Like Debbie Richmond of Priest River, Idaho, who said, "I would like to express my enormous gratitude for your article on the barbaric reality of horse slaughter ... And you have 75 percent of this country standing behind you! My deepest thanks to you, on behalf of the horses who so deserve this support."

And Sandra Church, hometown unknown, added, "Please keep informing the public about this hideous industry. As the owner of eight equines, I worry about them being stolen and taken directly to slaughter, where the evidence is quickly gone. I understand that Texas has a very high rate of horses being stolen. My guess is that many of them have ended up at the slaughterhouses in Texas or shipped to Mexico for slaughter."

Linda Moser, address also unknown, said, "I want to thank you for your well-written article today which deplores the fact that Texas has two of the three horse slaughterhouses left in the country. I didn't know until about three years ago that these even existed. I appreciate you bringing this important issue to the public."

Marilyn Wilson, also address unknown, said, "Just a note of thanks for your article on horse slaughter. My mom always said Texans love their horses. I guess we'll find out."

Lynn Parks of Austin, who leads a group against the slaughter, had this to say: "Thank you for your wonderful article on horse slaughter. I am part of a group that is rallying hard against these Texas bills. We will be at the Capitol to support the ban when it is introduced in the House Committee."

She concluded, "My group also was around when this same bill reared its ugly head in 2003. They are pretty smart folks!"

And so, a true Old West showdown appears to be on the horizon at our state capital.

Jim Bishop is a senior editor for the Advocate. Leave him a message at 361-574-1210 or or comment on this column at