Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Slaughter - the progress, the plan.

In March of 2007 a federal district court ordered the U.S. Department of Agriculture to stop inspecting horsemeat at the Cavel International slaughter plant, effectively closing the last operating horse slaughtering facility in the United States. Those opposed to ending slaughter speculated that horses would run rampant in the streets and people would leave horses to starve in the fields, or set them loose to fend for themselves IF the option of taking their horse to slaughter was taken away. The truth is, no one in drove their horse to a slaughter house in Texas or Illinois to be killed in the first place. They took the horse to their local feed lot and that option has not changed or been taken from them. The only difference now is that the feed lots and auction houses are hauling the horses to Canada and Mexico to be slaughtered, rather than taking them to Illinois or Texas. This means traveling further to be killed, and suffering an even more unconscionable and violent death than ever before.

Race tracks across the country have taken a zero tolerance policy against horse slaughter! Suffolk Downs investor Richard Fields was largely responsible for taking the lead on this issue in 2007 by adopting a zero-tolerance policy toward those who slaughter horses. If a horse that ended its career at Suffolk Downs winds up being slaughtered, the trainer and owner would have its stalls at the track stripped away forever. Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito brought 7-year-old Commentator to Suffolk Downs for the Massachusetts Handicap in part because of the track's out-in-front stance against slaughtering horses. "It's a big issue in our industry," Zito told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "That's one of the reasons we like the people up there."

Magna Entertainment Corp. (MEC), North America's largest owner and operator of horse racetracks, announced on October 10, 2008 that it has formally adopted a company-wide policy promoting the humane treatment of racehorses. Ron Charles, MEC chief operating officer and president of California’s Santa Anita Park, tells Horse Channel.com, "MEC is extremely pleased to formally adopt a policy to further encourage the humane treatment of racehorses. We intend this to be one in a series of steps that will be taken in an effort to protect our equine athletes.”Frank Stronach, MEC chairman and chief executive officer, adds, “The goal of the policy is to forewarn industry participants who participate in the slaughter of racehorses that they are not welcome at any of our facilities across the country. I hope other racetrack owners formally adopt similar policies".

The effect of closing slaughter houses in the U.S. has raised awareness of an age old problem. The media has been quick to point out recent cases of people abandoning, neglecting and abusing horses – a more accurate report would reflect the fact that this has been an increasing problem for the past 25 years. It is only recently that the media has chosen to expose and exploit the problem. There are two kinds of people. Those who would starve or neglect their horses out of ignorance, regardless of what option are available, and those who would give them away or dispose of them humanely before letting that happen. There is a significant overpopulation of horses who need homes. There are not necessarily more horses per capita – but there are fewer homes for them. I can tell you with all certainty that the root of the population of “homeless horses” is due to our failing economy and diminishing agricultural communities. It has nothing to do with ending slaughter, because it hasn’t ended yet. People simply can’t afford the outrageously high feed and boarding prices.

Where will all of these horses go? Unfortunately, those who are forced to give their horse(s) away because they can’t afford to feed them are finding it difficult to find them homes. This is why our auction houses and feed lots have historically high numbers of horses being dumped there. Most people do not realize, or they are in denial, about the fact that horses who are not bid on at the local livestock auctions go to a slaughter house. Even fewer people are aware of the actual process of transportation and killing of the horse. The closure of U.S. slaughter houses, the number of horses killed has not decreased, but actually increased. Enumclaw Auction owner Ron Mariotti reported to KOMO 4 news that he is taking so many horses to slaughter that there is a waiting list now. They can’t even kill them fast enough. Thoroughbreds rank high on the list of breeds found at auction. Proponents of ending slaughter feared this would happen, as the ultimate goal of stopping horse slaughter all together will take layers of bills being passed. In the meantime, people like Mariotti are getting fat and rich off of killing people’s pets – without any conscience or regret.

The process of transport and slaughter for horses is barbaric and horrific. Our local auction/feedlot is filthy and has despicable conditions. It is not fit for goats or cattle, let alone a race horse. The care and treatment of animals that I have personally visited, went far beyond criminal abuse by legal standards. The slaughterhouses are worse. The journey to other countries for slaughter… torturous. You have to wonder how anyone could get up every morning and go off to work, making a living doing this. If any person on the street were caught even thinking about torturing and butchering an animal they way they do – they would be committed to an mental hospital. The treatment before and during their butchering far exceeds all legal standards – you would go to jail if you did this at home. Apparently, if you have a business license and are paid to do it, the law will turn their head.

In addition to the reputation slaughter houses have earned for horrendously cruel and inhumane methods of slaughter, the other opposition is the health factor for anyone who consumes the meat. Whether made into pet food, or a steak for humans, horse meat is contaminated with numerous medications and supplements that have clearly printed on the label “not to be used in animals for human consumption”. Just to mention a few…wormers, vaccines, bute, ulcer medications, lasix. Horses taken to feed lots are packed full of chemicals, and some have diseases such as cancer or metabolic conditions. Slaughter is not a rational, reasonable, or moral option for horses. It should not even be a consideration.

So what is the solution? What will happen to horses if we can’t ship them out of the country to be slaughtered? The point of removing the option of slaughter, is to force people to humanely euthanize horses who are truly homeless. The obvious and reasonable solution would be for “Humane Euthanasia Stations” to be set up in every state or at the auction houses where horses can be humanely euthanized by injection. I’m not against euthanasia because there truly are not enough homes for horses. They have to go somewhere. I am against unnecessarily violent, cruel, gruesome slaughter of innocent animals.

From the day horses are born, we tell them they must trust us. Follow us as leaders. Most are treated as domestic pets. They do their job as best they can. There is something very wrong and unjust about taking these beautiful, intelligent and loyal animals from their herd, their family and their home or job and dropping them off at a feed lot. I can only surmise that people who make this choice, have absolutely concept of the horrific suffering the horse endures in those last days or weeks before it is finally killed, for the gluttony of a steak.

There is a video on the Human Society of the United States (HSUS) website. It is hard to stomach, but I encourage anyone who is going to have an opinion on this subject to watch it and know exactly what it is that you’re talking about. And remember, if you think it’s unbearable to “watch” – 100,000 American horses LIVE it each year. https://community.hsus.org/campaign/FED_2008_horseslaughter4

HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) undercover investigators followed "killer buyers" transporting horses thousands of miles from auctions to feedlots to interstate highways, and documented the horrific cruelty and abuse of this transport. They also documented a barbaric method of slaughter on a kill floor in Juarez, Mexico. Thousands of horses are stabbed with short knives, a method that leaves them paralyzed and unable to breathe. The animals are still conscious as they are hoisted up by a chain on a rear leg and their throats are slit.

The HSUS praises the House Judiciary Committee for favorably passing legislation to ban the slaughter of American horses for human consumption overseas, as well as the export of American horses to other countries for slaughter. "H.R. 6598 will take American horses off the menu for good," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. "Horses are an American icon who deserve better than to be shipped hundreds of miles in unbearable conditions to slaughter plants in Mexico and Canada where they will be cruelly slaughtered for human consumption.

Please continue to gather information. Get involved for the horse’s sake. The HSUS is a good resource for updated information. http://www.hsus.org/ ;

Review Timeline:

July 2008 ­- Crime Subcommittee of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee holds thorough hearing on H.R. 6598.

Sept. 2007 - A three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit unanimously upholds the Illinois state law banning the slaughter of horses for human consumption in that state.

May 2007 ­- Gov. Rod Blagojevich signs H.B. 1711, banning horse slaughter in Illinois.

May 2007 ­- The U.S. Supreme Court announces that it denies an appeal of the lower court decision upholding Texas' ban on the sale of horsemeat for human consumption.April 2007 ­ U.S. House of Representatives passes H.R. 249 to restore a decades-old ban on the commercial sale and slaughter of wild horses first enacted under the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. House vote: 277-137

April 2007 -­ U.S. Senate Commerce Committee votes 15-7 to approve S. 311 to ban horse slaughter and exports of horses for slaughter.

March 2007 - A federal district court orders the U.S. Department of Agriculture to stop inspecting horsemeat at the Cavel International slaughter plant, effectively closing the last operating horse slaughtering facility in the United States.

March 2007 ­- The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirms decision upholding a Texas state law banning the sale of horsemeat for human consumption.Sept. 2006 ­ U.S. House of Representatives passes H.R. 503, the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act. The 109th Congress adjourns before the Senate can consider the bill. House vote: 263-146Sept. 2005 ­ U.S. Senate approves the Ensign-Byrd Amendment to the FY 2006 Agriculture Appropriations Bill to prohibit the use of tax dollars to pay for inspections of horsemeat. Senate vote: 69-28. Ban that is incorporated into final appropriations bill is subsequently circumvented by USDA, which arranges for horse slaughter industry to pay for inspections.

June 2005 - ­ U.S. House of Representatives approves the Sweeney-Spratt-Rahall-Whitfield Amendment to the FY 2006 Agriculture Appropriations Bill to prohibit the use of tax dollars to pay for inspections of horsemeat. House vote: 269-158

May 2005 - ­ U.S. House of Representatives approves the Rahall-Whitfield Amendment to the FY 2006 Interior Appropriations Bill to restore federal protections to wild horses and burros from commercial sale and slaughter. House vote: 249-159. The provision is stripped in conference from the final bill.