Home > Federal Government, Horses, HSUS > Horses, Welfare and End Of Life

Horses, Welfare and End Of Life

At first I thought this post was a bit tardy, however, it seems there has been an uptick in discussion lately. I am referring the re-authorization, by the Federal government, of funds to pay for the inspection of slaughtering horses for food.

Now, for those of you who have not been following my blog, tweets or Facebook updates, my family raises horses and has for several generations. We have raised our own, purchased domestically and from abroad (Percherons from France), train and use them for work on the ranch, competition driving and riding, packing and pleasure.

I see horses as livestock, not as pets. For centuries, horses have been multi-purpose animals, not single purpose. Humans have benefited from the horse as a draft animal, for riding and as a source of nutrition. Each of these beneficial uses continues to this day.

I realize that some who read this post may shake their heads in disbelief. In fact, I had one person un-friend me on Facebook, because I was “friends” with the Texas Farm Bureau, and they supported the processing of horses of food. However, I ask you to take a deep breath and finish reading this post.

I understand and even sympathize with those who are adamantly opposed to the slaughtering of horses. I have personally had to put down five horses, over the last few years. My wife’s mare, who she had ridden and competed on for years, suffered two broken legs from being hit by a truck, after breaking out of a pasture during a severe storm. A foal, which slipped on the icy ground, resulted in a broken hind leg. Another foal, that was attacked by a mountain lion and had its neck nearly devoured, but was still clinging to life. A mare, who while foaling, had her hind end chewed out by coyotes while foaling, and another mare, which broke a leg while being chased by a mountain lion.

Every single horse, one was one that I had spent countless hours and had bonded with. It is without a doubt one of the most heart wrenching responsibilities I have had to see through. I have a love and tremendous respect for horses. It is because of that respect and love that I have the view which I have.

First, I do not believe that we, as Americans, have the right to tell others what they can and cannot consume. Many in Europe and even some in the United States, enjoy eating horse and mule, although I personally find mule to be a bit to chewy for my taste.

Second, I have personally seen the utter disregard of responsibility by too many horse owners. Due to the recent and current economic situation, some horse owners are not caring for their horses properly, in terms of meeting their nutritional needs. Some horse owners are even hauling their horses to the wilderness and simply turning them loose to fend for themselves.

Third, I would much rather see horses slaughtered in the United States, under the watchful eye of a USDA inspector, than be hauled for thousands of miles to a packing house in Mexico, which most likely does not have the welfare of the horse very high on their priority list.

Having operational facilities in the US will greatly decrease distances traveled, insure proper care and termination and also provide some much-needed work in some areas.

I fully support insuring that the transportation of horses addresses their welfare and comfort. Additionally, I fully support a closely supervised process that insures a quick and definitive termination of life, prior to slaughter.

Finally, what many people do not realize is that the disposal of dead horse, in many states, is extremely costly. Unlike other livestock, in the state of California, horses cannot be buried, they cannot be taken to landfills and the majority of tallow works will only pick them up once or twice a month, if at all. Where we live, we rely on a tallow works from Oregon that does pickups once every two weeks, at $800 per horse.

I sincerely ask, does it not make more sense, to be able to dispose of a horse, respecting its welfare, by being able to salvage some of its value and know that it is providing nourishment for someone or something thing, rather than being incinerated? Is it not best to be able to process horses here in the US, where we can oversee the process and provide jobs, rather than ship them thousands of miles to questionable facilities?

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  1. February 1, 2012 at 9:02 AM | #1

    Just in the last week or so was a news story in southern California of a dump with 30some horse bodies. People can’t dispose of them so what to do? There are too many who seem to think someone else will take care of all the horses…and that no one should have an animal that doesn’t have a crystal ball to *know* what their income will be for the life of that animal. That would then mean no one has animals…including horses. We would all be poorer for it.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      February 1, 2012 at 8:40 PM | #2

      There have been more reports in the north east of growing numbers of abandoned horses as well. Thanks for sharing Jan :-)

  2. Elizabeth Gross
    February 1, 2012 at 12:22 PM | #3

    Hi Jeff, I enjoy your blog and read it regularly. I think that you post thoughtful, respectful pieces. Questions from a non-horse person: What are the options that horse owners have for termination of a horse’s life and disposal of the body currently? Does it vary by state? Do any states have have facilities that can slaughter horses? Would you propose slaughtering horses at the same facilities as other livestock? I’m just wondering if there needed to be dedicated facilities specifically for horses if it would be cost efficient and effective.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      February 1, 2012 at 8:39 PM | #4

      Great questions Elizabeth, I’ll start at the top and work down :-)

      The current options for termination of horse’s life are either euthanasia or selling and shipping to Mexico, although a few head to Canada. However, some states, like CA, prohibit sale and shipping of live horses destined for slaughter. As far as disposal it varies by state. The options are burial, landfill, tallow works and incinerator. In CA, tallow works is only option and there are only 4, soon to be 3, left in the entire state, that even accept horses. There are a couple of states that have existing facilities to slaughter horses, but until the funds were reauthorized to fund the inspectors, all were shut down. I do not know the status of how soon any of these will be able to reopen. I believe that Montana has approved plans to build a new one in the next year. In answer to your last question, the facilities are specifically designed for horses. It would not be safe, nor would the proper attention to the welfare of the animal be given if horses were killed at a beef plant and vice verse.

      Once again, great questions and thank you for stopping in to ask!

  3. February 2, 2012 at 4:27 PM | #5

    What a thoughtful post. Not sure PETA would like it but they’re pretty much in the #OWS class of wackos in my opinion. Hope to “see” you at #DadChat tonight, Jeff!

  4. February 15, 2012 at 9:07 PM | #6

    Well said.

  5. scott
    February 27, 2012 at 4:50 AM | #7

    my issue with this is that it is simply not needed. you do not need to eat horse, there are so many other cruel free options. it is a fact that red meat is actually not good for you in general, humans need to consume less meat (although heart attacks from poor health could be considered great population control). if i had a dime for every middle aged man with heart problems whose doctors asked them to cut out red meat, i’d be a rich man. so instead of breeding and slaughtering horses, why not focus more on plant based? plant based diets are cheaper, easier, better, and all in all, good for the planet. animal based diets consume 70%+ of all corn produced, more water, and more resources than veggies and grain. meat consumption is just plain wasteful. so i am 100% against slaughtering horses as it is 100% not needed.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      February 27, 2012 at 9:03 AM | #8

      Scott, please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not promoting the raising of horses solely for the means of producing meat. I simply want to be able to utilize the additional value of the horse, after its productive life. I think people have the right to choose what they want to eat and if there is a demand for horse meat, which there is, then let us be able to supply the product with the welfare of the animal under our control, not a foreign country.

      Consumption of all things in moderation is always the best practice. Red meat is a valuable part of any balanced diet and an excellent source of necessary nutrients and protein. Doctors and Dietitians are now recognizing the benefit of red meat in diets once again, realizing that that there are many factors at play when it comes to human health and that balance is critical.

      Question, what do you suggest we do with horses that are to old to utilize and/or are unwanted or dangerous?

      • scott
        April 20, 2012 at 6:37 AM | #9

        I would 100% disagree that red meat is part of a balanced diet. there are literally zero benefits to it. the nutrients are minimal. the protein can be obtained from numerous other sources. the production of livestock is one of the top creators of pollution, both water, ground, and air.

        as far as old horses, let’s look at our elderly. they take up a vast amount of time and resources, but do we kill them off? if you raise horses, and that is your hobby or business, see it through. or call places like farm sanctuary and let them adopt them.

        killing is not the answer.

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