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?