Thursday, December 1, 2011

Horse slaughter revived?

I'm a little late to the party on this one — from what I understand, it was top news yesterday in the horse world.  Apparently Congress passed, and Obama signed, a bill that will essentially allow horse slaughter to make a comeback in the United States.

From my understanding, horse slaughter was banned in a rather roundabout way: A bill was passed, back in 2006, that removed all federal funding of the inspection of horse meat.  Since meat has to be inspected before it can be sold, either locally or internationally, this led to state closures of the remaining three horse slaughter facilities in the U.S.

The new spending bill originally contained an amendment continuing the ban on federal funding for horse meat inspection, but the version that passed had that amendment stripped from it.  So, essentially, now that the government is no longer prohibited from funding horse meat inspection, it could feasibly provide funding for it.  The problem with that train of thought is that the spending bill doesn't actually set aside any money for that purpose — it just doesn't ban it any longer.

Could this lead to horse slaughter facilities reopening in the United States?  Yes.  Is it likely to?  That depends.  Theoretically, if a horse slaughterhouse opened, the government would then allocate funds to be used for that purpose.  But it would cost a lot of money to open a horse slaughterhouse, and I believe at least a few states now have laws prohibiting it.

Is this Obama's fault, as many people are suggesting?  Absolutely not, and it's offensive to me that people are so quick to blame him.  First of all, it was Congress that designed and passed this bill.  And what kind of backlash do you think Obama would have faced if he would have refused to sign it based on this one tiny omission?  Furthermore, I don't know how Congress voted, but if there was enough votes in favor of the bill, they could have made it law even if Obama refused to sign it.  So it still would have become law, and he just would have made himself look really bad by refusing to sign it himself.

The fact of the matter is, there are much more pressing issues right now concerning government spending and our economy.  Horses are not a huge issue for most people, let alone most politicians, and as a result they are often victims of politics.  I am not in any way advocating slaughter — I support humane euthanization, which I don't think a slaughterhouse by definition can provide, and furthermore I believe slaughterhouses encourage backyard breeding programs — but I am trying to be realistic about this bill and politics in general.  I'm not going to deny Obama my vote because of it (and who would I vote for, if not for him, anyway? I'm extremely liberal, so there's no way I'd vote Republican).

Honestly, I don't see that this changes much for any of us who own horses and are active in horse rescue.  Horses going to slaughter was as much a problem after the slaughterhouses closed as it was before, thanks to Canadian and Mexican slaughterhouses.  Horses being abused and neglected will still be a problem either way.  (I don't buy it that the lack of slaughterhouses has made it more of a problem — the instances of starving and neglected horses has absolutely risen in the past few years, but I believe that has more to do with the economy and increasing hay prices due to shortages, than it does to a lack of slaughterhouses.  Many of these people who are neglecting their horses could have still sold them at auction — they are starving them because they don't want to admit it's time to give them up, not because they can't sell them.)

I now have two horses, both of whom I got young, wild, and completely untrained.  Both would have been destined for slaughter had I or my in-laws not stepped in: The vet probably would have sold Panama at auction to get at least part of what the original owners owed him on the bill, and Rondo's owner was already planning to take him and his mom to auction when my in-laws said they would take both horses.  Slaughter was a likely destination for both of them, and for Rondo at least, this was even after the slaughterhouses had been closed.

In other words, I think it's terrible that horse slaughter could resume in the United States, but I also think that for all intents and purposes, slaughter never stopped being a problem for horse rescuers.



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