U.S. horse slaughter plants in the very early stages of planning, proponent says

The last horse slaughter plants in the U.S. shut down in 2007. But now Congress has cleared the way for horse slaughter plants to open again.
BY SONYA COLBERG AND CHRIS CASTEEL Published: November 27, 2011
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Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., was one of the members of a House-Senate committee who worked to strip out the amendment.

“We wanted to allow horse slaughter again in America because of an unanticipated problem with horse neglect and abandonment,” he said.

He said horse abandonment and abuse in Colorado rose to 1,588 in 2009, up from 975 in 2005.

“The number of horses exported for slaughter really just offset whatever Jim Moran thought he was going to save from slaughter,” Kingston said.

He said horse slaughter has never really stopped but simply moved to Canadian and Mexican plants.

“But we can't monitor horse slaughter in a plant in Mexico or Canada. And so we don't know if it's being done humanely or not because the USDA obviously doesn't have any jurisdiction there,” Kingston said.

“Along the way, these horses are having a rough transit. USDA does not have the jurisdiction over how the animals are treated along the way,” he said.

Moran has co-sponsored a permanent ban through legislation called the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act.

“I am committed to doing everything in my power to prevent the resumption of horse slaughter and will force Congress to debate this important policy in an open, democratic manner at every opportunity,” Moran said in a statement.

Weighing costs

Sen. Herbert Kohl, D-Wis., is another committee member involved in stripping out Moran's language.

Lynn Becker, spokeswoman for Kohl, said the senator's goal was “to prevent the neglect, mistreatment and abandonment of horses in the United States.”

Simon, with the Humane Society of the United States, took issue with the argument that the domestic slaughtering ban has led to more cases of neglect and abandonment of horses, saying that the recession was the main cause. All types of animals are abandoned in economic downturns she said, because people can't afford to take care of them.

“The vast majority of American horse owners would not choose this practice,'' she said.

Moreover, she said, horses were transported long distances within the United States before the ban.

Simone Netherlands, founder of Respect4Horses, questioned the fiscal justification for opening up horse slaughter plants.

“In this time when the focus of Congress is supposedly on reducing spending and creating jobs, it is a ludicrous measure to spend tax dollars in order to reinstate an inherently cruel predatory business, from which Americans stand to gain nothing. Horse slaughter plants operating until 2007 have never created a total of more than 178 jobs,” Netherlands said.

Wallis contends animal advocacy groups simply want to end animal agriculture.

“Only about 2 percent of the population makes any part of their living from agriculture. So it's very, very easy for special interest groups such as HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) or PETA to put together slick advertising campaigns,” she said.

“All you have to do is throw up an ad with a weepy-eyed kitten, a three-legged dog and a skinny horse and you've got a lot of grandmas sending you $19.95 per month,” Wallis said.

Cynthia Armstrong, Oklahoma state director of The Humane Society of the United States, responded that Americans don't eat horses.

“And they don't want them inhumanely killed, shrink-wrapped and sent to Japan or Belgium for a high priced appetizer. Where and how one makes a living isn't an issue here. In our culture and in our hearts, the horse holds a lofty place. And it's not on the barbecue grill,” Armstrong said.

Graham said Americans just need to talk and find a viable, humane solution to the issue.

“Many people think this will be humane euthanasia and they think of Fido getting put to sleep on the veterinary table. That's not the way it is,” said Graham.

“Horses are sensitive animals and you cannot tell me the horse at the slaughter plant cannot smell the blood on the other side of the pen. They're freaked out. They know death is coming,” she said.