Horse defenders try to close borders
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2007:
CHICAGO, SAN ANTONIO, WASHINGTON D.C.–A September 21,
2007 ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court
of Appeals appeared to end horse slaughter within the U.S., pending
further appeals by plaintiff Cavel International.
Immediate effects of the ruling, upholding a May 2007
Illinois law prohibiting the slaughter of horses for human
consumption, were to increase exports of horses to slaughter in
Mexico and Canada, and to redouble efforts by the Humane Society of
the U.S. to ban the exports.
“States have a legitimate interest in prolonging the lives of
animals that their population happens to like,” the three-judge
panel opined. “They can ban bullfights and cockfights and the abuse
and neglect of animals.”
HSUS at a Capitol Hill press conference on October 4, 2007
used recent video of horse transportation and slaughter in Mexico to
boost the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, introduced by
Senator Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana) and Representative Jan
“If enacted, this law would prohibit the export of American
horses for slaughter,” explained HSUS vice president of government
affairs Nancy Perry. “Additionally, it would impose a federal
prohibition against any resumption of domestic horse slaughter.”
The film showed horses being stabbed to death by a method
resembling the dispatch of a bull by a bullfighter. The method
typically requires stabbing the animal multiple times to sever the
spinal cord, and the animals tend to die slowly.
The Senate version of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention
Act had 32 co-sponsors, while the House version had 172. A similar
bill cleared the House in 2006, but was not considered by the Senate.
“So far this year,” San Antonio Express-News reporter Lisa
Sandberg wrote on October 21, 2007, “some 55,000 horses have been
shipped to Mexico and Canada and butchered in plants there.”
Exports to Mexico were reportedly up 370%, and exports to Canada were up 23%.
“Overall, though,” Sandberg said, “15,000 fewer American
horses have been killed compared with the same time last year.
“If American horses were protected from slaughter,” Sandberg
added, “it’s hard to say if there would be enough safe havens for
unwanted ones. More than 140,000 American horses were turned into
horsemeat last year, according to government figures, about 1.5
percent of the 9.2 million horses the American Horse Council
estimates are in the U.S.”
This appears to be about seven times the total capacity of
all of the horse sanctuaries in the U.S., including those operated
by the Bureau of Land Management to hold mustangs removed from
federally owned grazing land in accordance with the 1971 Wild And
Free Ranging Horse and Burro Protection Act.
The American Veterinary Medical Association and American
Association of Equine Practitioners “correctly predicted that horses
would suffer more if U.S. operations closed and traders simply
outsourced the job,” Sandberg wrote.
“The AVMA does not support horse slaughter,” AVMA
governmental relations division director Mark Lutschaunig said in a
prepared statement. “Ideally, we would have the infrastructure in
this country to adequately feed and care for all horses. But the sad
reality is that we have a number of horses that, for whatever reason,
are unwanted. Transporting them under USDA supervision to
USDA-regulated facilities where they are humanely euthanized is a
much better option than neglect, starvation, or an inhumane death in
“Factors including a drought that brought hay shortages, the
closing of horse slaughterhouses, a downturn in the economy, and
equine inspectors spread too thin has resulted in a rise in
incidences of horse abuse and neglect across the state of Geor-gia,”
wrote Jane Cone of the Tifton Gazette on September 22–but hers was
the only report ANIMAL PEOPLE has seen since the last U.S. horse
slaughterhouses were closed to assert that horse neglect is up.
Otherwise, the number of horses involved in neglect cases appears to
be consistent with most recent years.
“I would say we have a slight increase in cases where people
are not properly taking care of their horses,” Georgia Department
of Agriculture commissioner Tommy Irvin told Cone.
Tufts University animal behavior clinic director Nicholas
Dodman “hopes to convince veterinarians to provide free or low-cost
euthanasia at designated sites around the country,” Sandberg
reported, “to ease the financial burden on owners who otherwise
would sell old or unwanted horses to a ‘killer buyer.’ Last
year, Dodman helped found Veterinarians for Equine Welfare, but the
group has accomplished little more than set up a web site. He said
it is stymied by lack of funding.”
“We want to do mass e-mails and a mass letter writing
campaign,” Dodson said, “but we don’t have addresses or e-mails.”