U.S. Continues to Fuel Horse Slaughter MarketBy Paula Parisi December 28, 2015
The year 2015 was not a great one for U.S. opponents of horse slaughter. Although the last two U.S. horse slaughter plants were closed in 2007, an estimated 140,000 American horses are being exported annually for slaughter in Canada and Mexico, purchased at stateside auctions by meat suppliers who truck them across the borders.
The animals are more often than not subject to cruel transport and a horrendous death in an industry that is underpinned by a demand for horse meat for human consumption in Asia, Central America and parts of Europe.
This year, it was particularly troubling to learn that illegal horse slaughter operations were operating under the radar in Loxahatchee, FL. Three “black market” horse meat facilities were in October raided by law enforcement and shut down, with six people arrested and facing prosecution. The fact that the Palm Beach County neighborhood is right next door to Wellington, where some of the world’s most expensive, well-bred and well-cared for horses compete each year at the Winter Equestrian Festival, made it all the more brazen.
The bloodletting spilled over to private facilities, as a grand prix jumper, imported from Europe at considerable expense by international horse sport figures Debbie and Steve Stephens, was found hacked to pieces — the meat rendered from its bones — in a paddock on the outskirts of the 31-acre Florida property where it was stabled. The killing, which occurred later in the month of October, was deemed by law enforcement officials as unrelated to the trio of illegal slaughter houses discovered nearby. Despite a $30,000 reward, the perpetrators remain at large.
One thing does link the crimes — a taste for horse meat exists, and as with other prurient appetites, it will escalate in the absence of vigilant efforts to keep it in check. Even with staunch opposition, attempts are made to legitimize and expand horse slaughter within the U.S. In 2013, lobbyists successfully maneuvered the U.S. Department of Agriculture to clear certain regulatory hurdles to re-opening horse slaughter plants here. In 2014, Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe (R) introduced an amendment to the state’s budget that would pave the way for horse slaughter plants.
Pro-horse forces continue to press their cause. In April, a bipartisan group of federal lawmakers introduced legislation to prevent the establishment of horse slaughter operations within the U.S., end the current export of American horses for slaughter abroad, and protect the public from consuming toxic horse meat. The Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, H.R. 1942, was introduced by Reps. Frank Guinta (R-NH), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Vern Buchanan (R-FL), and Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM).
The arguments made for reopening U.S. horse slaughter plants are that the of thousands of unwanted horses — the result of over breeding and careless ownership — would meet a more humane end if killed here than trucked long distances to their end. Arguments against it are that horses –which regularly ingest dewormers and other medications — are unsafe for human consumption, the principal demand (contrary to popular belief, horse slaughter is too costly to fuel the pet food trade).
In addition, the U.S. public is generally opposed to the idea of horse slaughter, and specifically the communities where it once existed are opposed to bringing it back, on grounds that it had an unsanitary, mega-polluting effect on the environs.
This newspaper advocates a press for legislation to outlaw the export of U.S. horses for slaughter, drying up the market, and hopefully making it unfeasible for the Canadian and Mexican plants to continue operations. To deal with excess, or “unwanted” horses, we propose a fee, tied to breeding and/or sale, that would go toward a fund dedicated to the human euthanization of those sad creatures.
Horse “slaughter” as is, and has been practiced, is barbaric. There exists no justifiable defense.
Debbie Stephens is devoting herself to the combat of horse slaughter. Donate to her cause at the Centennial Farm gofundme page. Information helpful to solving that particular crime can be shared at 866-634-TIPS or 941-747-3011.
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