Recently, the ban blocking U.S. Department of Agriculture inspections of horses for human consumption was lifted. This is disconcerting to many animal lovers and horse enthusiasts and owners.
Humans domesticated horses and used them for war, travel and work. We show, race and compete with them. We over-breed them, attaching a value to their conformation and abilities. We use them as companions and for pleasure riding. And we are bonded through trust.
Yet we are failing them and sending them to auctions where they are bid on for meat. This remains a punitive act against a now-humbled species. If we believe that man is the greatest of species, then we bear the onus to fix the problems we create.
Horse slaughterhouses are shuttered here, but the lifting of the ban could change this, and your taxpayer dollars will be spent on inspections. Certain factions say some people cannot care for their horses, so it is better to have them killed than carelessly released or not cared for. I ask slaughter advocates to access credible information about how slaughter horses are treated and killed and then formulate opinions.
Slaughterhouse accounts tell a sickening tale. Horses are inhumanely transported and injured. Some are electrically shocked, whipped, forced into kill boxes, and anally prodded. Some are conscious when their throats are slit. The typical "processing" system (shooting, stunning or a penetrating bolt to the head to render the horse unconscious) is not always effective because of equine anatomy and movements, their innate reflexes, and their ability to sense danger and death. Slaughter is not humane chemical euthanasia.
It's generally not old or unhealthy horses claimed by "killer buyers." Some in the horse industry, because of irresponsible breeding practices, want slaughterhouses as dumping grounds for surplus horses.
Also, euthanasia guidelines formulated by the American Veterinary Medical Association contradict its pro-slaughter stance. It maintains euthanasia should occur with the "highest degree of respect, and with an emphasis on making the death as painless and distress-free as possible" and "techniques should result in rapid loss of consciousness." But this is not what's occurring.
Instead of this horrific cycle, let's work toward enforcement of cruelty laws; education about responsible ownership; government-led financial incentives for veterinarians, caretakers, farriers and other industry professionals willing to occasionally discount services; more support for rescues and other such organizations; and designated funded and protected sanctuaries for unwanted horses.
Please call your senators and representative and ask them to co-sponsor the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act that would make it illegal to slaughter American horses or export them for slaughter and human consumption. Speak up to your legislators. Sen. Barbara Mikulski is one of those on the correct side of this issue.
Stopping horse slaughter may seem difficult, but our cultural ethics mandate we mobilize to change things when cruelty prevails. Horses are part of this nation's history and fabric and deserve better.
Debra Zimmerman Murphey, Port Tobacco