Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Essay on Horse Slaughter
This is a response to a recent post from Fugly Horse of the Day entitled "Well SOMEONE sure drank the Kool-Aide over there!"
A good, firm, commentary that sounds like it came from a person educated in her views and not someone who just read a PETA review and wholeheartedly obsessed over it. Good one, Fugs! Now, I wish to present my views on horse slaughter.
Initially, I was one of the many that stood up to slaughter and said "wrong, wrong, wrong! Save them all!" I had the urge to go to every auction every weekend and save any horse that looked like it was being bid upon by those darned old killbuyers. They were, afterall, just a bunch of rotten scumbags bent on destroying every horse. They were all mean people that beat them. Just like in the movies right? You have those mean people who own this beautiful, spirited horse that only one girl understood, and only she could tame him. Nowadays, I say "Give me a break!" because that owner never actually beat them in the movies, just held on for dear life and spoke harshly to this crazy, spooky horse while he reared and struck out at him so he could try and get him to stop. Anyways, I was one of those people who viewed horses in "they are all treasures and each and every one should be saved." Yes, sugarcoating and all.
I still firmly believe in this, but now I have also added some sprinklings of reality to the situation.
Not every horse can be saved. Even though, at the moment, no horses go to slaughter in the United States, and the private and large rescues that can do so will try and save every last one, there are still the few just cannot be saved. I'm not saying slaughter them, I'm saying you should put them down. Euthanize them. But, God forbid, that means we'd actually be killing a horse! Regardless that they were in pain or that there was no possible chance they'd ever go to a good home, we're still killing them! Let's not focus on the fact that if we euthanize say, a very old gelding who has chronic lameness and has seen much better days and is just living off of daily doses of painkiller that make him generally loopy (but hey he's not in pain!) to keep him from keeling over, we could make room for a horse who still has better days of ahead of them and could become the next Olympian for all we know (ever hear about Hilda Gurney's first horse? He was a Thoroughbred that slipped through the cracks, and who would've thought that he'd become a bronze-medalist?) Let the aging, suffering gelding go peacefully. It hurts every time, yes, and when it doesn't hurt then you need to get out of being with animals in general. And if you fear it, you A) don't have to look, or B) don't get ones that have a strong possibility of needing to be put down due to chronic lameness or irreversible fear. There are other lives out there! Save them too!
So what does that have to do with slaughter? I'm saying that don't just save them all, find something to do with them! You can shut down all the slaughter houses you want, but you still have to take on the responsibility of redirecting owners on how to "get rid of" their horse, even though that is some harsh terminology. Same goes for shutting down slaughter houses for pigs, cattle, etc. It is expensive to care for several hundred or thousand animals that nobody really wants and the animals will ultimately suffer in the end. If you can't find anything to do with them and nobody that wants them, don't let them suffer! There are other alternatives to shipping a horse off to slaughter. It may take some cash out of your pocket, but if you can't dish out the money, what are you doing with a horse in general? Yes, I know that is a controversial line, because in the economy now, there are people who went from being able to keep their horse fat and shiny to overnight having to decide who gets the next meal: my family or the horse? Still, get the point?
Another thing to deal with this "overpopulation of unwanted horses" (which I think should be changed to "more efficient recording and better legal enforcement on equine abuse and abadonment on what is about the same number of equines we've had all along give-or-take a few") is that maybe instead of popping out babies from your (regardless if she's amazingly well-bred, and especially NO if she's just overall crappy) broodmare, stop breeding and add value to the ones you already have by showing them. Then you could get twice as much for a yearling than you would've if you sold them as a weanling to make room for another horse that nobody really needs right now. Most of us love our horses, hopefully, and the prospect of breeding always sounds like fun, but face it, horses are in a ways a luxury item (I do not like considering them livestock as most people own them as pets and/or as "athletes". We don't consider our dogs or cats livestock, now do we?) and the world right now probably doesn't have buying a horse on the top of their list. Hate to burst your bubble, but horses are not cheap.
We cannot save all of our horses, no matter how much we love them and try to care for the ones we have. I know when the BLM proposed euthanizing several hundred mustangs the animal activists had a cow - no pun intended there. But think of it this way, would you rather that these mostly-untrained horses sit and suffer in pens under a hot sun because there is not enough funding to care for all however-many-thousand and there is definitely not enough qualified adopters, or that they either be released back into the wild and be "wild and free" though really they'd be starving to death because the land can't support that many horses, or we could give them as peaceful of a passing as possible. Or even better, spay and neuter programs! It works for Chincoteague and for the crazy amounts of white-tailed deer in Texas, so why not for mustangs in general? Let the good ones breed and the not-so-good-ones just continue on without sharing the love. The population will go back to a comfortable and manageable level.
So that's one real-world application, though in the end they chose the spay-and-neuter route to appease the animal activists, which is just as sensible as euthanization. So now, not only do we have euthanization, we also have the save-the-horseys route of sterilization! Alas! two easily-accessible and sensible alternatives to shipping your horse to the slaughter house.
Another thing on slaughter: it is not the fact that horses are being killed that bothers me. Technically, and I really don't like putting it this way, we are killing horses when we euthanize them. It is how the horses are killed and the fact these horses were not raised for human consumption that bothers me a great deal. As for the kill buyers, they are business men in every sense. They are not out to break people's hearts, but merely out to make money - though shoddily I will say. That's not the part that bothers me. It's when they go into auctions inconspicuoulsy and don't let you know what you are selling to your horse to that bothers me. It's the fact that they scan Craigslist and prey upon unsuspecting owners so that they can get a pretty penny and send a horse off to an untimely and/or inhumane death. Yes, reopening slaughter houses in the US will supposedly guarantee "regulated humane methods" of killing the horse, but face it, they weren't regulated originally (you can't use morphine and painkillers in a horse that somebody will eat unless you want them to die, though I hope they at least choke on their Some-Little-Girl's-Beloved-Pony-Sparkles Fillet) and I don't expect them to regulate them now. They certainly don't fully regulate the cattle or swine slaughter houses: for goodness sake it's the Humane Society that typically steps in and attempts to yank the governments' head towards how their Big Mac came to be! So yes, I will never be in favor of slaughter, but it would give me some comfort to know if they are being regulated well. Yet another reason why slaughter is not a prestigious alternative to "getting rid of" your horse. You can sugarcoat horse-slaughter all you want, Arabian Horse Association, but slaughter is a very covert world with inhumane processes and with regulation that is beyond sketchy. Not exactly a good alternative for unwanted horses for your prestigious organization.
So, now that brings me to this: instead of going pro-slaughter Arabian Horse Association (and the many other organizations debating the slaughter issue) go pro-euthanization and pro-spay/neuter! Set up a fund for those who cannot afford to euthanize their horse and absolutely cannot find any other good home for their horse. Look into gelding horses and setting up a breeding regulation system like the warmblood associations have, i.e. stallion exams. Great way to get an even better breed.
If you want to "get rid of" your horse, don't throw them away to slaughter like a piece of trash. Give them a respectable end and let them go peacefully, not by having a bolt gun run five times through their head and then waking up while being gutted. Think about it.