The horse is a highly respected animal in United States culture. It has been worshipped and paid tribute to through art, books (Misty of Chincoteague, Black Stallion), movies (Black Beauty, Spirit), and television shows (Mr. Ed). The horse industry is huge in the United States, encompassing everything from rodeos and racing to horses owned for purely pleasure. There have been statues erected of famous racehorses, as well as museums devoted entirely to equines. "Horse culture" is a huge part of American culture. The slaughter of horses for human consumption does not seem to fit into that culture. However, despite initial reservations, many Americans may agree that the slaughter of horses is better than alternatives.
In the United States there are two ways that horses are turned into meat. One is for horses to be euthanized by a veterinarian, or die of natural causes; after which the owner can arrange for the carcass to be rendered into animal feed. The second way horses are turned into food is the typical slaughterhouse procedure. When a horse is put down the owner gains little or no monetary compensation unless the horse was insured, compared to selling the unwanted animal to slaughter, where a small profit can be gained. When the slaughter method is chosen the animals are herded into the "kill chute", where they are stunned with a blast of carbon dioxide into their brain, and then their throats are slit (Burghart 13). A lot of the time these horses are bought at auction or privately from the owner for as much as $1000. All horsemeat that is edible for humans is the product of a horse slaughtered in a slaughterhouse (Burghart 12).
For as long as there have been horse slaughterhouses in the United States, they have been an issue of controversy (Associated Press State and Local Wire, 3). Currently, only two slaughterhouses that produce horsemeat intended for human consumption exist in the United States, both are in Texas. These plants have been shut down and reopened a number of times due to changes in laws throughout the years. Each company, Beltex and Dallas Crown are foreign-owned and employ few Americans. Animal rights activists, as well as locals in the communities are trying to prevent both factories from operating (Scripps Howard News Service).
Recently, the Texas Humane Legislation Network has been leading the attack on the multimillion dollar companies, citing a law from 1949 that "prohibits possession, sale or shipment of horse meat intended for human consumption" (St. Petersburg Times). Both companies have filed lawsuits in retaliation. They state that the slaughter of horses eases financial strain, feeds other nations, and is accomplished in a humane manner.
There are millions of horses in the United States; many of the horses are virtually worthless due to poor training/treatment, bad attitudes, poor confirmation, lameness, sickness, and also simply being old. Slaughter companies provide an affordable way for horse owners to dispose of their unwanted animals. "'What do you do with the animal when it is diseased, or old, or lame"" said Geert DeWulf, general manager of Dallas Crown... `We provide an outlet'" (Scripps Howard News Service).
The benefits are not only felt by horse owners in short supply of money but recently in Europe, the supply of meat from traditional sources, such as cattle, sheep and pigs has dwindled due to epidemics in the herds, such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy or "mad cow" disease, as well as hoof and mouth disease. Horsemeat has helped to alleviate some of the countries' strain (Animal Welfare Institute Quarterly). "There is a need for horses at the slaughterhouses," (Scripps Howard News Service). According to British Customs, “The export of horsemeat has doubled in the past five years.” People in Britain have been horrified that their Hampshire's New Forest wild ponies have begun to disappear, according to Compassion in World Farming. The rising demand for...
Cited: "America 's horses are ending up in Europe 's restaurants." Animal Welfare Institute Quarterly 50 (2001). 10 Nov 2008. Print.
Cowan, Tadlock. Horse Slaughter Prevention Bills and Issues. Congressional Research Service. 2010. Web. 18 Feb 2012.
Dorell, Oren. USA Today. U.S. shelters saddled with unwanted horses. 2008. Web. http://www.usatoday.com
Heyde, Christopher. "Necessary evil or blind eye? Putting an end to the cruel practice of horse slaughter." Animal Welfare Institute Quarterly 51 (2001). 10 Nov 2002.
Ph.D, James J Ahern. "The Unintended Consequences of a Ban on the Slaughter of Horses in the United States." Animal Welfare Council (2006): 13. Print.
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