After a five year ban, horse slaughterhouses are scheduled to re-open soon, and as you might imagine, some people aren’t happy about it. While horse meat has rarely been consumed in the US, previous to the ban, horse meat was exported to Europe and Asia, and it’s likely that will continue when the ban ends.
Animal welfare advocates pushed for the ban when it passed five years ago, but horse industry advocates and the Government Accountability Office say the ban had a slew of unintended consequences: More horses were left abandoned when owners could no longer afford to keep them or use them for work; owners who wanted to sell their horses for slaughter were forced to have them shipped to Canada or Mexico, where slaughtering is legal; and horse prices became depressed in the United States, according to a report released by the GOA in June.
The last horse slaughterhouse in America closed in 2007 in Illinois, just months before the economic recession hit the country, according to the Associated Press. In the years since, horse abandonment and export has grown significantly, according to the GAO report.
In Colorado, for example, data showed that investigations for horse neglect and abuse increased more than 60 percent, from 975 in 2005 to almost 1,600 in 2009, the report said. According to one advocate, the ban also forced the bottom to drop out of the horse industry entirely.
“It’s basic economics,” said David Duquette, president of United Horsemen, which advocated for lifting the ban. “Horses used to be a $102 billion a year industry, with at least 500,000 direct jobs in horse industry. That’s been cut in half.”
The ban was lifted quietly in this year’s agriculture spending bill. The Senate, breaking with the past five years of agriculture bills, did not include language on continuing the ban in their version of the bill. They attributed their decision to the GAO report, according to a Senate Appropriations Committee spokesman.
While this does sound bad, my wife volunteers frequently in rescue— dogs, not horses, but it’s true that in the past few years horse rescues have been strained to the limit with just the situation described above. People get horses and realize they’re really expensive or horse farms go bust and either the horses are left to starve or they end up in overcrowded rescue situations. I love horses as much as the next person, but they’re not bred as livestock and allowing horse slaughter to reduce the population is better than the alternative.