Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Slow Racehorses Fed to the Lions at the Dublin Zoo

In the last month numerous efforts have been launched and considered to reinstitute the slaughter of horses in the United States.
Montana appeared to take the legislative lead, Tennessee is seeking to follow suit, and some Indian Tribes also may want to get on board. Admittedly and unabashedly, I am against the commercial slaughter of any horse, period. If humane veterinary euthanasia is the only answer for any horse with no other options, then I personally maintain that is the compassionate and correct option. It seems to me that there are obvious discrepancies in the pro-slaughter arguments-and the pro-slaughter bottom line must be tied to a profit motive, be it disclosed on not. At least in the Irish example (title above) it's plainly stated that some zoos like to feed lions horsemeat routinely. However, the assertion in this article that "All meats which are used are suitable for human consumption." is inherently fallacious given that racehorses would, as part of a reasonable veterinary care routine, have been wormed with ivermectin or an equivalent, vaccinated, and perhaps given other medications that one is warned not to use in any animal destined for human consumption. It's also claimed therein these Irish horses command from $200-$800 U.S.-a seeming contradiction to the information in the other above article referencing the Northwest tribes that "...for the sick, the old, and the skinny, today there is often no market at all at any price. Buyers who remember paying 70 cents a pounds at auction are today paying as little as 6 cents a pound-if the packers will even take the animal." The Northwest Tribal Horse Coalition is quoted as saying they are"exploring" "adoption and contraception" but still thinks they need a horse slaughtering facility " with a plant at Warm Springs." There just are not that many marauding Mustangs out there to necessitate the immediate opening of a slaughter plant.
I have an article in hand written by Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna for the January/February 2009 Trailhead News (Title: Solutions During Economic Hardship) that mentions that while (equine) "euthanasia by gunshot is should check with local law enforcement agencies to see if this would be considered animal cruelty or would be in violation of any local ordinance." Given the email response I finally received from the AG's office, it is not necessarily illegal at all to shoot your horse in Washington state. So, then, bullets and backhoes could quickly and legally handle the purported "glut" of horses much more cheaply than building slaughterhouses on private land for those that eschew or cannot afford the humane euthanasia option.
If in fact horsemeat prices are so low in the U.S., then why are so many people seeking to construct horse slaughter plants on U.S. private land? Building, maintaining, and staffing a horse slaughter facility on private land would require, methinks, a significant capital investment. And, if there is such a "glut" of horses, then why are so many so eager to make that investment? Where are those for-profit business plans and profitability projections for the end of the "glut"? What entities would finance these start-up slaughter plants? Much press states and restates how "tight" the lending market currently is supposed to be. To my knowledge, conventional banks and lenders have no specific grant options that directly benefit horse rescues and sanctuaries. If the dollars needed to start and man these newly proposed horse slaughter plants were distributed to existing and responsible equine rescues and sanctuaries, the positive results could well be amazing.
Some other interesting, if logic defying, sources of "glut" statistics- Wikipedia listed China as the world's largest processor of horse meat -1,700,000 horses anually. Another source claims there are no statistics available for China. Regardless, after melamine was found in pet food and baby formula, it's hard to imagine discerning global palates clamoring for horsemeat processed in China.
Even the U.K. evidently had a surprise ingredient incident with undeclared horsemeat being detected in a Safeway salami product.
Given that it's estimated just under 100,000 American horses, 1/3 of which are estimated to be thoroughbreds, are exported annually to Mexico and Canada for slaughter, and that the numbers of Americans horse so dispatched to slaughter has not exponentially increased since U.S. slaughterhouses were closed, I must ask again, why the push to build horse slaughter facilities on private U.S. land when horse meat prices are so low? Are zoos planning to hugely increase their lion populations? Seattle's own Woodland Park Zoo just had the Macy's Mom and Me at the Zoo event. I don't know what the big cats were gnawing on that day, but all zoo patrons might ask. Are canned hunts gaining popularity? Is Alistair Overeem a new diet guru?The arguments for horse slaughter in America make neither economic nor humane sense. Maybe (don't let kids do the research here) Hunter S. Thompson was right when he said "When the going gets tough, the weird turn pro".
Meanwhile, some Zoos are offering a few racehorses what I hope will prove to be good permanent retirement options.
We are continuing our Derby Dollar Challenge throughout the Triple Crown Series.