A Message from the Vet - February 2012
Land of Plenty: Horse Slaughter Issue

In 2006, under pressure for humane treatment of horses, slaughterhouses of horses were closed down when the federal government took away money for inspection of premises. Without that, the meat processed no longer qualified to sell in foreign markets. It had been a contentious battle between people that cared for horses as companions that shared an emotional bond, and private business that fulfilled a need, driven by market forces.

Last November, Congress passed an appropriations bill that re-establishes funding for slaughterhouses for horses. How did this happen? There was a determined effort by lobbyists to restart the horse slaughter due to the current abandonment and abuse of horses. Anyone who has cared for a horse in Hawaii knows the cost of hay and grain, farrier bills, and veterinary bills. When the recession of 2008 came upon us, many horse owners no longer provided for them. This turned out to be an alarming catastrophe, with the number of cases of animal cruelty on the rise, starvation of horses, and horse owners no longer paying for the care of their animals. Instead of doing the responsible thing for the sick, injured, and feeble, they failed to euthanize and safely dispose of them. Abandoned horses now were becoming wards of the state, ending up in animal protective groups, groups already strapped to the max with decreasing funding. In addition to that, horses that used to be processed in the USA now ended up on trucks to slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada, where our laws and regulations about the humane treatment of animals did not apply.

Congress could have banned the export of horses for slaughter, but instead opted for lifting the ban of slaughterhouses in the US.

The current administration signed a funding bill in November 2011 to establish inspections again. No slaughterhouses have opened up in response to that, but several states are considering allowing slaughterhouses to open.

It is an election year. This is a good time to be heard by your Senators and your congressional delegates. Even the political wannabes running for seats in Washington have an ear to the ground, listening to their constituents. Please write and tell them how you feel about slaughterhouses for horses. The Humane Society of the United States is the largest non-profit advocate for the protection of horses and they support a ban of slaughterhouses in the US. I urge you to contact your representatives and express your opinion about banning horse slaughter for human consumption.

For more information, including how to help, please visit the American Veterinary Medical Association's web page on the issue of unwanted horses.

John Haddock, DVM

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