Thursday, March 26, 2009

The True Economics of Horse Slaughter

From Caroline M। Betts, Economist, USC

Letter to the Editor

Dear Horseback Readers,

I feel compelled to respond to the rash of state efforts (Montana, Illinois, and North Dakota to name just a few) to re-introduce the slaughter of horses in the United States of America. As a professional economist, I find the arguments spouted nationwide to re-invite foreign owned horse killing facilities onto American soil confusing and without merit.
To paraphrase a horse rescuer I know, why is it that upon the observation of an abandoned dog or cat, people jump up and down to preserve the life of that animal, while upon the observation of an abandoned horse, some politician jumps up and down and yells that we need to slit its throat and bleed it out on American soil so that a wealthy connoisseur in Europe or Asia can have a nice horsemeat snack?

According to USDA data, approximately 20 percent more American horses are being exported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter now than were being slaughtered in the US prior to the closure of the foreign owned slaughterhouses in 2007. It is clear that the option to slaughter is readily available: you simply drop off your horse at the nearest auction or make a quick call to the local “kill buyer” and he will be dispatched through the pipeline to a foreign owned slaughter house in one of our NAFTA partners. Any abandoned horse, one would have to presume, is abandoned NOT because there are no slaughter plants in the US. To add to my confusion, there is nothing but anecdotal evidence that horses are being abandoned at a higher rate now than before the closure of the US slaughter plants, and that is because no better data exists: there is no data collected at the state or national level on horse abandonment or neglect. Even if a single year’s observation were available, which it is not, it would not constitute a sample that any statistician would take seriously. And the few independent scientific studies that have been conducted over the years all illustrate the very same result: rates of horse abandonment, neglect and abuse are completely uncorrelated with the availability of local slaughter facilities.
In some of the debate concerning the proposed bills, the idea is even being perpetrated that somehow inviting foreign horse killers back on US soil is part of the solution to the severe recession currently devastating the US economy; the invitation is touted as “economic development” in, for example, Montana। A sort of bizarre economic stimulus package, for states suffering job losses. For those unaware, Americans don’t eat horsemeat. The foreign owned slaughter houses formerly on US soil paid next to no taxes here. All profits were repatriated to the foreign owners in Europe. And agricultural output and employment in America represent 1.2 percent and 0.6 percent of GDP and employment respectively, tiny fractions of aggregate economic activity, as in any industrialized nation; indeed, that is the hallmark of a mature, post-industrial, service based economy such as the United States. You aren’t going to resurrect the US or your own state economy by killing 100,000 horses, an American icon, to satisfy the palette of some French or Japanese gourmand.

The agricultural and breeding interests that finance these new state political efforts want equine slaughter reintroduced on US soil because a) they fear that social and cultural rejection of equine slaughter might actually somehow induce American citizens to stop eating animals that ARE consumed as food here, b) they want to continue to breed for income and US slaughterhouses provide a more convenient venue for routine culling of the scores of less than perfect and commercially non-viable equine products of that breeding, and c) they represent the interests of a small percentage of US citizens who believe they have the right to dispose of their own animal however they choose, even if that involves a socially and culturally unacceptable act which is abhorred by over 70 percent of the US population according to any survey I have ever read.

My understanding is that optimal policy design requires that incentives be altered, if you are going to shift the allocation of economic resources away from the privately profitable but socially undesirable, and towards the socially and culturally desirable. In my opinion the only way that you will halt irresponsible and excess breeding of equines, and irresponsible ownership, is to completely eliminate the slaughter option. While the horse slaughter industry EXISTS because foreigners want to eat horsemeat, it provides an easy reward for those who want to breed as many horses as they choose and dispose of the excess in the manner that they want to, and for owners who will not take responsibility for their horse’s care. Take away that reward with a federal ban on slaughter and export for slaughter, and slap a good tax on the product of any equine breeder, and the politicians currently yelling that we need to kill a bunch of horses may find it much harder to spot one that is abandoned.

We are currently being inundated with arguments that the reintroduction of equine slaughter on US soil is "necessary"। The only thing it is necessary for is to fill the pockets of the big breeders and their agricultural associates, and perhaps the pockets of a “bought” politician or two. Apparently the senators and representatives of Montana who just passed a bill to introduce a new horse slaughter plant there care more about fulfilling those needs, than the fact that 85 percent of their own state citizens strongly object to the proposal. Suppose the devastated US economy is making it tough for horse owners and breeders to maintain for their animals in some states? Why is the solution to re-introduce a culturally and socially unacceptable practice with a horrendous USDA record of humane transportation violations? Why, instead, aren’t these states considering the establishment of temporary state funded horse rescues, with jobs in them that provide tax revenue, until the economy recovers and the horses can find homes? Why aren’t they providing additional funding and jobs for Humane Societies and Animal Control agencies to cope with whatever is being claimed that they are having to deal with? Why not do something that BENEFITS HORSES as well as creating some jobs? And why not impose a state tax on horse breeders to help fund it all?

Caroline M। Betts, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Economics
University of Southern California

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Congress Must Act Now: Draconian Horse Killing Bill Equestrian News Release

CHICAGO, (EWA) - A vote in the Montana House Thursday on a Draconian horse killing bill demands immediate action by the Congress. The Equine Welfare Alliance urges immediate passage of the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2009.

State legislation that has been introduced and passed in Montana and elsewhere to build horse slaughterhouses on US soil are in direct violation of federal law. Illinois, in particular, is attempting to completely remove veterinarian inspections. This is a clear message stating that the US does not care what drugs the horses have ingested, what diseases they carry and more importantly, what the consequences will be to the consumers of the horse meat.

In Montana, the bill was written to prohibit citizens from bringing suit against the building of a plant based on environmental issues unless a fee is paid equaling 20% of the construction cost. This is a violation of the constitutional rights of every American citizen to have access to the courts in a fair, equitable and above all, affordable arena.

Congress can no longer ignore that the basis of the campaign unleashed by pro horse slaughter supporters and organizations is fraught with lies and scare tactics. Organizations and individuals promoting horse slaughter have not provided one piece of solid evidence that justifies or supports the need for horse slaughter. Their constant media blitzes consist of false articles portraying a tsunami of abandoned horses and dismissal of irrefutable evidence provided by Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The documentation of unspeakable abuse and cruelty extracted reluctantly from the United States Department of Agriculture proves the need to forever prohibit killing horses for human consumption in foreign markets.

The media campaign is misleading at best, and downright dishonest, at worst. The spin includes calling horse slaughter processing, harvesting, humane euthanasia and recycling, in an attempt to transform the reality into something more palatable. These words belie the reality that living creatures are strung upside down, as their throats are cut for a slow death, while hooves are sawed off from their bodies. The horse is still living and often conscious during this “humane” process.

Anti slaughter advocates are accused of being employed by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) or being city “folk” that don’t understand the horse industry. Nowhere does the reader see one fact or any type of data to support the claims.

Increasingly, supporters of horse slaughter squawk that anti-slaughter advocates are vegans determined to end animal agriculture in the United States. Noting could be further from the truth.

Horses, mules, and other equines built the Capital building in Washington where their fate will be debated. These beasts of burden carried lumber, brick and mortar, to build the White House where we implore President Obama to sign the act.

The American Veterinarian Association (AVMA) and the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) classifies horses as companion animals, not livestock. Law enforcement rides service animals, hardly food stock animals. Livestock do not participate in the Triple Crown. Livestock are not used in therapy to help returning soldiers with head injuries, regain their balance. Livestock do not participate in presidential and military funerals. Every function horses perform in our society is that of a service animal.

It is time for Congress to take a stand and say enough is enough. Equines should be recognized as service animals and Congress must enact HR 503 immediately to end the cruelty and abuse American horses endure to satisfy European diners. It is time for Congress to remove the reward for irresponsible breeding and the owners that do not take responsibility for equines they chose to own or breed.

We urge caring Americans to pester your Legislators relentlessly until they pass and President Obama signs legislation putting an end to the obscene cruelty of horse slaughter.

Monday, March 23, 2009

85% of Montana’s Constituents Are Opposed to a Horse Slaughtering Plant

Representative Wanzenreid has responded to all my (and many others fighting to end horse slaughter) communications recently requesting opposition to the Montana Horse Slaughtering Bill, HB 418. Sadly, the bill was passed on Friday afternoon and is now awaiting the Governor’s signature.

Even more sad is the fact that he notes that 85% of the calls he got opposed the allowing of a horse killing plant in Montana. Apparently many of his colleagues (and I use the term loosely) aren’t listening to their constituents.

Horses are NOT products or produce. They were never meant to be harvested or processed. There should not be a “salvage” cost for these loyal animals that we partner with, compete with and recreate with.
Here is an email from Representative Wanzenreid। You’ll also find a link below to a YouTube Video created to oppose HB 418. It is not graphic or offensive in any way. Please forward generously, as the legislator asks us. Thank you for being a good, and responsible man, sir.


It has been my great privilege to become acquainted with you (some better than others) during our battle to defeat House Bill 418, which authorizes the formation of investor-owned equine slaughtering facilities.

My, but, that sounds antiseptic, doesn’t it?

Now, that the bill has passed the Senate and is on its way to the Governor, I want to take a minute and share a few thoughts.

First, thank you for your conviction to fight what amounts to a horrible, horrible idea. Because of your commitment and willingness to engage, your voices were heard. Your convictions and principles resonated.

Second, thank you for your patience in educating those of us elected officials who share your concerns and horror of sanctioning such an inhumane, disgraceful idea. We newcomers to this issue benefitted immensely from your ideas, data and willingness to answer questions (in some cases, more than once).

Regardless of what happens now, I am afraid that the damage to Montana’s renowned grandeur and rustic elegance is done. But, the damage, that is likely to follow, will not occur because the opposition was silent or subdued. As a team, we gave it our best effort and came up short. I’ve been through more skirmishes than I care to recall. But, honestly, I never remember being as proud as I was with the effort put forth by every team member on this one.

So, thank you.

Next steps

The bill now goes back to the House of Representatives for administrative processing and then on to the Governor.

The Governor has three options: sign; veto; allow the bill to become law without his signature. (The Governor could make an amendatory veto, but I doubt the Legislature would approve it. Besides, a horrible idea like this cannot be made less egregious with the infusion of new words.) I recommend that each of you send an e-mail or contact his office requesting a veto. The contact information is listed below. Then, write a letter to the editor expressing your opinion and ask your friends to do the same.
If the Governor signs the bill or it becomes a law without his signature, Montana’s constitution provides an initiative process, by which the electorate may gather signatures asking for a vote to repeal a law. The last time this was done successfully was following the 2003 Legislature, when several legislators headed a successful initiative effort to repeal an ill-advised energy law.
If the Governor signs the bill or it becomes a law without his signature, Congress could pass HR 503, which would ban this type of operation in the United States.

In closing, I would like to share some data.

I log each of my contacts. Every e-mail, every phone call, every letter.

I received just under a thousand contacts on House Bill 418.

The supporters expressed argued that outside, sinister forces were behind the opposition. Nothing could be further from the truth. I received 82 contacts from out of state, 61 in support and 21 in opposition. The remainder of the contacts was from Montanans and roughly 85 percent were in opposition to the bill.

Facts are indeed a stubborn thing.

Please continue to keep in contact with me and please notify me if I may be of assistance.


Dave Wanzenried
Senate District #49
903 Sky Drive
Missoula Montana 59804-3121


Good evening/ morning.

Sandy Elmore produced the attached segment making the case for a veto of House Bill.

Please forward generously.

Thank you.

Dave Wanzenried
Senate District #49
903 Sky Drive
Missoula, Montana 59804-3121

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Slaughter Promotes Horse Theft And Heartache For Equine Owners

From Race Horse to Main Course



Updated 9:36 AM EDT, Wed, Mar 18, 2009


These lucky horses were saved in a raid of a slaughterhouse in Miami.

The story sounds like the summary of a bad horror flick.

Horse owner outraged after finding her horse butchered in a nearby field.

Dozens of horses disappearing in the dead of night only to be found stripped of skin and meat on a roadside. Other horses are discovered butchered in their stables by mortified owners.

But the culprit isn't some half-wolf, half-man abomination that preys on thoroughbreds during the full moon.

They are poachers from Miami's black market who sell the horses' meat, which is a popular delicacy among new arrivals from other countries to the area. The horse meat can go for as much as $20 per pound and based on the number of bloody horse remains and meat-stripped carcasses found on the side of dirt roads and in stables across Miami-Dade, harvesting horses for meat is a lucrative business.

The sale of horse meat for human consumption is illegal in the U.S., but that hasn't stopped the meat from being in high demand by natives of the Caribbean, Cuba and other European countries who crave horse cuisine.

Some U.S. cattle ranchers have worked around the law by exporting horses to Mexico or Canada, where killing horses for dinner is legal.

Fostering some of the boom in slaughterhouses has been the horse-racing industry and some owners of race horses. Some discard a horse after it's out-lived its racing life or is injured. They are usually sold to the first person who offers a few bucks for the animal, as was the case for Freedom's Flight, a horse rescued during a raid at a Miami area slaughterhouse.

"Freedom's Flight would have definitely ended up on someone's plate. Absolutely. And we've seen it too many times," said Richard Cuoto, who volunteers for the South Florida Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Freedom's Flight's blood line includes Secretariat and Seattle Slew, two of the greatest thoroughbreds of all-time. But his wealthy owner, Herman Heinlein, gave the horse to a handler after it broke a leg in a race at Gulfstream Park. The handler, Marian Brill, sold Freedom's Flight for $500, but refuses to say to whom. Police believe Freedom's Flight eventually ended up at a pony ride show before he wound up at the slaughterhouse.

"I've already told you, I can't and I won't," she said in an interview with NBC6.

Freedom's Flight's saga and salvation is the exception to the rule, animal rights advocates said. Other race horses have had a less than ceremonial retirement.

The real horror may be that no arrests have been made in the deaths. Authorities claim it would be hard to charge someone with a crime because it's difficult to tell if a horse found butchered on the side of the road was killed by a poacher or an owner.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pennsylvania Woman Saves Race Horse From Slaughter Death

Cheree Esposito runs a non-profit horse rescue from her barn outside Franklintown, York County. She's got enough room for ten horses at "Safe Haven Arabians," but right now, there are only eight.

This is her latest addition - a five year old thoroughbred that she rescued from an auction kill pen three weeks ago.

She knew she was going there that day to save some horse's life. She just didn't know which one.

"And I asked (God), 'Give me a sign for the one I'm supposed to save.' And he (Nick) just stared me down and gave me this look," says Esposito.

It was a horse named Jazzercise. He was just about to be carted off ... and eventually be taken to the border, and sold for slaughter. But at the last minute, Esposito convinced the man to sell her the horse.

"I (re-)named him Nick because I got there in the nick of time to save him," says Esposito.

Nick's been at Safe Haven ever since ... training, recovering, learning to trust again. Esposito tested Nick by doing what she does with all her rescues - she pulled a sleeping bag into his stall one night and laid down.

"He comes over and nuzzles and nudges, and the last time I did it, he actually laid down right next to me," says Esposito.

Nick is just one of many success stories ... horses that other people were done with, couldn't afford, or didn't see as anything more than meat on a plate. At Save Haven, they're just allowed to "be" -- while their guardian angel finds them the perfect home.

"When the people come (to adopt a horse) and you do find that match, you know you're in it for the right reasons," says Esposito.

If you'd like to contact Esposito about adopting one of her rescue horses, click here

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Equine Vet Speaks Out Against Horse Slaughter

Equine Vet Speaks Out Against Horse Slaughter


By Lisa Carter, DVM

I am a horse person, a true horse person. I get up every morning at the break of dawn, put on my coveralls, boots, hat, gloves, and winter parka to trudge across the snowy yard to take care of my horses. I feed them, water them, turn them out, clean their stalls, and give them the love that they deserve.

Dr. Lisa Carter and her beloved companion, Black Diamond.
True horse people are responsible horse owners—but not all horse owners are horse people. Some people treat their horses like a commodity. They ride and feed their horses, pay for veterinary and farrier care, and brag about them.

The big difference between true horse people and horse owners is the long-term responsibility they take for their horses. True horse people care about their horses, even when they no longer own them or they are no longer "useful."

Taking Responsibility

I currently have a 27-year-old Arabian gelding that I showed competitively on the Class A Arabian show circuit. We won many ribbons and reserve championships. Over time, he became old and arthritic, insulin intolerant, and I was no longer able to ride him.

The easiest manner of getting rid of this responsibility would be to ship him off to an auction house where he would be sold for slaughter. I would make about $200 off the deal and be rid of this high-maintenance horse.

But I am a true horse person. I take the responsibility of horse ownership seriously and know that it is a lifelong commitment. I know that when my geriatric horse's quality of life is gone, I will humanely euthanize him by chemical injection. It is the least that I can do for this wonderful animal.

Easy Way Out

Some horse owners take the easy route to rid themselves of "useless" horses. They send their horse to an auction. He or she is left in a pen for 12-24 hours without food or water, packed up into another trailer (sometimes a double-decker cattle trailer), and hauled hundreds of miles—still without food or water—often incurring injuries during the ride due to the overcrowding.

An American horse enters the kill box at a Mexican slaughter plant.©The HSUS
These horses arrive at a slaughterhouse, which is designed for cattle, in deplorable conditions and are forced into the plant to endure a terrible and painful death.

If they are lucky, they will only be struck in the head once with a captive bolt before their subsequent death. Most are not so lucky. Some very unfortunate horses end up in Mexico, where they are stabbed repeatedly in the neck in an effort to sever the spinal cord. These horses are paralyzed while being butchered, but still fully conscious.

Options are Available

I realize that not everyone has the financial ability to keep a horse that is no longer useful or is in poor health, but shipping a horse off to a slaughterhouse for a quick buck is simply wrong.

There are many options for people that are financially unable to care for their horses—they can relinquish their horse to a rescue organization, sell their horse to a carefully vetted private owner, donate their horse to a riding center, or have a veterinarian humanely euthanize their horse.

What You Can Do

As well as being a true horse person, I am also an equine veterinarian. I cancelled my membership to the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) because I do not agree with their pro-slaughter stance. Their position on slaughter mirrors that of big money making organizations like the American Quarter Horse Association, whose members often use slaughter as a quick and easy way of disposing of "useless" horses while making a quick buck.

Currently there is a bill going through Congress, H.R. 503, known as the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act, which would make it illegal to slaughter American horses for human consumption overseas, as well as ban the export of horses for slaughter.

I beg all of you, especially true horse people, to contact your Congressman and urge them to pass this bill. Horses deserve to be treated in a humane manner—H.R. 503 will make this inhumane manner of horse disposal a thing of the past.

Dr. Lisa Carter is a veterinarian and avid horse enthusiast and owner.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Thanks to Jim Durkin of Illinois Who Opposes Horse Slaughter

An Open Letter to the People and Legislators of Illinois Regarding Horse Slaughter:

Dear Illinois Legislator,

I am writing to implore you to vote NO to HB 583.

You see I am a volunteer at a horse rescue. I see the beautiful, sound horses we pull out of the slaughter pens. Most of these horses go on to live productive lives with people who love them.

The slaughterhouse is not a place that humanely takes care of old, sick or dangerous horses. Those are the horses the kill buyers are least likely to buy. They want the healthiest, meatiest horses they can find. The USDA reports that over 92% of the horses that go to slaughter are young, sound and not dangerous.

The trip to the slaughterhouse is perhaps worse than the cruel, slow and painful death. Many horses arrive missing eyes and limbs. Please view this link:

It will horrify you. If you support slaughter, you must look at these pictures and you must condone the horrors these horses have experienced. Do you really want to be that conscienceless?

Horse are revered and special animals. We bond closely with them, like we do our cats and dogs. The vast majority of Americans do not want horses slaughtered.

Slaughter encourages the theft of horses. I don't want my horse stolen and ending up at a slaughter house! What a horrible way for my friend and partner to die.

Please do the right thing and vote NO. Your state doesn't want the ugly reputation and environmental issues that will profit only foreign interests.

Horses deserve to die with dignity, just like our cats and dogs. Euthanasia as performed by a Vet is the humane way to let our horses leave this world.

Thank you,

Lorri Roush Shaver


Response from Jim Durkin:

Thank you for your e-mail regarding HB 583, the bill to overturn Illinois’ ban on horse slaughter. I will vote no on this bill. We do not eat horses in this state, nor in this country.

History has shown that horses are distinct from other animals because they are respected and revered, much like dogs and cats. As such, they should not be a commodity to serve European and Asian palates.


State Representative Jim Durkin

Stolen Horse International


The face of death

The face of death
#396, A kind, gentle Thoroughbred

All that is left

All that is left
I will never forget him...I promise. I am so sorry, #396...I don't even have a name for you...

Why would you take my life? Am I a food source animal?

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