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The Cruelest End

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The next time you hear anyone say that horse slaughter is humane, send them to me-I will send them directly to a horse slaughterhouse-or direct them to an online video filmed at one. We have three of these torture chambers in this country-all foreign (Belgian and French) owned, and they all operate tax free, while raking in more than $12 million yearly over the dead bodies of champion race horses, pony club pets, and the endangered species of wild mustangs.

Over 90,000 American horses are being slaughtered in the US every year. Their meat is sent to Europe and Japan where horsemeat is considered a delicacy for human consumption, bringing up to $30 per pound. Americans do not eat or condone the eating of horses, just as we don't eat or condone the eating of cats and dogs. So why are our horses being slaughtered so that others can do what we abhor?

This travesty is thanks to loopholes in the law and the money grubbing scoundrels in our government--big money lobbyists and the politicians they support--who make it possible for these foreigners to serve our horses for dinner overseas-after torturing them in ways most of us cannot begin to imagine

And that's the problem. No one can imagine because no one knows. Even many horse people don't know of this dirty little secret-which is not so little and way beyond simply "dirty."

Having grown up with horses of my own, I am haunted now by what I didn't know then. What ultimately happened to my horses after I sold them "to good homes?" I cringe to think.

Those who do know that horse slaughter exists, have usually been placated by lies. The most prevalent lies say that the horses are "humanely euthanized" and that the horses are old and "beyond repair."

There is nothing humane about hauling horses for thousands of miles in overcrowded trucks that are designed to haul cattle, sheep, or pigs (so too low for horses), then dragging them off the truck, prodding them with an electric prod into a kill box--where they are further terrorized by the smell of the blood and death of others gone before--and then, taking aim at their heads, often missing the mark, so doing it again and again, all while the horses are writhing in agonizing pain and horrific fear. Slaughterhouse workers report not even waiting until horses are dead before starting to skin them. And this is what the USDA is calling "humane."

Dispelling the "old and injured" myth, the US Humane Society reports that nine out of ten horses taken to slaughter are healthy-meaning suitable to be used in any number of ways. Many of these horses are young-some of them only babies of a few months old. Some are pregnant mares. Many have no disabilities whatsoever. Many were once pampered possessions and family pets-their previous owners completely unaware of the fate that has befallen them.

Others are racehorses that just couldn't, or could no longer, run fast enough. Many are stolen-some taken right out of their own pastures by rustlers who send them to slaughter. Testimony given under oath by three slaughterhouse employees stated, "We do not check for brands or tattoo's, we will check for the chips but only to remove them before slaughter so they don't taint the meat... We know that these horses could be stolen."

What has our society and our species come to that we could allow this grossly inhumane treatment of our companion and sport animals that have been taught to trust us, have given us their best, then only to be so callously and barbarically trashed? Our horses were not raised to be slaughtered.

Right now there is a bill, designated as S1915, that would end horse slaughter in the US. Already overwhelmingly passed by the House of Representatives, it is sitting in a Senate committee, waiting to come to a vote on the full Senate floor. Industry forces are hard at work in the Senate, and the bill risks being paralyzed by procedural maneuvers and will die, if not voted on by the end of the year.

If the bill dies, it will have to begin all over again with being re-processed by the House-losing all of the time that it has taken since its original passage there in September. Meanwhile, thousands of horses--nearly 2000 per week according to the most recent USDA figures for September 2006--are being cruelly abused and brutally murdered.

As for the wild horses, which some people see as fair game just because they are wild, some see as competing with cattle for grazing lands, and so, want them gone. Conrad Burns, Chairman of the Department of Interior, which also makes him Bureau of Land Management Director, is working hard toward that end. Most unfortunately, Burns also sits on the Senate Committee of Commerce, Science, and Transportation where this anti-horse slaughter bill is now.

A former cattle auctioneer, and clearly on the side of the Cattlemen's Association that receives $5-$15 per head for each slaughtered wild horse, amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, Burns wants wild horses eradicated and he's doing his best to accomplish that, sending them to slaughter thanks to the (his) 2004 Burns Amendment to the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act.

The Burns Amendment was a stealth rider tacked onto the 2005 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, and so was passed without notice, and yet it is in direct opposition to the intent of the 1971 law that it amends. The Burns Amendment allows the BLM to sell "older and un-adoptable" wild horses at auction-where they are usually picked up by "kill buyers" and sent to the same inhumane ends at slaughterhouses as our no-longer fast race horses and former family pets.

On September 27, 2006 an accident occurred, that was actually the greatest blessing imaginable to 41 horses that were bound for slaughter on an overloaded two-decker truck. The truck overturned on a Missouri interstate. Three horses were killed in the accident itself, 13 others had to be euthanized on the spot. As horrendous as the accident was, the horses that died there had far better ends than they would have had, had they reached their slaughterhouse destination.

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Nancy Babcock has lived in 4 countries and 5 states, and has had a wide variety of careers, from horseback riding instructor to jewelry designer to university professor and cross-cultural trainer and consultant. Throughout her various life (more...)
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