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September 06, 2011

Another Step to Crack Down on Horse Slaughter Abuses

Last week, the Obama administration took action on a couple of HSUS priorities, offering the prospect of greater protection for captive chimpanzees in the United States and the promise that young puppies from foreign puppy mills will not be legally brought into our country for commercial resale. Tomorrow, in the third in a series of pro-animal actions announced within a week, the administration officially announces a final rule to tighten the ban on the use of double-deck trailers to transport American horses to slaughter, closing a gaping loophole in the humane horse transportation standards adopted by the agency in 2006.

The 2006 rule only barred the transportation of horses in double deckers if they were en route directly to slaughter plants. Haulers could evade the horse transport regulations, including the prohibition on double-deck trailers, for a long portion of the trip by moving the horses first to intermediary stops like a holding facility or other assembly point, a feedlot, or a stockyard before shipping them on the final leg of the trip to a slaughter plant in Canada or Mexico. In the rule to be published tomorrow in the Federal Register, the U.S. Department of Agriculture closes that loophole. The USDA states that “Double-deck trailers do not provide adequate headroom for adult equines, which may acquire cuts and abrasions on the tops of their heads. Because equines cannot stand in a normal position with their heads raised, they cannot maintain balance as easily and may suffer injuries from falling.”

Help stop horse slaughter by taking action here
Kathy Milani/The HSUS
Take action to help horses here.

It is another step in our effort to crack down on horse slaughter industry abuses. First, in 2007, we helped to close all the foreign-owned plants in the United States, putting an end to the slaughter of horses on American soil. Now we have the rule published tomorrow on inhumane transport. The third element–always central in our plans–must be to convince the Congress to pass the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (S. 1176), which will, among other things, ban the long-distance transport and export of live American horses for slaughter in neighboring nations.

I am amazed at the incredible propaganda advanced by the horse slaughter industry and their allies in agribusiness and in Congress. They claim that the shut-down of U.S. plants a few years ago has created a glut of unwanted horses. But they fail to note that the same number of American horses are being slaughtered now as compared to five years ago–about 100,000. Now more are slaughtered in Canada and Mexico, but the overall numbers are the same. How would reviving domestic horse slaughter solve the problem of “unwanted horses” if the industry is still killing the same number of animals now as it did when the plants were operating in the U.S.? It makes no sense. No sane person would propose slaughtering dogs and cats for food as a humane solution to pet overpopulation, but that’s the same kind of pap the horse slaughter crowd is spreading on Capitol Hill.

Because horse slaughter plants still operate in North America, there’s a commercial incentive for disreputable people to discard horses, steal them, or otherwise gather them up often under false pretenses, and send them into the slaughter pipeline. Equine rescue groups line up at auctions to take in unwanted horses, but they are often outbid by the "killer buyers" who want to sell the animals' meat to foreign markets. If the commercial incentives were eliminated, then horse owners would have to either care for their horses, send them to a sanctuary or a rescue group, or have them euthanized–which eliminates the nasty, long-distance transport that so many tens of thousands of horses endure. Or if they decided just to abandon them, they would be prosecuted under state law for that recklessness.

It’s time for the horse slaughter proponents to stop spewing propaganda and to start to exhibit and promote some level of responsibility. If we have unwanted horses, let’s handle them in the most humane way possible. Does any serious-minded person really believe that the horse slaughter industry is interested in humane treatment–the same industry that has jammed horses into double-deckers for years, that has sanctioned stabbing as a method of slaughter in Mexico, and that obtains horses from owners under false pretenses at auctions throughout the nation and whisks them off to slaughter? Give me a break.

P.S. You can help by taking action here.

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