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Copyright 2008 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

Hot Equine Issues

Horse Slaughter & Transport & “Unwanted Horses”  

By Natalie Riehl, Editor

 

February 2008 Issue

 

     We, as owners, riders and caretakers of horses, are deeply concerned with the emotionally-charged equine issues which have surfaced over the past few years, and include horse slaughter and the transport of horses to a slaughter facility.

     Throw in the subjects of “humane treatment” and “animal owners’ rights,” and we find a full spectrum of opinions on multiple topics. In using the internet, we find a huge amount of information, and from this we try to extract fact from fiction.

     Questionnaires I have received from horse councils across the U.S. ask what priority should be given to two key issues — “Unwanted Horses” and “End-of-Life Issues for Horses.”

 

     Traditionally horses have been considered “livestock,” and in the past, horse owners had the option of “canning” a horse that had become too old, too lame, or too unmanageable to keep. You could sell this horse at auction where it was purchased by a buyer of canner stock and transported to a slaughter facility in the U.S. You believed and expected that the horse would be treated humanely during the entire process.

     Another option was to use the services of a rendering plant. You could either have a horse euthanized or take it to a rendering plant.

     I remember the day in the mid-1960s that Casper — an old, white, kids’ horse that was boarded in our pasture — expired. My dad called the rendering plant, which dispatched a truck to haul off Casper ’s carcass and, I believe, may have even paid a nominal fee to purchase the carcass.

 

     Now in the U.S. , it is impossible to sell a horse to a U.S. slaughter plant: there aren’t any. Rendering plants have been close-lipped about replying to RMR’s questions.

     If a horse owner opts for euthanasia, few have the acreage on which they may bury a carcass. It’s not easy dealing with the bodies of animals that weigh in excess of 1,000 pounds. Last year, in trying to answer these questions, we ran an article about “What to do with a Dead Horse,” which looked at the options horse owners currently have of disposing of a horse’s body.

     The idea of slaughtering horses to use their meat, hide and other body parts is an emotional one for some people, while others see it as a natural end to the life of a horse and a practical use of a large carcass.

     Here in the RMR offices, we came up with a long list of questions, which Dorinda Troutman has been researching the answers to. Some are easy to find; some are not. We plan on bringing you the results of our inquiries over the next few months. These include:

Cruelty to horses– At slaughter plants. In transport to slaughter. Lame and in pain while turned out to pasture indefinitely. 

Slaughter facilities– there used to be many; then there were two or three; and then those were closed.

     What laws closed them? Why does the phrase “human consumption” affect so many horse slaughter laws? What changed economically for this industry?

     Can horses be slaughtered at cattle plants in the U.S.

Rendering Plants– How does a rendering plant differ from a slaughter house? What is the status today of the rendering plant industry? Where are they located and will they accept horse carcasses?

Uses For Horse Body Parts– who was buying horse meat at U.S. plants and for what purposes? Where are horses slaughtered today, and what are they used for? Is there a market for horse body part similar to the cattle body-parts market where everything — including hide, hooves, horns, and hair — may be utilized.

Transporting Horses– Will laws affecting transport of horses to slaughter creep into transport of horses for any other purpose, including recreational purposes?

 

Horse feed lots– Yes, like cattle feed lots. Where are they? Who buys horses from them?

Old Horse Care– Many people keep their elderly, retired horses, and this has given rise to the Senior Horse product market. Should all horses be pastured until they are remarkably old? What humane issues arise in caring for elderly horses?

     Readers, as always, if you have questions, knowledge, insight or opinions which you would like to express and share with other readers, please email them to my attention at editor@rockymountainrider.com or mail them to P.O. Box 995, Hamilton, MT, 59840

Copyright 2008 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

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