Pigs are flying, or they must be somewhere in the world. President Barack Obama (while campaigning for his second term in office, I might add) has signed a bill essentially re-legalizing horse slaughter, and PETA is happy about it!  Had you told me this a couple of weeks ago, I would have thought these events as likely an Occupy Wall Street protester taking an investment banking job at Goldman Sachs.

The recent bill reinstituting federal funding for horse slaughter plant inspections has been covered ad nauseam in a number of news stories, so I won’t belabor the details.  It is important to note at the outset that there was never a federal law "banning" horse slaughter in the U.S.  In a nutshell, there was law prohibiting federal funding of USDA horse meat inspections put in place in 2006, and that law esentially ended horse slaughter for human consumption in the U.S.  The 2006 "USDA defunding" provision was lifted on November 18, 2011 as part of a Congressional bill signed by President Obama. As a result, horse slaughter plants are already being considered several states and may be operational in 30 to 90 days. But plants specifically designed for horse slaughter cannot be developed in Texas, California, Illinois and Oklahoma, where state laws specifically prohibit horse slaughter plant operations. For more information, see this article.

But the real news story, to me, is the astounding fact that PETA believes resuming horse slaughter in the U.S. will reduce overall horse suffering, and supports the move. Yes, we’re talking about PETA–the same, often controversial animal rights group known for campaigns like “fur is murder” and the lawsuit filed against Sea World for "enslaving" killer whales. 

In a Christian Science Monitor interview, PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk said PETA believes the United States never should have banned domestic horse slaughter because “the amount of suffering that it created exceeded the amount of suffering it was designed to stop.” 

According to the Christian Science Monitor article, “PETA says the optimal solution is to ban both consumption slaughter and the export of horses, but it supports reintroducing horse slaughterhouses in the U.S., especially if accompanied by a ban on exporting any horses at all to other countries.” Really? A ban on exporting any horses at all to other countries? Does anyone know if PETA really proposes that we make it illegal to export any horse to any country outside the U.S., for any purpose? If so, how would this possibly work and what would it do to our horse industry? 

These questions aside, at least proponents of horse slaughter can be glad that for once, an association like PETA agrees with them. 

Compare PETA’s position to that of Forbes contributor Vickery Eckhoff, who blasts the Thoroughbred industry in an article this week for allegedly being “silent” with respect to the fate of ex-race horses that end up being slaughtered (and tortured in the process, according to Ms. Eckhoff). 

As an aside, it should be noted that many Thoroughbred racing industry associations are members and sponsors of the Unwanted Horse Coalition (UHC), whose goal it is to reduce the numbers of unwanted horses in the U.S. so that fewer end up being slaughtered…or worse (yes, I consider many fates worse than slaughter, such as dying of starvation, dehydration, or illness in the back pasture). For a list of the current member associations of the UHC, click here.

Ms. Eckhoff, like many in the “anti-slaughter” camp, believes horse slaughter should be banned because is inherently cruel and abusive and it cannot be made humane, even if it is done in accordance with USDA regulations.  Anti-slaughter groups and individuals often place the blame on breeders, and urge the government or others to penalize people for over-breeding instead of allowing horses to be slaughtered. How would this be done, I wonder, and at what cost? And is there really no way a horse slaughter facility can be designed to make the slaughter process as humane for horses as it is for other livestock? I welcome your thoughts.

Next Wednesday (November 9, 2011) the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on a case where the main issue is States’ rights to impose their own regulations on federally-inspected slaughterhouses. The case is National Meat Association v. Harris (Docket No. 10-244). Though the case involves swine instead of horses, the Court’s decision might ultimately affect the horse slaughter debate currently being waged in Congress.

The issue before the Court is whether a state law in California requiring all slaughterhouses to “immediately euthanize” any nonambulatory animal on its premises is preempted by the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA). The National Meat case deals with a California law governing slaughterhouses in that state that was passed in 2008, after the Humane Society of the United States released a video of so-called “downer cows” being pushed with a forklift, kicked, electrocuted, and dragged with chains at a slaughterhouse.

If the Court ultimately finds that California (and, presumably, all other states) can impose its own regulations on slaughterhouses to which the FMIA applies within their respective states, this might ultimately affect the current battle over horse slaughter being waged in the United States. An interesting question raised by this case, in my mind, is this:

What if one or more states were to enact laws that made illegal the so-called ‘evils’ of slaughter that opponents of horse processing find so unsavory? Would the opponents of horse slaughter be opposed to the humane processing of horses in those states?"

It’s an interesting question, and I’m torn. While I generally don’t like to see new red tape and new regulations unduly imposed on any industry, I tend to think that most issues such as this are best dealt with on the state level. If the Supreme Court finds that states can, in fact, impose their own laws on federally-inspected slaughterhouses, I am somewhat encouraged that this might ultimately provide vehicle whereby a “win-win” resolution of the horse slaughter battle may be reached.  If humane horse slaughter can be reintroduced in the United States, many horse industry groups believe that that this would have a positive economic impact on the overall horse industry.

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The issue of horse slaughter is on my mind today after reading a news story about the introduction of a U.S. Senate bill proposing the recommencement of horse meat inspection funding.  That’s when I poked around on the Internet a bit and found the "Haters List".

In case you haven’t seen it, the blog Wild Horse Haters & Horse Slaughter Promoters published a lengthy list of horse hatin’ people and groups (i.e. opponents of the horse slaughter ban in the U.S., according to the blog’s publishers) so that the public can boycott them, their members, and their services.

A link to the Haters List can be found here.  The Haters List includes the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) and just about every major U.S. horse association, cattle association, and farm association.

Note:  the publisher(s) of the Haters List and the blog on which is appears remain(s) anonymous.

I am a life member of two associations on the Haters List: the American Paint Horse Association and the American Quarter Horse Association.  What about you?

Milt Toby, a colleague of mine in Kentucky, did a blog post a while ago about how the issue of horse slaughter has a way of dividing people. But can we draw general lines to determine who, in general, is in favor of laws allowing for the processing of horse meat in the U.S. versus who is against such laws? 

Upon review of the Haters List, it would seem to me that in general, those who support humane horse processing in the United States are those who, either directly or indirectly, are in the horse business.  This includes the AAEP, a national group of equine veterinarians whose mission includes "meticulous concern for the health and welfare of the horse". 

There are of course others who support horse processing in the U.S. who aren’t directly or indirectly in the horse business. One example is Fort Worth Star Telegram journalist Bob Ray Sanders.  Mr. Sanders’s recent editorial entitled “Congress Should Revisit Ban on Horse Slaughter” cites evidence from the recent Government Accountability Office report.

And surely there are some in the “horse business” who are in favor of government bans on processing horse meat in the U.S.

But assuming the Haters List is correct, it tells us a lot about where the “line in the sand” is drawn. The Haters List seems to indicate that, in general, most horse businesses and equine veterinarians are in favor of humane horse processing in the United States. Do you agree with this assessment? 

While you ponder this poignant question, I’ll leave you with a quote from Milt Toby’s blog this week:

I think the world would be a better place if horses were not being slaughtered for food anywhere.  I think the same thing about cows and pigs and sheep and chickens and tuna and salmon, and I think it’s logically and morally inconsistent to categorically oppose one without opposing all.  And no, I’m not a vegan."

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**19 SEP 2011 Clarification:  Out of all of my readers, only two individuals read this post and thought that I agreed with the publishers of the "Haters List" and that I don’t believe that any animals should be processed for meat.  Although most people "got" where I was coming from on this issue, this alterted me to the fact that I may need to clarify some things.  I was "poking fun", tongue in cheek, at the anonymous publishers of the "Haters List" because I feel that their methods greatly reduce their credibility.  I was also asking if anyone agreed with me that it seems that most equine vets and most people who are in the horse business support humane processing.  As far as Milt Toby’s quote goes, I read it as saying that Milt believes you can’t categorically oppose humane horse slaughter unless you also oppose the humane slaughter of other animals.**