Animal Welfare

by Jamison Maeda

According to the Chinese zodiac, 2014 is the year of the horse. But for many horses, this year will bring torture and an untimely death.

Domesticated horses have been part of human culture since as far back as 4,000 BCE. Any student of history will tell you that horses have been essential to the development of human civilization. They are workers, and companions, and horse assisted therapy has benefited numerous people with physical and mental disabilities. Many cultures consider horses to be intelligent, sensitive creatures, and over 80% of Americans oppose slaughtering horses for food. However, more than 160,000 horses are slaughtered every year for human consumption in Europe and Asia.

The slaughter of horses is particularly brutal and cruel. They are crammed into very small trailers for more than 36 hours with no food or water and many are severely injured or killed in transit. Because of their size and because horses are skittish by nature, it is impossible to accurately stun a horse. Frequently horses are hit over and over but still remain conscious during dismemberment. Clearly not everyone is vegetarian, but certainly no one wants their food tortured for days and dismembered alive before they eat it.

In addition to the brutality involved in slaughtering horses, many horses were treated with both legal and illegal drugs, and there is no system in the US to track medication given to horses. These drugs, including phenylbutazone which is not approved for humans because of severe side effects, enter the human food supply with no warning to the consumer. Toxic chemicals used to euthanize horses have also entered our food supply. Because of the health risks and the inhumane slaughtering process, many people around the world have chosen not to eat horse meat. But last year, thousands of consumers across Europe were frustrated to find out that some products labeled “beef” contained up to 100% horse meat.

The impact of horse slaughtering facilities is significantly negative to the surrounding communities. It pollutes the water, damages the environment, decreases surrounding property values, and provides very few jobs which are extremely dangerous and offer very low wages anyway. Horse slaughterhouses also fill the air with an unbearable stench. Furthermore, millions of dollars of taxpayer money would be required to inspect horse slaughtering facilities and the slaughtering process which would be a huge financial burden that very few would benefit from, particularly now when already underfunded programs are being substantially cut.

Commercial horse slaughter in the U.S. was temporarily blocked in January when President Obama signed a budget measure defunding inspections necessary for slaughterhouses to ship horse meat across state lines or export it to other countries. But a permanent ban of horse slaughter and the export of live horses to other countries is needed. The slaughter process is brutal and inhumane, and because no information is available about what drugs these horses were given throughout their lives, horse meat is extremely unsafe. Though some cultures do condone horse slaughter, the vast majority of Americans are opposed, and they certainly don’t want to spend tax money on it.