NYT Surprisingly Addresses Horse Slaughter Without Hyperbole

January 14th, 2008 12:15 PM

I found a surprising article in the New York Times, one that probably shocked its liberal-leaning base.  

The headline was slanted, but  this January 11 article was a thoughtful assessment of the unintended, but predicted, consequences of the state laws banning US horse slaughter.

With the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act that would ban the export of US horses for slaughter before Congress, the Times dove right into this activist Thunderdome. The NYT revealed after the state bans, unwanted horses face “more grueling travel” and are shipped to Canada or worse, “gruesome deaths” in Mexico, where their spinal cords are severed with knives (bold mine).

The American slaughterhouses killed horses quickly by driving steel pins into their brains, a method the American Veterinary Medical Association considers humane. Workers in some Mexican plants, by contrast, disable them by stabbing them with knives to sever their spinal cords, said Temple Grandin, a professor of animal science at Colorado State University..

My worst nightmare has happened,” Dr. Grandin said. “This is an example of well-intentioned but very bad unintended consequences.” (...)

“First time in my life I’ve seen livestock that has no value,” said Devin Mullet, owner of Kalona Sales Barn in southeastern Iowa.

After his monthly auction in October, Mr. Mullet said, he shot 28 horses that had failed to fetch any bids. Since then, he has monitored horses coming in for sale, turning away those he thinks are worthless — often yearlings and the aged, which tend to yield less meat.

Of course, animal rights activists see these state bans as a victory and say “It’s a step closer to the long-term goal of banning slaughter in North America...There are fewer horses slaughtered.”

Cavel International, the foreign operator of the Illinois slaughterhouse is appealing 2007's state ban to the US Supreme Court. However, both houses in Congress are considering the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, which federally outlaws horse slaughter in America as well as exporting them for slaughter. 

The American Veterinary Medicine Association opposes the bans, asking “what do we do with all of these unwanted horses?” (AVMA faq here.) The 100,000 American horses slaughtered each year can't all be adopted or euthanized as supporters such as those in the Times suggest.

The Times listed the cost for euthanasia at $140, but not everyone can afford that, and there can be “environmental issues related to burial.” Horse sale websites report some owners can't even give away these unwanted horses and offer them online for free. 

The NYT didn't list the high cost of ownership. Feed prices have doubled. Desperate owners bombard shelters, and some just abandon their horses.

The average yearly cost of feeding a horse is $2,300 a year, and that doesn't include, stable, vet and farrier bills. Boarding a horse may include feed, but the board alone ranges from $100 to $650 a month. Horses, who can live up to 30 years, also need accessories; saddles, bridles, brushes, blankets, etc.

The largest horse association in the US, the American Quarter Horse Association opposed the bans for “fundamental economic, humane and public health” reasons. The AQHA predicted the tragic results of banning horse slaughter, but the government didn't listen. The federal ban will leave the owners of 100,000 unwanted horses a year with few options.

Although the Times didn't explore all of the negative repercussions of banning horse slaughter in America, at least it reported they exist. I'm sure PETA is preparing the red paint.


Lynn doesn't hate horses. Contact her with tips and the inevitable complaints at tvisgoodforyou2 “at” yahoo “dot” com.