In dismissing a lawsuit brought by the HSUS et al. on Friday, U.S. District Judge Christina Armijo opened the door for equine slaughterhouses to resume bloodletting in the U.S. (closed here since 2007). Plants in New Mexico and Missouri are at the ready. To many advocates, this is a crushing defeat. But as a practical matter, the court decision is neutral, neither good nor bad for horses.
A narrow focus on banning U.S. slaughter is misguided. It can’t even be argued that allowing it here will result in more deaths: In the last five years that American houses were operational, the average number of butchered American horses (both here and abroad) was 106,831/year. In the five years since (2008-2012), the average comes in at 132,593. Last year, 176,223 American horses were strung up and slashed on foreign (Canadian and Mexican, mostly) soil. Here or there, nothing changes unless both domestic slaughter and export-to-slaughter end. But what matters most – all that matters, really – is supply and demand.
On this site, we are mostly concerned with the racehorse part of the chain, which at roughly 19% (Thoroughbreds, that is) of the American slaughterbound is not insignificant. But equally in need of a voice are the tens of thousands of wild horses (who should be sterilized), spent beasts of burden (someone needs to tell the Amish that that era of equine servitude ended over a century ago), old trail horses, suddenly inconvenient backyard pets, and “retirees” from other “disciplines” who join racing’s refuse on the kill floor.
On demand, if people want something, business obliges. But if the supply is strained, the price will rise, perhaps discouraging at least some French and Japanese consumers. In the meantime, this is a reminder for horsemeat connoisseurs…
Slaughtering horses is neither necessary nor inevitable. From auction to dinner plate, it is simple commerce; it has nothing to do with humanely ending the lives of unwanted equines. The advocacy group Veterinarians for Equine Welfare says that slaughter is never an acceptable way to end the head-shy, flight-inclined horse’s life: “Rather than aiding horse welfare, as slaughter proponents contend, horse slaughter results in very tangible animal cruelty and suffering while engendering abuse and neglect.” USDA oversight (dubious as that is) or not, nothing can be done to sanitize slaughter. Nothing.