In November, federal lawmakers gave the racing industry a unique opportunity to step into the national spotlight and settle the score on where it stands in relation to the welfare of horses with the passage of HB 2112. The bill, which declined to defund USDA inspections at plants that process horsemeat for human consumption, effectively opened the door for slaughterhouses to resume operations in the United States. And, as the pro-slaughter advocates began championing the economic advantages of horse slaughter in the national media, one key group fell silent – the racing industry.
Rather than seeing any major racing industry figure or association condemn the slaughter of horses and promote the idea of exploring no-kill solutions to overpopulation and welfare-related concerns, I saw a different character representing “horsemen” in the media. It was Wyoming State Rep. Sue Wallis, who also serves as Vice-President of United Horsemen, a pro-slaughter group that is working to open horse meat processing plants in the United States.
As the racing industry stood silent, Wallis took the national media spotlight, referring to horse meat as “tasty,” while the less-than “tasty” issue of phenylbutazone (“Bute”) contamination in racehorse meat was swept under the rug. And, when bute contamination is ignored to promote the tasteless agenda of pro-slaughter advocates, a dangerous toxin enters the food chain that can go undetected and cause serious health consequences to human beings, including the development of aplastic anemia in children who probably did not request for a racehorse for dinner.
But, then again, we can overlook the dangers to children and overall food safety, right? Cross out anemic children and slaughtered racehorses as problems to fuss over in the future. The slaughter business is about money, not morality.
Yet, for some horse lovers, slaughter is more than a money-making business in the equine world. There are good-intentioned horse people that believe that overpopulation has made slaughter a necessary evil to ensure the welfare of horses in North America. I don’t fault them for considering it from a welfare standpoint. However, in my view, the focus should shift to providing a humane lifestyle rather than a humane death. Because, simply put, slaughter simply perpetuates more slaughter when the population of unwanted horses dwindles during the death march. And, as sad as it may seem, when the slaughterhouses lose the unwanted horse population, they don’t simply shut their doors. They begin breeding horses for the sole purpose of slaughter.
In Canada, the Alberta Equine Welfare Group commissioned a Report in 2008 on horse slaughter in their country. In that Report, it describes the “feedlots” where the horses designated for slaughter are held. As the Report states, “These horses are purpose-bred and strictly raised for meat production. They have never been someone’s riding pony, sport animal or draft horse.” And, as the Report boasts, this is no small population. According to the Report, 1/3 of the horses slaughtered at the Alberta plant were “purpose-raised” for slaughter. They were never unwanted. Rather, they bred for the killing.
But, then again, the major players in racing didn’t get on CNN and show a concern to help provide funding to improve the quality of life for the existing unwanted equine population in North America as a counter-approach to slaughter. Nor did they point out that slaughterhouses breed for slaughter when they are done extinguishing the “unwanted” population. However, they should have done it. Because, mainstream media would have finally broadcast the long-overdue message that most people in racing love horses, they are concerned for the welfare of the horses and they would travel to the end of the earth to provide the best care for them.
Yes, travel to the end of the earth and you will find that roughly 138,000 horses were shipped for slaughter last year from the United States. And, if you travel into Sue Wallis’ world, she estimates that between 120,000 to 200,000 horses would be killed for human consumption on an annual basis if slaughterhouses resume operations in this country. Then, travel beyond the idea that slaughter is a necessary evil to ensure the welfare of horses.
The horse racing industry is a multi-billion dollar industry that should spearhead the campaign to raise funding to provide safe homes for unwanted horses so that slaughter in our country is a sad practice that we regret ever existed. This is an industry that offers millions of dollars in purse money on an annual basis, while wealthy buyers spend millions at prestigious sales in hopes of finding that “one” horse. And, as for the gambling aspect, 100 million dollars is bet on Kentucky Derby day alone. Yes, there is plenty of money that filters through this sport. But somehow, the industry is penniless when it comes to saving horses from slaughter.
So, here we are. With slaughter in the national spotlight, the racing industry can begin to speak out against slaughter, promote funding initiatives to care for the existing unwanted horses and create a plan to provide continuous and realistic funding to rescues in the long-term to prevent, if not eliminate, the potential for any future slaughter on U.S. soil. And, instead, the racing industry is letting Sue Wallis serve as the media spokesperson for “horse people.”
As the pro-slaughter media spokesperson for “horse people” Wallis has assured the media that “everyone in the horse world is so excited [that] we might have the opportunity to turn the whole equine market around.” Everyone of her slaughterhouse investors, that is. Yet, in failing to counter Wallis’ remarks in the national media, everyone in the “horse racing world” has been painted as being a part of her pro-slaughter supporters in the national spotlight.
What would the “horse world” look like in mainstream media if prominent trainers, high-profile owners and celebrity jockeys publicly opposed slaughter and called for the passage of the Horse Slaughter Prevention Act?
What if our industry began to brainstorm long-term funding initiatives to ensure the humane treatment of “unwanted” horses throughout their natural lives?
And, what kind of money could be raised to provide for “unwanted” horses this year if we cancelled the races for one single day at every track in this nation and donated the scheduled purse money toward rescue efforts?
I’m certain the racehorses wouldn’t mind a day without racing. I’m sure the rest of us could live without it just fine as well. Because, in the end, a few more horses would live because of that day. And, that’s a big start in the race to prevent slaughter in this country.
To sign the Petition to End Slaughter for the White House, please click this link. If you would like to call the White House to voice your opposition to horse slaughter, you can reach their comment line at 202.456.1111.