Colorado’s Horses: In the Stable or on the Table?

Controversy rages with the slaughter of more than 31,000 unwanted horses this year. While Congress considers legal remedies, vets and livestock owners line up against animal rights activists.Colorado is no different from other states: our horses can end up on somebody’s menu in Japan or Europe.

Although the three-foreign owned slaughter houses which processed killer horses are probably closed for good in the U.S., that hasn’t stopped the transportation of horses across the Mexican and Canadian for meat production. Over 31,000 horses this year alone have been sent to Mexico where animals are killed by a knife wound to the neck. (Warning: linked resource has graphic photos and videos, viewer discretion advised.)

Congress has been urged to end the transfer of horses from the “stable to the table,” however there is still the problem of over thousands of unwanted domestic and captured wild horses.

Colorado’s congressional delegation will be considering legislation this fall about horse meat processing and exporting horses for slaughter. How will you want them to vote?

Horses have always been processed similarly to other livestock — sold and sent to packing plants for European cuisine (Americans have never caught on to horse meat) or rendered into pet and zoo food. Even in a downtrend era from 1990 to 1998, over a million horses were sent to U.S. slaughtering houses. During that time, pet food manufacturers quit using horse meat.

Nearly 90% of the animals sent to slaughter were not old or sick.

In 2004, Montana’s Sen. Burns passed an amendment that countered the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. Captured wild horses over 10 years old and considered unadoptable were going to be available for slaughter.

Since then, horse enthusiasts have put pressure on Congress to not only remove that amendment, but to protect all horses from any type of commercial slaughter, in or shipped out of the country.

The Human Society, advocating for countless of horse enthusiasts, has asked for the support of several bills pending in Congress:

The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (H.R. 503/S. 311), introduced in the U.S. House by Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), John Spratt (D-SC), Ed Whitfield (R-KY), and Nick Rahall (D-WV), and in the U.S. Senate by Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and John Ensign (R-NV.)

Also, H.R. 249 which would restore the prohibition on the commercial sale and slaughter of wild free-roaming horses and burros – Sponsors: Representative Nick Rahall (D-WV) and Representative Ed Whitfield (R-KY)  The bill now awaits consideration in the US Senate.

The three bills close the loophole to prevent the exportation of American horses to slaughter plants in foreign countries and ensures that horse slaughter is permanently banned in the United States. 

Critics to these bills have noted that unwanted or sick horses will be subjected to abandonment and abuse and that the proposed anti-slaughter bills will actually be more harmful.

From the American Veterinary Medical Association :

Dr. Mark Lutschaunig, director of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Governmental Relations Division, says that the AVMA, far from being pro-horse slaughter, opposes bills banning slaughter because there are no provisions to take care of the more than 100,000 horses that go unwanted annually in the United States.

Efforts by groups calling for an end to horse slaughter, such as the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), have led to the closure of the three remaining processing plants in the United States. Now, as the AVMA has repeatedly warned, horses are being abandoned in the United States or transported to Mexico where, without U.S. federal oversight and veterinary supervision, they are slaughtered inhumanely.

Agricultural groups are also against the bills saying that it would restrict their rights of livestock owners.

Many Americans consider horses like dogs and cats — killing horses for consumption by stun guns and knives are not acceptable ways of treating pets.

Horse advocates plan on a “national alert day” where supporters of H.R. 503/S. 311 are encouraged to contact their representatives. How will you want your Colorado delegation to vote?

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