editorial by Nicole Paquette, Special to the Star-Telegram
80% of Texans Oppose Horse Slaughter Returning to Lone Star State
When it comes to the issue of horse slaughter, the Star-Telegram’s Monday editorial got one thing right: The American people, and Texans in particular, love their horses — but because they are trusted companions, not dinner.
American horse lovers, breeders and owners shudder at the thought of any horse of theirs ending up as a high-priced appetizer in Belgium or Japan.
The facts surrounding horse slaughter make it clear why Americans find it to be such a despicable end for horses. The process is brutal and innately inhumane. Inside the bloody, panic-stricken environment of a slaughterhouse, horses endure torture during often-repeated attempts to render them unconscious.
The USDA documented horrendous cruelty at the foreign-owned plants in Texas prior to their closure, despite the presence of federal inspectors. There’s no reason to believe it won’t be the same if plants reopen here.
The horse slaughter industry was never good for the economy — it was good for the profiteers, and no one else. The foreign-owned horse slaughter plants that operated in Texas until 2007 caused nothing but controversy and problems. They employed no more than a few dozen people in low-paying, highly dangerous jobs. Profits didn’t benefit local economies, but were instead pocketed overseas by foreign corporations. The communities that hosted the plants were constantly beset by pollution and the unending stench of rotten blood and offal. In their quest to improve their profit margin, these foreign-owned businesses did everything they could to avoid paying their property taxes and the fines levied against them for their environmental violations.
The negative image created by these operations caused other businesses to look elsewhere for a place to set up shop.
All of these unpleasant factors led Paula Bacon, former mayor of Kaufman (where one of the plants was located), to say, “As a community leader where we are directly impacted by the horse slaughter industry, I can assure you the economic development return to our community is negative. The foreign-owned companies profit at our expense — it is time for them to go.”
Slaughtering horses at plants in Texas never prevented the illegal acts of horse neglect and abandonment, nor has their export to plants across our borders. In the midst of today’s difficult economic times, neglect and abandonment continue, though the same number of our horses are still being slaughtered. There’s no single fix to the problem of homeless or neglected horses, just like there is no single fix to the pet overpopulation problem. These challenges can be solved only with a blend of wise policy solutions, rescue and sanctuary work and a large dose of personal responsibility.
For its part, the American Quarter Horse Association should stop equating the horror of the slaughter plant with “humane euthanasia.” There is nothing peaceful or dignified about hauling a horse thousands of miles in terrible conditions to a harrowing death in the kill box. The horse industry should discourage the overbreeding of America’s horses and relying on the cruel and predatory killer buyers to snatch up the excess. Reducing the supply of horses and focusing on improved quality are the best and most sustainable ways to give the equine industry the boost it needs.
Opinion polls are clear: The vast majority (more than 70 percent) of Americans and nearly 80 percent of Texans oppose the slaughter of horses. It is absurd to consider repealing a law that has been on the books since 1949 and has continuously been upheld in the Texas Legislature and in the courts. The majority of Texans have spoken, and it is high time we listen.
Horses are members of the family, trusted companions and partners in recreation and sport. Those few but noisy individuals clamoring for slaughter should find other ways to “help” horses, if that is their aim. Let’s start by finally banning horse slaughter all across the country, by passing the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (S.1176/H.R. 2966).
Nicole G. Paquette of Austin is the Texas senior state director of the Humane Society of the United States.
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