Children Nationwide Band Together to Stop the Horse-Eaters
Members of Centaurs 4-H Club of Hunterdon County are participating in the Million Horse March, a children’s letter-writing campaign regarding the slaughter of horses for human consumption.
“I told them the pros and cons of slaughtering horses and let them draw their own conclusions,” said club leader Lillian Shupe, “They all agreed to write letters opposing the practice. I was impressed with their ability to understand the issues and how well thought out their letters were.”
There is legislation pending in Congress that would prohibit horses from being slaughtered for human consumption or being shipped to Canada and Mexico for that purpose. Similar legislation has failed over the last decade. There is also a bill in New Jersey that was introduced in January that would ban horse slaughter. The bill is still in committee.
The letters will be delivered to Washington, D.C., along with letters from other children across the country.
A similar campaign 40 years ago resulted in the passage of the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burros Act that was passed on a unanimous vote in both houses. Jo-Claire Corcoran of the Equine Welfare Alliance’s Research Team, which is sponsoring the current campaign, said, “As Wild Horse Annie proved in 1971 Congress listened to the children of this country. Sometimes we do not give our children credit for their ability to comprehend. Children growing up on farms which raise animals for food are aware those animals are going to slaughter to become food, they understand those animals were raised for that purpose.” She added, “My grandson understands the difference between animals raised for food and animals that are not raised for food.”
Slaughterhouses in the United States have been closed for five years because federal funding for the required inspectors was removed. Last fall, however, that language was removed during a subcommittee without a full House and Senate debate.
Although funding has potentially been restored, the country’s three slaughterhouses are still closed under state and local laws. One organization is pushing to build new plants in other states without such prohibitions. Their efforts have been met with much opposition.
The group seeking to build new slaughterhouses also opposes the children’s letter-writing campaign.
“This is a civics lesson for children of all ages,” said the Equine Welfare Alliance’s John Holland. “Our governments, both the United States of America and Canada, provide the right for their citizens to petition their government to bring about positive change when something is wrong. Children need to know that as citizens in these countries, they have the right to have a voice and a right to be heard.”
“Horse slaughter is a hot button issue in the horse industry,” said Shupe, who is also editor of Horse News, a monthly publication for area equestrians.
“For a long time I held the belief that is was a necessary evil, it was a good way to dispose of unwanted horses. I doubt if horses care what happens to their bodies after they are dead. However, I believe the process must be humane and after years of research on the topic I have come to the conclusion that it is not. It is not just what happens at the slaughterhouse but during the long trip to the slaughterhouse.”
Before state law shut them down there were two slaughterhouses in Texas and one in Illinois. Since they closed, horses have been shipped to Mexico and Canada.
“Horses in New Jersey typically shipped to Canada even when the slaughterhouses were open in Texas, since the Canadian plant is closer,” Shupe said.
Shupe said there are other issues that would need to be addressed if horse slaughter is allowed to continue. They include requiring auctions that sell to meat buyers to verify identification of the people selling horses; verifying that they have the right to sell that horse and having a system to check for stolen horses.
“It would be very easy for someone to put my retired mare on a trailer and sell her to the slaughterhouse,” Shupe said, “One of my club’s alumni gave a horse away with the stipulation that when the man no longer wanted the horse, he would bring him back. A few weeks later the horse showed up at an auction in Cranbury. A rescue group purchased him, otherwise he could have gone to slaughter.”
If the slaughter industry insisted on better accountability and more humane shipping requirements, the business would not be economically viable, Shupe said.
Meanwhile, to learn more about the letter writing campaign visit equinewelfarealliance.org.
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