Groups push to slaughter horses for meat, possibly starting in Oregon
by Richard Cockle, The Oregonian
Saturday July 18, 2009, 3:00 PM
Ranchers, Native Americans and others are pushing for the renewed slaughter of horses in the U.S. -- possibly starting in Oregon -- and processing them into meat.
Groups are lobbying Congress to introduce a bill this summer to allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture to resume inspecting horse meat for human consumption. That would reopen the door to foreign exports.
In addition, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs are considering building a slaughter and processing facility -- possibly for pet food -- on their reservation north of Madras, as recommended last spring by a coalition of Northwest tribes.
The success of either proposal is far from certain. A congressional spokesman said bills that favor slaughtering horses face a chilly reception, and a tribal spokesman said it's too early to say much about the Warm Springs idea.
Yet the efforts, in addition to riling animal-rights advocates, underscore a rural-urban divide and the desperate state of America's horse industry.
Supporters say they need a way to deal with tens of thousands of unwanted horses. The glut was caused by factors such as uncontrolled breeding, closure of the last U.S. horse-processing plants two years ago and an economy that has left many owners unable to pay for feed and care.
The situation has led to a steep decline in horse prices, overgrazing on Native American reservations, and incidents of horse abandonment and neglect, among other problems.
"We think it is very fair and accurate to say there are probably 100,000 horses that would go to processing today" if a plant were available, said Wyoming state Rep. Sue Wallis, a rancher emerging as a national leader in pushing to reinstate horse slaughtering.
Jenny Edwards, who runs the nonprofit Hope for Horses rescue outfit in Woodinville, Wash., dislikes slaughtering but says something must be done. "Everybody who has open land is getting horses dumped on it right now," she said.
Native Americans say herds of horses are trampling berries and roots -- an important part of Native feasts -- and damaging habitat for salmon and steelhead. An estimated 4,000 ownerless horses roam the 640,000-acre Warm Springs Reservation, for example, and 12,000 live on the 1.4 million-acre Yakama Reservation in Washington, said Arlen Washines, Yakama tribal spokesman, at a meeting of tribes in May. The problem remains even though both tribes corral and sterilize wild stallions.
Reports of abandoned, starving horses are increasing. Glenn tells of a Wyoming rancher he spoke with "who just acquired seven horses he didn't buy and didn't know he had until he went out and counted his horses." Malheur County Sheriff Andrew Bentz said a horse found abandoned in Nevada had its brand cut off so it couldn't be traced. Read More
This article contains a lot of good information in it as to the scope of this issue. There are an incredible amount of unwanted horses that are causing a lot of devastation to the land and costing land owners and taxpayers untold amounts of money. If the feral horse population continues to grow unchecked, disease or starvation will eventually correct the situation. There is no reason we shouldn’t be utilizing this resource rather than wasting it. We should be doing this in a US based plant.