Horses face uncertain future, some call for slaughterhouses
Hard Times for a Western Icon
ELMO, MT – A perfect storm has risen over horse country.
Prices are plummeting in an oversaturated equine market, people are neglecting or abandoning their horses at a higher rate and more ranchers are trading in four legs for four wheels. Hay prices are through the roof and the economy is hurting. And in Montana, a final frontier of the American West, there is no consensus on what to do.Some horse folks are waiting to see if the economy turns around. Others believe it’s time to bring back horse slaughterhouses – the last one in the United States closed in 2007. Their critics say no way. Many just don’t know what the answer is.
Scott Beckstead, equine protection specialist for the Humane Society of the United States, stresses that horse owners have options if they fall on hard times. Beckstead encourages owners to seek out rescue and animal care organizations before resorting to abandoning or selling their horse at a discount at an auction where it may then be transported out of the U.S. for slaughter. Beckstead’s organization is adamantly against re-opening slaughterhouses in the U.S., as is Bunyea.
Bunyea calls it “cruel and unusual punishment” and says the horses “know they’re being led to death.”“I have an old (horse) – I could never put him on a train and say see you,” Bunyea said. “That’s as heartless as you can get.”
But the idea of re-opening domestic slaughterhouses has plenty of supporters, including Jann Parker, who co-manages the Billings Livestock Commission Horse Sales. Parker said her monthly Billings sale is the biggest horse sale in the nation.
Parker downplays the effect of the economy on the horse industry’s struggles. Instead, she said the main culprit is the lack of slaughterhouses. While top-end horses are still selling, she said not having domestic processing plants “has wiped out the bottom of the horse market.” Parker said cultures across the world eat horse meat – the demand is there and the rest, she said, is “high school economics.”
“Nothing that you want to think or you want to do is going to change the fact that somewhere out there in this big wide world there is a demand for horse meat – people are going to eat it,” she said. “And we have a supply.” Read More
We hear all kinds of excuses from the anti-ag people as to why we shouldn’t have a processing option for horses. Mostly they try to avoid the fact that their careless policies are negatively affecting horses and the people that are trying to raise them. In order for this segment of the livestock industry to ever work properly again, their will need to be horse processing facilities operating in this country. They can be shipped out of the country now, but the cost of doing so makes it prohibitive for many. In addition to this, these misguided efforts are now forcing extremely long transportation times and we no longer have the ability to regulate how those horses are treated after they leave our country. It’s too bad that these so-called horse advocates are celebrating these “victories” and pushing for even more regulations that will only magnify these problems.