Some months ago, I wrote about a horse named Jakar, once destined for slaughter, rescued by an animal advocate, and eventually taken on by the Cleveland Police Department for law enforcement duties. Jakar, along with other members of Cleveland’s mounted police force contingent, marched in the 2017 inauguration parade in a classic rags to riches story.
The turnaround in Jakar’s fortunes is on my mind as Congressional lawmakers again focus their attention on the perennial debate over the slaughter of horses for human consumption. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees are likely to take up the issue soon, and by all accounts, it’s going to be a very competitive vote, with the horse slaughter industry and agribusiness interests jockeying for the right to turn horses into mincemeat. Despite the false claims from the proponents of horse slaughter, Jakar’s story reminds us that so many horses bound for slaughter are not old or infirm or otherwise unfit. Most of them are perfectly healthy, but just unlucky enough to have found their way into the clutches of predatory people who sell them off into the slaughter pipeline.
We don’t round up dogs and cats for slaughter, and it should be unthinkable to do that to a species that helped us settle the nation. Our humane position is grounded on the notion that people who own horses should act responsibly and provide lifetime care or transfer horses to someone who can. It’s a remarkable betrayal for people to enjoy and benefit from the physical and behavioral attributes of horses and then sell them off to a kill buyer when they’re done with them.
Kill buyers and other key players in the horse slaughter industry trot out the notion that they are somehow “helping” horses by routing them to slaughter, but there is nothing noble about their commerce. Horses are dragged and whipped into trucks and endure long journeys without food, water, or rest. Many die or sustain injuries during transport, including broken legs and punctured eyes. The idea of providing veterinary care to an animal about to be slaughtered is unthinkable to these profiteers.
Earlier this year, and last year as well, President Obama and a bipartisan majority of lawmakers fended off the reopening of horse slaughter plants in the United States—after we helped shutter the last three plants a decade ago. But the fight over the fate of horses in the Fiscal Year 2018 budget looms, and the past votes are not predictors of what will happen in the coming weeks.
Earlier this year, we released results from the Remington Research Group, a Kansas-City-based polling firm, that revealed that the people of Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma strongly oppose horse slaughter. In fact, the people of every Congressional district in these states favor keeping the horse slaughter plants shuttered. If we are winning the hearts and minds of people in these states, you can be sure that people throughout the rest of the country are with us too.
No one disputes that there are some homeless horses. But unlike the horse slaughter crowd that treats homelessness as an economic opportunity rather than a moral responsibility, we’re pitching in to help. With the other members of the Homes for Horses Coalition, The HSUS works to actively promote the welfare and protection of horses and other equines. We provide care and homes to horses in need, advance the highest operating standards for equine rescue and retirement homes, and promote responsible horse ownership. We assist in training thousands of horses to be rehomed at equine rescues through our Forever Foundation training program. The HSUS and its affiliates directly care for nearly 800 horses at several of our animal-care facilities. To help reduce overbreeding, The HSUS formed the Responsible Horse Breeders Council, comprised of horse breeders who work to decrease the number of surplus horses bred in the United States. More than 1,200 breeders have signed our Responsible Horse Breeder’s Pledge to help protect horses from neglect, starvation, and slaughter, by reducing the number of surplus horses in the United States.
It would be a remarkable step backward to reopen horse slaughter plants in the United States. What’s needed, and what Reps. Vern Buchanan, R-Fl., Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., Ed Royce, R-Calif., and Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M. are pushing, via the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, H.R.113, is a complete ban on the slaughter of American horses, including live exports to Canada and Mexico for slaughter. Only then will we offer proper thanks to animals who’ve helped our nation in ways that we cannot even properly measure. Please contact your U.S. Senators and Representatives and urge them to ban all horse slaughter.