Pets Or Livestock? A Moral Divide Over Horse Slaughter

| September 11, 2013 | 9 Comments
  • 9 Comments
Jamesport has the largest Amish community in Missouri, and horses pulling buggies often park alongside cars. Horse owners in the state are divided over whether to allow horses to be killed for meat in the U.S. Photo: Frank Morris for NPR

Jamesport has the largest Amish community in Missouri, and horses pulling buggies often park alongside cars. Horse owners in the state are divided over whether to allow horses to be killed for meat in the U.S. Photo: Frank Morris for NPR

Listen to the Story on All Things Considered :http://pd.npr.org/anon.npr-mp3/npr/atc/2013/09/20130911_atc_07.mp3?orgId=60&topicId=1132&ft=3&f=221371617|titles=Pets

Post by Frank Morris, KCUR at The Salt at NPR Food (9/11/13)

Few Americans eat horse meat, and many don’t like the idea of horses being slaughtered. But a handful of investors are struggling to restart a horse-slaughter industry in the U.S.

Thousands of American horses are already slaughtered for the European and Asian markets for horse meat each year in Mexico and Canada.

Proponents of reviving the U.S. slaughterhouses argue that they would be good for the horse business, and more humane than the current situation of shipping them across the borders. The issue cleaves horse owners into two camps: those that view horses as pets, and those who see them as livestock.

‘We Have Standards’

Cynthia MacPherson led efforts to kill two proposed horse slaughterhouses in southern Missouri. To her, it would be like slaughtering pets.

“If you said, ‘I’m going to open a puppy mill to breed dogs because people in China and people in France want to eat dog meat,’ I think there’d be a big public outcry. And that’s what we have here,” she says.

Public opposition has hounded horse slaughter since Congress funded inspections for it a couple of years ago. U.S. Humane Society President Wayne Pacelle argues that horses suffer more than other animals at slaughter. He also contends that the meat is dangerous, since horses can be treated with drugs not allowed in animals raised specifically for food.

“We have standards. We have values in society. You don’t just opportunistically harvest whatever animal is around,” Pacelle says.

Assets or Pets?

Sue Wallis, a Wyoming lawmaker with a dozen horses, says there are two “very different styles” of meat production going on. She says fattening up animals fast — and slaughtering them young — is the modern way to produce meat. Horse slaughter, she says, follows an older model.

“Chickens for eggs, lambs for wool, cows for milk, horses for work, and when their useful, productive life has passed, then you turn them into meat,” she says.

For Wallis, horses are livestock first and companions second — more assets than pets. And that’s common in rural areas.

In Jamesport, Mo., horse-drawn buggies park next to cars. Elmer Beechy, a wiry man sporting a faded black hat and a beard, runs a shop that sells horse equipment.

“I really love horses. But when they’re no good to me, what are you going to do with them? We don’t want to take ‘em out back and shoot ‘em,” he says. “They may just as well be slaughtered, and get some use out of them.”

Meat for horse eaters, money for horse owners.

Until they were shut down, domestic slaughterhouses provided a ready market for old, hobbled or unruly steeds. It made horses more valuable. Beechy says shutting it down has spurred a glut of unwanted and neglected animals.

“There’s a lot of horses out there in the pasture, hurting. Some of them linger three or four years, suffer every day. And the slaughter’s the best place for them,” he says.

Domestic slaughter, he means. The long hauls to slaughter plants in Canada and Mexico can brutalize the animals, and burn up the seller’s profit. So thousands of horses have just been abandoned on Indian reservations, cow pastures and public lands.

“People will just stop and open the trailer and turn ‘em out and drive off,” says Jim Smith, who maintains a wild horse refuge in the Missouri Ozarks. As far as he’s is concerned, the solution lies in opening what he calls “killer plants.”

In The Market

Dave Rains shows off his home-made “knock box,” a lightly padded steel cage built to confine a horse that’s about to be shot in the head. Necessary business, he says, but not work he’s looking forward to.

“It’s hard, but it’s a better end than a slow, painful death, and that’s what a lot of these horses are going through right now,” he says.

Rain’s finances are suffering, too. He built this plant on the corner of his farm near Jamesport to process naturally raised beef and pork. When big companies saturated that marketplace, he put in for a permit to butcher horses. He expected to be in business this time last year.

“I knew there’d be some opposition, but I never dreamed it would be at the level that it has been,” Rain says.

A lawsuit, backed by the Humane Society, now stands between Rains and a state permit. A plant in New Mexico is also embroiled in litigation.

Rains has picked up work driving a school bus to help make ends meet and keep his own saddle horses fed, while he waits to find out whether or not horses will once again be slaughtered in the U.S.

Copyright 2013 KCUR-FM.

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Food and Health-related stories from NPR including NPR Radio; NPR's food blog, "The Salt"; NPR's Health News blog, "Shots"; NPR's Breaking News blog "The Two-Way"; NPR's economy explainer "Planet Money"; food-related technology news from NPR's "All Tech Considered"; and food series "Kitchen Window."
  • Aussie Lover

    I find MacPherson’s logic twisted. She forgets to mention that millions of cats and dogs are euthanized in this country every year. Maybe we should send the meat to China. As usual AR’s fight with unfounded rhetoric, but offer no solutions. In the meantime rural animal shelters have stretched their pitifully thin budgets to include room for surrendered and seized horses, which they have to find the means to euthanize and dispose of thousands of pounds of carcass. The fact they are suffering is totally beside the point to AR’s. As far Parcelle. He has opinions about a lot of things. His solution is to end the pet trade in the World, cause he’s a global kind of guy. Of course he, his lawyers, his bought and paid for politicians, his mole at the USDA and the IRS are all well aware that HSUS gives less than 0.5% to animal shelters. The rest goes to destroy the animal industry in this country. We could spay, neuter, microchip every animal in the country with the over $120,000,000 donated to HSUS every year. Pick up the phone and call your local animal rescue and animal shelter and ask how much funding they get from the HSUS. Don’t take my word for it, take theirs. I think if MacPherson and Parcelle have such wonderful solutions they won’t mind the BLM leaving the over 70,000 horses in holding pens in their front yards. Now that’s really humane to round up horses and hold them until the day they die…..and HSUS doesn’t pay for that either, the US taxpayer does.

  • JanWindsong

    Mr. Rains never dreamed opposition to the slaughter of horses would be so great? That is odd since he had to have known over 80% of Americans (repeatedly over and over on every informal poll and on polls circulated by peititons on Facebook and every online newspaper) mader it clear they do not want Americna horses subjected to the threat of slaughter. Think abut it, if you know you can send an animal to slaughter, why wold you take care of it? Why protect your invested dollars? If you know you can send it to slaughter, you can use it up and like so many slaughter hounds have said, get the last little bit of hide money there is. Mr. Rains is a fool if he thought it would be easy. After all, when the richest man on earth, T Boone Pickens, took a stand against slaughter – how easy did he think it was going to be?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=595645948 Marybeth Kuznik

    Sorry Dave Rains, the vast majority of US horses ARE pets and companion animals. And they are routinely treated with medicines, grooming products, etc. clearly labeled NOT FOR USE IN ANIMALS INTENDED FOR FOOD. The horrific idea of butchering a companion because he is too old or no longer “useful” notwithstanding, is it moral to sell this tainted meat to unsuspecting human consumers?

  • savinghorses2

    This is NOT justified by saying its a moral divide, this is another pro-slaughter campaign ad to convince people its just emotional and we don’t know what we are fighting against. WELL folks the little Amish Emery is a Killer buyer so of course he loves to kill horses, its his livelihood, for an update of the latest story on The Federal Government closing DOWN killer buyers who have been having accidents and killing horses in Transport in the United States. Read about it on Straight from the Horses Heart Slaughter Horse Shipper Indicted on Federal Charges. Or good Dorian Ayache, who falsely used another name to ship and kill horses illegally and then used his girlfriends name to do illegally shipping, Three Angels Farm and Teri’s Farm. Sounds really animal friendly by the name right?Killed horses in route to their destination, the trailers broke in half and roll overs. So much for the regulations stopping these people they just get a new trucking name and then change their names, whatever it takes, then WE had Navajo Nation sending New MExico Rangers into people’s farms and stealing privately owned wanted cared for horses and killing them at slaughter without the owners knowledge. Governor of New Mexico Stopped it, if they have so many unwanted and sickly animals everywhere then why did they steal peoples animals? I am sure by now you have read the GAO report is a lie!

  • savinghorses2

    As for Sue Wallis, she is really losing her mind claiming that all people are just livestock owners and degrading people who raise horses for “pets” did you know that pet owned horses receive more financial gains? They are routinely vetted and groomed, I mean really, if you look at a pic of her on a horse, the animals not even groomed slightly. Horses that are owned for show, pet, trail, and many other purposes receive routine care that larger and more out of touch with reality farms don’t understand. They leave their animals to lose their training, and don’t routinely care for them and allow them to run free grazing and forget their basic needs. They are NOT cattle and yes they do require more care, and if there is NO room in the OLD WEST for responsible horse owners, then quit breeding them to overpopulate for slaughter. This is really serious as people like MR. Leachman who had so many horses over 700 he couldn’t take care of them properly and all Mrs. Wallis’s proposal does is condone the admitted improper health and welfare of the animals that she brags routinely is happening in her states. There are VERY responsible horse owners in every state and Mrs. Wallis and Mr. Rains and really waiting for THOSE peoples horses to kill, not the skinny sickly animals they claim. I am sorry for the rant but I am so very sick of the lies about why people cant care for their horses, maybe the word lazy should be in her vocabulary, because compassionate horse owners don’t want to slaughter and they are not lazy people, they are busy caring for their responsibilities.

  • savinghorses2

    Sorry folks but this article is in really poor taste, we just had the Anniversary of September 11 th and we really don’t need to have this choked down our throats about horses being emotional and moral issues only. You know we ARE emotional, WE ARE AMERICAN’s, we get emotional with 911, we get emotional about the things that take place in our country, we are emotional because OUR Constitution says that we have that RIGHT to be emotional, and I will DAM@ed If you will tell me WE DONT have the RIGHT to be emotional about horse slaughter and stopping it! My family members for 4 generations were military, I have current military and they are ALL against slaughter, they said we have to uphold the Constitution and protect OUR rights! WE have the right to protect our roads and highways from unsafe kill buyers trailers see down my next comments. WE have the right to protect animals from abuse of intentional abuse with slaughter by stopping slaughter. WE have the right to say NO more and we need to quit being irresponsible within our industry and QUIT making excuses. Sue Wallis makes excuses for everyone who participates in this industry of slaughter because of the payoff for her self. I am sick of hearing about how we don’t have the RIGHT to feel this way, and yes we can be regulated on what our property rights are much in the same way you are regulated on what you can throw away from your house, what you can recycle, whats best for our country! This article is sadly in poor taste, and it really doesn’t explain why pro-slaughter slaughter thinks being in the USA will stop the problems especially when kill buyers are getting Federally Indicted within the USA! They are in our borders and if you go back into the history of the killer buyer that was indicted you will read he has many horses 11 in one load rejected, so in the name of health and welfare of horses where did those horses go? What did he do with them? That’s where the morality issue is, Sue Wallis struggling with greed, killer buyers dumping horses that are rejected to die without food and water on their own, kill buyer trailers falling apart and burning horses alive, now that’s the morality issue here~!

  • problemsolver

    If not slaughter then what? I have heard no other logical solution to deal with hundreds of thousands of feral and unwanted.

  • dk

    problemsolver, you are making up numbers out of thin air. I do not appreciate you referring to our mustangs as “feral” horses. There is no such thing as an unwanted horse. Horses can be re-homed.

  • jandarfarm .

    Quite a bit of incorrect information in this article. Horses going for slaughter for human consumption are not old, neglected or injured animals. The average age is between 18 mos. and 9 years old. A large majority of them are Quarter horses, followed by thoroughbreds. Most have no physical or mental disorder in other words these
    are healthy, young, usable animals. Breed associations, the most vocal being the AQHA and The Jockey Club, support slaughter for one reason, MONEY. The more foals born and registered means more money for them. They actually see slaughter as a way for breeders to get rid of unsold stock, sort of like the year-end sales at car dealerships. You know, all most go to make room for the new models. Slaughter WILL NOT nor DID NOT keep horses from being neglected or abused. It is a FACT that owners brought before judges on charges of neglect will fight tooth and nail to get their animals BACK! Ask any one of them if they would have considered sending their horse to slaughter and they would say NO! Of course they will also say they loved(?) their horse. Just an after thought, horses were not protected from abuse and injury at the hands of kill buyers, haulers and plant employees when the plants operated in the US before what makes anyone think they will be protected now?