Maine and Horse Slaughter

MFOA lead a four year campaign through two legislatures to ban horse slaughter in Maine, but more importantly, banning the transportation of horses to slaughter plants in Quebec. The bill also exposed the Maine harness racing industry is an outdated, cruel, and dieing industry that is a major factor in increasing horse slaughter.  The legislation passed in the House, but died in Senate Conference Committee. 

 

by Robert Fisk, Jr.,  February 22, 2013

For millenniums, the horse has changed mankind - the ways in which we travel, trade, play, work and fight wars have been profoundly shaped by our relationship with horses. By carrying people, goods, and ideas between civilizations, horses have changed and created history. The relationship between man and horse is unique. Unfortunately, their unparalleled stature and legacy cannot save them from the ultimate disrespect and cruelty of a slaughterhouse. Each year, approximately 1,500 horses are shipped from or through Maine to two slaughterhouses in Québec for human consumption in parts of Europe and Asia. 

Domestic horse slaughter plants have been illegal in America since 2007 because the USDA did not have the resources to oversee inspections. Sadly, that ban was lifted a year ago, resulting in nation-wide concern that these facilities may re-open. MFOA is proposing legislation that not only bans the transport of horses from and through Maine to Canadian slaughter plants, but also prevents the establishment of these facilities in Maine.

Previous US horse slaughter facilities were foreign-owned with profits going overseas and a significant history of failure to pay taxes, hundreds of USDA violations, and thousands of dollars in unpaid environmental violations/fines.

Community administrators and local residents actively petitioned to shut a Kaufman, TX plant down, citing the extreme disregard for the welfare of the people and locale where it existed. In addition to environmental issues, municipality impact includes an increase in illegal workers, offensive odors, property devaluation, increased crime (including horse theft), strains on local infrastructures, and extensive legal fees. The plant in Kaufman was closed in 2007, but six years later the community is still trying to recover from the damage done by the horse slaughter plant located there.

US horse slaughter plants have a well-documented history of negative environmental impacts and chronic inability to comply with local laws pertaining to waste management and air/water quality, resulting in hundreds of violations and fines. During 2004-2005, one plant in Texas incurred 481 EPA violations.

The meat of American pleasure and race horses may be too toxic to eat. Our horses are routinely administered required vaccinations, as well as medications to treat a variety of bacterial/viral/parasitic infections. Show and race horses are often given anti-anxiety and anti-inflammation medications, notably phenylbutazone, which poses potentially serious risks to human consumers. US horse racing is an industry still mired in a culture of drugs and inadequate regulation, with a fatal breakdown rate that remains far worse than most of the world. Since profit, not animal welfare, is the priority, horses are drugged to enhance performance or allow the racing of an injured horse. If tainted meat were traced back to Maine, the financial cost and that of our reputation for quality products, such as blueberries, lobsters and potatoes, could be significant.

In its October 2010 audit of the slaughter horse transport program, the Office of Inspector General cited wide-spread, flagrant abuse of horses and lack of enforcement. Previous plants under USDA inspection had rampant cruelty violations, detailed in government documents. A recent Forbes article reveals routine suffering in a state-of-the-art horse slaughter plant in Canada.

Every aspect of slaughter is inhumane, from treatment at the auction, during transport, at feedlots and holding pens at the plants, to the final cruel act. The Board of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association voted unanimously to support a ban on the slaughter of thoroughbreds, strongly opposing horse slaughter and labeling it “unconscionable,” “gruesome,” and “barbaric.” Horses are sensitive, sentient, intelligent animals for which long-distance transport and the slaughter process are hugely distressing. Many horses are still conscious when they are shackled and hoisted by a rear leg to have their throats cut.

Many argue that “humane slaughter” is preferable to a horse slowly dying of neglect and abuse, or lack of food and proper shelter. “Humane slaughter” is the ultimate oxymoron as there is nothing remotely humane about the process of slaughtering a horse. Anyone leaving horses in neglect are subject to animal cruelty laws and should be reported to authorities.

The American Veterinary Medical Association defines the horse as a “companion animal,” along with dogs and cats; many consider horses companion animals and find their slaughter ethically intolerable. They have not been bred in this country for food consumption as farm animals have. Today, horses are utilized for service, recreation and competition in the US and are defined as non-food producing animals by the Food & Drug Administration.

Alternatives to slaughter include: 1) supporting new and existing horse rescue facilities; 2) retraining and placing unwanted horses; 3) reducing over breeding; 4) approaching secondary horse industries to assist financially; 5) increasing public education regarding horse ownership; 6) developing and maintaining resources to assist horse owners with feed and veterinarian care; and 7) humane euthanasia.

If all channels are exhausted for saving and re-homing a horse, then ‘humane euthanasia’ should be the end result, certainly a better option than a death fraught with terror, pain and needless suffering. To that end, MFOA has previously proposed centrally located euthanasia clinics for horses, as well as composting sites for the carcasses to help decrease the cost of putting one’s horse down. The expense for humane equine euthanasia and disposal is typically equal to one or two months’ worth of its care - an expense that should be part of responsible horse ownership.

Opposition rhetoric is often, “If these animal-rights advocates pass anti-slaughter legislation for horses, then the next will be cows, chickens and pigs.” It is a diversionary and false argument to classify this legislation as a conspiracy against all farm animals. This is about one issue and one issue only: the slaughter of horses for human consumption, which 80% of the American public opposes. Those 80% include former Maine Senator Olympia Snowe and Senator Susan Collins, who continue to be leaders in the national legislation against horse slaughter.

Horse slaughter is bad for the environment, bad for human health, bad for communities, bad for workers, and certainly bad for the horses. No animal that has served mankind so long, so well, so nobly, and in so many capacities, deserves such a fate. It is time to end Maine’s complicity in the practice of slaughtering horses.

 

     L.D 1286 “An Act to Protect Maine Communities by Prohibiting Horse Slaughter in Maine for Human Consumption and the Transport of Horses for Slaughter”

FACT SHEET

  • Maine ships approximately 1,500 horses, perhaps more, from and through Maine each year to two slaughter houses in Quebec. With federal inspection funds available, a horse slaughter plant could now be located in Maine. 

  • Previous US horse slaughter plants closed in 2007; all were foreign-owned with profits going overseas, with significant documented history of failure to pay taxes, hundreds of USDA violations, and thousands of dollars in unpaid environmental fines.
  • The detrimental socioenvironmental impact of communities which have harbored horse slaughter facilities negatively affects property value, crime rate, infrastructure, and community/business development. 

  • Workers held low paying, dangerous, high stress jobs in environments that incurred numerous violations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). 

  • Over 80% of Americans are against horse slaughter, including former US Senator Olympia Snowe and Senator Collins, who strongly support similar national legislation. 

  • Every aspect of the process, from treatment at the auction, during transportation, at feedlots, and the slaughter plants – everything up to and including death – is inhumane. Horses are sensitive, sentient, intelligent animals for which long-distance transport and the slaughter process can be hugely distressing. Many horses are still conscious when they are shackled and hoisted by a rear leg to have their throats cut.

  • The American Veterinary Medical Association defines the horse as a “companion animal,” along with dogs and cats. They have not been bred in this country for food consumption as farm animals have. Horse slaughter should not be a part of our culture. LD 1286 does NOT remove horses from being classified as livestock or change any Department of Agriculture dictate. 

  • Studies have shown that the meat of American pleasure and race horses is often too toxic to eat safely because the horses have been administered a variety of drugs to enhance their performance. These drugs range from pain killers to anti-inflammatory medications, notably phenylbutazone, which is routinely used and poses a potentially serious risk to the health of human consumers. Tainted horse meat and horse meat added to other meats has created numerous recent scandals in Europe. 

  • The State of Maine promotes its quality native and organic products such as blueberries, potatoes, lobster and other seafood, through a rigorous Quality Assurance Program. Tainted horse meat from Maine could have a significant financial impact on our reputation for high quality, safe food products.

  • Slaughter is NOT preferable to a horse left in abuse and neglect. Nothing is more cruel then the entire process of slaughtering a horse. Anyone leaving horses in neglect is subject to animal welfare laws and should be reported to the authorities. The expense for humane equine euthanasia and disposable is typically equal to one or two months’ worth of its care and is an expense that should be part of responsible horse ownership. 

  • Alternatives to slaughter include: 1) supporting new and existing horse rescue facilities; 2) retraining and placing unwanted horses; 3) reducing over-breeding; 4) approaching secondary horse industries to assist financially; 5) increasing public education regarding horse ownership; 6) developing and maintaining resources to assist horse owners with feed and veterinarian care; and 7) humane euthanasia. 

  • Opposition rhetoric is often, “If these animal-rights advocates pass anti-slaughter legislation for horses, then the next will be cows, chickens and pigs.” This is about one issue and one issue only: the slaughter of horses for human consumption, which the majority of the American public (New England included) opposes.

  • Horse slaughter is bad for communities, bad for human health, bad for workers, bad for the environment and certainly bad for the horses. 

No animal that has served mankind so long, so well, so nobly, and in so many capacities, deserves such a fate. It is time to end Maine’s complicity in the practice of slaughtering horses.

 

Maine Friends of Animals, 190 US Route 1, Falmouth, ME 04105

 

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