Just An Opinion

Since the May/June issue of Western Horse Review has been released, I’ve been asked several times to have my Editor’s Note reprinted on various websites and blogs. I appreciate the gesture, so I’m reprinting it here for sharing purposes. Feel free to link to it and if you haven’t already read Deanna Buschert’s excellent piece, Horse Meat Market, in the issue, be sure to pick it up – it’s on newsstands now. 

The heavy topic of horse processing, or slaughter, is multi-faceted, with many tangents. It bears down on breeders who play the odds producing what many consider is far too many foals. It lives in our sense of the majesty of a wild mustang and its symbolic freedom. It presents a major public relations threat to the sport of horse racing and all other horse activities. It dwells on humane issues such as neglected and unwanted horses, transportation and slaughterhouse facilities.

It speaks to each and every one of us to be responsible horse owners, buyers and breeders.

In the story Horse Meat Capital, we decided to focus on one aspect of the debate – the slaughterhouse. This piece was decided on after the emergence of disturbing video footage of horses in a Quebec slaughterhouse. I want to thank writer Deanna Buschert for putting herself “out there” with her firsthand account of her trip to Bouvry Exports. It was a brave move.

One more thought. We’ve been posting horse processing related articles now and again on our Facebook page and my blog. The debate in the comment sections on both venues is often heated and emotional. Something that became very clear to me from the beginning: activists are extremely well mobilized. Case in point: our Home Page web poll asked the question, “is the option of horse slaughter necessary for a strong, viable horse industry?” When I pulled it down a week or so ago there were nearly 7,000 votes on the poll, with over 80% on the NO side. I’d love to inform you our web polls always have that level of response, but that’s simply not the case. Generally they average 250-500 votes. Activists skewed this poll, and a close look at our analytics program confirmed it.

Another case: I ran a blog post about a talk show incident on National Public Radio, during which the pro-slaughter guest left the show mid-air, a press release later stating she was “ambushed” by the other guests – all anti-slaughter advocates. Within an hour there were several hundred comments on the post awaiting approval – all commenting against, and many bluntly attacking, the “ambushed” speaker.

Finally, just last week an e-mail hit my Inbox; the writer mentioned she was browsing our website and was about to post it, “to share with my several thousand followers and Facebook groups that relate to horses,” but thought she should check with me first to see what my “stance” is on horse slaughter, “since we try to network with and promote only those who are totally opposed to slaughter.” The writer was from Manhattan.

There’s a generous thought out there that everyone deserves an opinion. Lately, I’ve been questioning that.

If your name is Madeleine Pickens, and you’ve saved hundreds of wild horses and given them sanctuary on your land, with your effort and your money, you are a stakeholder and your opinion should be considered valid.

If you’ve never known the full flavor of horse ownership in a manner that is relative to both your heart and your financial being – yes, the magic moments, but also the hit in the gut of an unexpected bill; then you haven’t seen the difficult choices that sometimes need to be made.

If you haven’t experienced the sadness of observing an old or unsound horse in a pasture, clearly suffering weather elements and struggling with the business of staying alive as best it can, you don’t really know anything about horses.

If you run with an angry and emotional gut, without much of a track record of informed decision-making, perhaps you should step back from this one. For this dilemma needs a good measure of logic to comprehend.

If you are a wealthy celebrity with a few horses running on your “ranch” and you enjoy the satisfaction of stepping into a controversial limelight and speaking out against horse slaughter, perhaps you should open up your pastures to a few thousand of said horses. Then you’ll be a real stakeholder, and your opinion will deserve attention.

If you believe the overpopulation of domestic horses will just take care of themselves if processing is outlawed; or, that there are enough horse rescues and able people in the world to look after all of the unwanted stock; or, believe in fairy tales, then perhaps you need to do a bit more research.

I spend an hour every morning reading newspapers, blogs and social media outlets gathering information and leads for Western Horse Review, and I can report to you, there has nary been a day in the past year, that I haven’t read about a horse neglect, abandonment or starvation incidence harsh enough to turn my stomach. I have come to understand that while everyone else is entitled to an opinion, the decisions of horse processing ultimately, will need to be decided by the real stakeholders of the welfare of the horse and the horse industry.

Currently, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Comments

  1. I must take exception with your labeling of anyone who is anti-slaughter as not being “stakeholders” in the equine industry. Virtually EVERY anti-slaughter opponent I know has owned or currently owns one or more horses which is why they’re anti-slaughter.
    They cannot stand the thought of a beloved companion animal and working partner going through the horror of the slaughter pipeline.
    Anyone who abandons a horse is guilty of animal cruelty and should be prosecuted under applicable laws but to use slaughter as an acceptable means of “getting rid” of a problem is unacceptable to many, this writer included. If people have money for rent, gas etc. then they have the money to humanely euthanize a horse that they can no longer care for.
    And please, we prefer the term “animal welfare advocate” which is a more accurate description. Thank you.

  2. Thank you Thank you Thank you!!! You hit the nail right on the head with the last 4-5 paragraphs!!! I have said 100 times over that those in Hollywood need to step up to the plate and take all those horses in on their own dime, “ranch” and keep their uneducated mouths shut!!!!!!

  3. Ginny Smith says:

    I commend the writer for a very well written article, and I fully support the efforts that the owners and staff at the Fort Macleod plant put towards keeping the horses safe and treated respectfully. Nothing is ever 100% but I believe we are fortunate to have this plant here, and run with good standards and consideration. And yes, horse slaughter is a necessary part of the industry.

  4. Brian Marshall says:

    There are so many different ways to look at this debate. I truly understand each direction that someone comes from. It is sad that this situation existes. Why does t it exist??????? There would not be a place to slaughter horses if there was not a need. Why is there a need? Too many horses is the problem. So, if you love horses, don’t breed that mare and please geld that stallion that is not of quality that others would buy his produce. It costs alot of money and time to raise horses, so why not raise good ones that someone esle would pay good money for and would take care of them. As well, if you don’t know how to train, and I don’t mean that you think that you know, I mean really understand how to give these young horses a chance at life and can be useful, do not raise horses. You would not raise your child and not educate them so that they can take care of themselves, so why would you send a defenceless horse out into the world that is not properly prepared to do the things that would earn it a nice life. There is so much ignorance and so many big egos in the horse world. If you really care, stop raising horses that are of no quality and if you don’t know the difference, for sure stop.

  5. Norma McNeill says:

    Over 47 years of owning many horses. I still see the need of the slaughter house.
    It’s the breeders that, Oh we will make a few bucks. Not the story at all only a few
    make the grade. Sad to say that people are not acting in good fate for their animals.
    I have made choices but perfer to put the animal down. I cann’t deal with hauling
    in the freight liners as they get hurt. But real true is that we need this service.
    I have hual to Fort McLeod and taken mine and others. The people are very nice
    they reinsure the animal doesn’t not sufers. Just my opinion.

  6. Horses – fanticy versus fact – they are not all running free with flowing manes and tails and sleek coats! Some are thin, sick, manure matted, starving, hurting, injured, crippled, freezing, and no one is there to care.
    It is a tough question and needs to answered by those who are putting their money into it. Its fine to be against slaughter when it costs you nothing – if you are financially or physically contributing to the neglected, abused, starving unwanted horses then you can speak on the subject.
    Society has come to peace with the fact there are too many unwanted cats and dogs in spite of their best efforts, and we need to come to peace that there are too many unwanted horses. They have to go somewhere.
    We took 4 old horses staving to death from a very old man – he didn’t have money to feed them and he didn’t have money to put them down – so they just starved. These are the horses that the slaughter house saves from suffering, they are better dead than suffering.
    There is a place for slaughter, and it can reduce the suffering of many unwanted horses – BUT – I want to see any slaughter houses and the truckers really well regulated and inspected so there is no inherant cruelty in the process. The horses have to be protected.
    Somewhere there is middle ground, killing isn’t cruel especially if it ends an animals suffering, but the trip to dead has to be humane.
    An opinion :-)

  7. Denise Little says:

    Very, very well written article. And I really like your comments on the end. I have said the same thing, the people who are against the slaughter of horses, don’t know what they are saying.
    Horse processing plants are a very neccessary part of the horse industry. Maybe in the future they won’t be, but right now they are. There are no other options for alot of horses. I have seen horses “rescued” from the auctions that would have been alot better off to have gone to a processing plant and be put out of their misery. Foundered animals that will never get better that now hobble around pastures in pain, older toothless ones that are always skin and bones because they can’t get enough out of what they eat. Unfortunately, alot of the people who do “rescue” these animals don’t have enough money to take care of them to the extent that they need.
    People breeding for a cute little foal and not thinking or caring that they are promoting wrong conformations and undiserable temperments are very much to blame for the over abundance that we are seeing in the horse industry today. And this won’t change until people start taking responsiblity for their actions.
    The answer will have to come from caring people in the horse industry who see all aspects of the situation and come up with a solution.
    Thank you for your article.
    my opinion. :)

  8. When the humane societies and SPCA’s euthenize thousands upon thousands of dogs and cats per year? I have yet to understand how the topic of horse slaughter receives such a huge outcry of being unjust to the horses. I for one struggle to see any difference and yet I’ve never heard of picketing SPCA offices.

  9. As a breeder of horses and a person who sees both ends of the horse industry I would like to say thank you for this article!!! It is a pleasure to see an unbiased and not false representation of the horse industry! I deal with individuals on a daily basis who shouldn’t own a goldfish, much less a horse and yet they believe they are ‘saving’ animals. I truly believe that in order to have a say on the slaughter of horses, you better own more than the 5 head in your backyard – there are horses all over Alberta that are starved, neglected, have poor conformation and cannot function without aid.
    Horses aren’t pets . . .if we can eat pigs, sheep, cattle and rabbits then whats the big deal with horses? People need to open their eyes and understand that not all horses are the picture perfect animals we see in the movies.
    Thanks again for the article!
    ~just an opinion

  10. Lee Earnshaw says:

    Fairly well written editorial, but many points are left out, such as the Western stock horse overbreeding, the uneducated who believe just because a mare has a uterus it should be bred despite the obvious defects, and the fact that the majority of horses slaughtered have been exposed to medications like bute, dewormer, and nitrofurazone ointment that are all carcinogenic meds, which is why horse meat is not allowed in dog food in the USA…but some Americans are wanting to sell it to Europeans to eat. That is terroristic of Americans, and this is why even people in Manhattan are allowed an opinion…it is about pride in your country’s ethics and not about the almighty dollar. And anyone who thinks a slaughterhouse is going to buy starved/neglected underweight horses to end their misery needs an education. Kill buyers only buy the healthiest and heaviest, they love QH types and draft types, and too many breeders in USA are bastardizing and devaluing the horse industry by providing horses destined only for the plates of foreigners. Please, folks, get an education before forming an opinion–then, and only then, will it be worth anything.

  11. Shannon Burwash says:

    Yes, Hollywood…please stay out of this debate, in fact please stay out of most debates including politics, gay marriage etc. You are there to entertain us not try to force your opinion of the world on us because you are lucky enough to have an open window

    I am a stakeholder in the horse industry. I own, ride, breed and Love horses I believe that the human-end-of-life processing of horses is a needed and necessary facet of the world of horses. Not every horse is a Hickstead nor is every horse in a home that supplies adequate feed, farrier and veterinary needs. There are horses that are dangerous and there are horses that simply can’t be used. ….the anti-slaugher groups would have us believe the fairy tale that all should be rescued and can run wild and free….but I will guarantee….they won’t pay for it!

    The anti-slaughter groups are very well organized and I believe that…..their ultimate goal would have our right to own, ride and use horses taken away. We must stop being the silent majority or we will not have a choice!

  12. I unfortunely have seen abused and starved horses, people need to realize this is not a horse problem its a person problem. Right now all a person needs to do is call the meat buyer up and he will come to your property pick up the unwanted horse and leave you with a check. Easy right, and we still have people that starve them. Just think if people had to pay $500 – $1000 to get rid of their unwanted horse, the abuse would increase like it has in the states. The right thing isn’t always the easy, the bottom line is there will always be unwanted, injured and aged horses that must be disposed of. Yes we must make it humane and there is no reason it can’t be. What is done with the carcass afterwards is not important.

  13. Betty-Ann McPhedran says:

    I have had the pleasure of caring for horses since by 5th birthday and a lovely shetland pony came into my life. I am now 58 years old. I have never sent a horse to slaughter & I have often had the luxury of rescuing and keeping horses into their 30’s and unltimate demise. I have made the choice to live my life this way but I recognize that many people do not have the financial luxury & restraint to follow my route. I also recognize that many people are naive in their understanding of what commitment this route entails. I attended an excellent talk given by an American veterinarian on the horrible abuse and neglect that followed the closure of the slaughter houses in the USA. Athough my choice is not to send a horse to slaughter, I would prefer a horse’s misery be ended rather than enduring YEARS of neglect, starvation and/or abuse when that option is denied the “owner” of the animal. As ugly as it sounds, there is humanity in a quick death rather than long-term suffering. I can not adopt a thousand animals to save them so I do not fell I can not deny them a fate better than a long retched life.

  14. Just a comment on some of the ‘comments’ made here…..first of all regarding the horses that are STARVING, ABANDON, NEGLECTED, etc. in the U.S. Have you people forgot…..the “sending horse to slaughter” is still VERY much an option! Yes, people can still make a call, send a horse to auction…..?
    Having horse slaughter availbable does IN NO WAY mean there will be an end to ‘blatant abuse, neglect, emaciation, or abandonment.
    That is definitely a PEOPLE problem & laws should take care of that.
    Yes, there are horses that must be ‘put down’ for a number of reasons …. but not ONE horse deserves to take that road to a slaughter house!
    To say horse slaughter is ‘humane’ or ‘quick’ is also incorrect….I suggest you view the several video’s available taken at plants here in Canada.

  15. There are always two sides to a story…my problem with the article is that if you have a position on horse slaughter you should have the integrity to express it in ways other than “fluff” . An article that sounds like a stroll down the underground mall and how sad it is for the poor man running the slaughter house getting harassed hardly qualifies as a “journalistic” piece. I am against slaughter but I do understand that there is a need to handle horse overage.
    It really comes down to this for me – slaughter is NOT euthanasia. The brutality of the killing is not overemphasized. In the US it was closed down by USDA after complaints and that was a legally overseen process and it didn’t improve even with government scrutiny. I’ve seen the Canadian videos from several plants, is the author suggesting those are anomalies or planted videos? These are not old decrepit animals – in the US where the bidding is taking place-many of these could and WOULD be bought by adoption groups but are outbid by kill buyers. I have an issue with a sound young animal that could lead a healthy life but is worth more dead and profits going to a very small but powerful group. If the American Quarter Horse Assoc. and the race tracks had to post a bond for their animals…this indiscriminate breeding and “throw away” mentality would change.
    Ask yourself this – change this argument to dogs or cats and public outcry would be staggering. People who don’t own horses or been exposed to them view them as cattle and don’t understand that many if not most, are pets like dogs or cats. Just bigger and needier!
    I shuddered to think of the author speculating if her horse had gone thru slaughter…seemed pretty detached and added to my curiosity – did she witness any slaughter or simply walk the “neat” facility with “smiling staff”? Reminds me of a quote from Albert Schweitzer;
    “Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.”

  16. My two girls have lived with me for 16 years and mine will be the last face they see. Do I have a right to speak?

    I am against horse slaughter, because it punishes the victims of human use and abuse. I think that every horse should have a passport that MUST be transmitted each time it is sold, to the new owner. And every year, that passport holder must pay a fee for having that horse and when the time comes, that the horse needs to be put down, then a portion of that fee is used to humanely euthanize it and dispose of the body. That would result in two things: 1. Only the truly serious are going to own horses and 2. there will be an end to the stupidity of excuses as to why the horse(s) was/were neglected as in ‘I couldn’t afford to feed it, I couldn’t afford to humanely euthanize….’.

    And anyone who expects that his horse will be handled with care and consideration (because after all, he does love them) when he/she delivers them to the slaughterhouse is delusional. The whole process is filled with terrifying sights, sounds and smells. Your horse is so sensitive that at a show, it picks up on your fear and you actually think that some killer will be able to calm it’s fears after you walk away only proves how easy it is for all of us to think our way out of the horror of what we’ve just done which is turned our friend over to an assassin.

    Premarin producers, race horse owners, Quarter Horse breeders and backyard breeders and all the rest, you just want a way to get rid of your problem and your excess and you couch it in soft words speaking of not wanting poor horses to be neglected, yada, yada, yada. Your actions speak louder than words.

  17. Until such times as the activists or self professed animal welfare folks can come up with an economical and viable alternative to the horse slaughter that so abhorres them… then they might want to spend their time just making sure that already existing equine slaughterhouses and feedlots are humane and conditions for the horses are up to snuff. The US attempt at a horse slaughter ban should have been a big enough red light as to what happens when ill thought out legislation is passed without real and viable alternatives being in place… BEFORE the ban.

    Banning slaughter to appease folks genteel sensibilities, only served to send horses to substandard Mexican slaughterhouses and far worse conditions… or… many ended up languishing and starving in pastures and pens all over the country… it really didn’t work out so well… for the horses that is.

    Come up with the solution, put it into practice, make sure it works…THEN tell me about the problem and how you can make it stop.

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