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.