PATRICIA SMITH: Time to Act On Banning Horse Slaughter
There is a seldom-talked-about method to dispose of horses who have lost their value or outlived their usefulness to their owners or trainers: sell them to a "meat" dealer.
Sometimes owners sell horses at auction, unaware that the horse is being sold to a dealer who turns around and sells the horse to slaughter houses for human consumption in Europe and Asia. Sometimes owners will give horses away to individuals they think will care for them the rest of their lives only to find out that the persons could no longer afford the horses and therefore sold them for the going "meat" price.
Few horse owners -- and even fewer non-horse owners -- realize the extent to which horses are slaughtered for their flesh. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, over 100,000 horses were slaughtered in 2006 before slaughter houses were shut down in the United States. Although slaughter houses in the United States have been closed, horse slaughter remains legal in Canada and Mexico.
The most famous case of a horse ending up as horse meat was Ferdinand, winner of the 1986 Kentucky Derby and Horse of the Year in 1987.
Ferdinand, who earned a then-record of $609,500 in winnings, was retired to stud in 1988, but he was a dud as a stud. Ferdinand was eventually shipped to Japan for a last-ditch effort to stand at stud there. He was not successful in reproducing. In 1994, reports came out of Japan that Ferdinand was dead, apparently shipped to a Japanese slaughter house where he likely became pet food.
No equine is immune from ending up as horse meat as long as slaughter houses exist in Canada and Mexico. In some ways, it is even worse now because horses suffer during the long hours of transportation to slaughter, as well as during the slaughtering process.
There is currently a bill in the House of Representatives (H.R. 503) -- the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act -- and in the Senate (S.311). This legislation will ban the slaughter of horses and the export of horses for slaughter for human consumption.
HR 503 passed the House by a good majority, but was held up by Senator Conrad Burns in the Senate. It was not allowed to come before the Senate for a vote.
Now is the time to write your representatives and urge them to pass this bill.
Even a horse with Ferdinand's breeding and record is not immune to ending up as a steak served with a side of pommes frites (French fries) in a gourmet restaurant in Europe. The passage of the bill before Congress would ensure that no more American horses meet such a fate.
Patricia Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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