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Sunday, 19 August 2018

Maine and Horse Slaughter
Written by Robert Fisk   
Friday, 22 February 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.


Please support: 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

Download Talking Points for L.D. 1286

Read the Bill text
for L.D. 1286

Write or email members of the Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Conservation in support of L.D. 1286:


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