Saturday, May 31, 2008

Even though I saw it coming...

It's worse than I imagined. The tragic fallout from closing horse slaughter plants and the collision with feed costs and the housing crisis is becoming a big problem.
The global food and fuel crisis is resulting in more than just people going hungry. Rising grain and gas prices, as well as the closure of American slaughterhouses, have contributed to a virtual stampede of horses being abandoned — some starving — and turned loose into the deserts and plains of the West to die cruel and lonesome deaths. Horse rescue projects, which are mostly small, volunteer operations with limited land and resources, are feeling the consequences of this convergence of events. In the meantime, many now unaffordable horses are being sold to abbatoirs south of the border where inhumane methods of slaughter are practiced. [More]
Don't get me wrong, there is no I-told-you-so scheudenfraude here. Just a sadness that animal welfare advocates don't face end-of-life issues for companion animals any better than we do for our own species. And we are just beginning to see the consequences, I think.
So unwanted US horses, if not abandoned to die a lingering death or wander onto a motorway, are being shot and dumped illegally. how humanely one doesn't wish to think. Being slaughtered for meat would probably be a lot more humane. And some US horses still are - except this now entails being painfully trucked to distant slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico. The US Humane Society wants to stop even the export of horses for slaughter; some animal scientists predict an "equine tsunami" if they succeed.

I think most of us hate the idea of cruelty to animals, especially intelligent domesticated creatures like the horse. But efforts to protect animal rights should lead to less cruelty, not more of it. It seems the animal rights people have shot themselves in the foot.

It reminds me of when activists liberated all those mink from European fur farms, helping the bloodthirsty little weasel, an American native, destroy yet more European wildlife. [More]
This outcome is not simply irresponsible. It is immoral. And it will set back animal welfare advocacy efforts immensely.

15 comments:

Sue said...

John-

It is a shame to read you spread fear and panic over an issue that actually doesn't exist. There is no widespread abuse and abandonment following the closure of the last three slaughterhouses. The articles that have been published were placed by the slaughterhouses DC PR firm. The State of Illinois recently filed its final set of papers in a lawsuit against Cavel and reported that they couldn't reply to Cavel's claims of increased abandonment and abuse because it doesn't exist. Law enforcement, national park administrators, cruelty investigators and even the Illinois Department of Ag report that no problems have arisen.

Why do people such as yourself buy into simple rhetoric instead of the truth? If you want slaughter just admit it, don't wrap yourself in compassion.

The animal welfare community was right and is right in trying to end horse slaughter.

Here is a simple fact to dispell all myths (I am sure you will ignore it too sadly). Two of the three former US-based, foreign-owned horse slaughterhouses are still buying the same number of horses they did last year when all three plants operated. Now they are just sending them to slaughter in their Mexican-based operations. How can we have the sky is falling claims if the same number of horses are being slaughter. That isn't logical.

This issue is too serious for the same old pathetic politics. Stopy playing them.

John Phipps said...

Sue:

"Doesn't actually exist?" Is your assertion that horses are not being abandoned? This does not seem to match either the information I quoted or anecdotes from my horse-owning friends.

The fact that horse slaughter is not rising when economic abandonment is increasing would tend to illustrate the problem, not dispel it.

Sue said...

Some horses may be abandoned, just as some cats and dogs are. However, it isn't related to an end to slaughter as I noted the practice is still in effect, just at a different location.

Regardless, abandonment is a crime anywhere in the US. Those who do it are clearly irrelevant of laws so why reward them with a few dollars for committing another form of abuse. Remember, slaughter is a business driven by demand, not necessity.

The information you quoted has been dispelled. That is off the table. I have also talked to people who claim they have seen an increase, but when pressed for evidence it is always "my friend down the road said so, or I read it in a newspaper." See the trend. People aren't sharp enough to separate truth from what they read in newspapers or unfiltered blogs.

Your point makes no sense. Looking at the numbers, we are actually ahead of the number slaughtered at this point when all three plants operated. By your logic that means they aren't connected.

Once again, find the facts, not the rhetoric.

John Phipps said...

Sue:

I see your point about slaughter rates. I remain convinced abandonment rates are increasing. Simply stating that is "off the table" without contradictory information to the sources cited (many of whom are in the horse rescue industry) is unpersuasive.

So the math becomes more unwanted horses minus unchanged slaughter (wherever) equals more abandoned horses.

I find that logic and the testimony of the Time story valid. Regardless, I will be revisiting this and I'm hoping the trends will clearer then.

(Is it me or is this conversation turning into a global-warming format?)

vicki said...

Mr. Phipps, how can the closing of the domestic kills house be blamed for horse abandonment? The pro folks claim slaughter is need to prevent this. If that is the case, there shouldn’t be any abandoned horses. The same number of horses are being slaughtered – same auctions, same kill buyers. Doesn’t that contradict their argument? The folks that abandon horses did so when the kill houses were open and are doing so now. There is no correlation between the two. Many of the articles are bogus. When you ask for details so we can investigate, it was my friend told me or I read in an article. Many of the articles are giving counts for reported cases, not verified cases. When investigated, many of the reported cases are merely a horse that wandered off the property. If you’d like to read the reports on the investigated articles, you can access them at http://www.kaufmanzoning.net/horsemeat/ 5th section from the top.

I’m sure you realize the slaughter industry is a business. They are in it to make money; not provide a service to the US. They are not ridding us of unwanted horses, they are buying healthy, sound horses based on the demand for meat, not on the number of available horses. They imported horses into the US when there were not enough to fill the demand. If something is unwanted, that means the person doesn’t want it, they want to get rid of it. You don’t get paid for getting rid of something of no value, you give it away or donate it. Remove the incentive and see how many unwanted horses there are. The kill houses are paying people to be irresponsible. They want to keep the flow of horses coming. Just imagine the pet overpopulation if the humane societies started paying people to dump their dogs and cats.

Slaughter is not needed or wanted in this country. The industry will right itself and we have history to prove it. The slaughter counts were over 400,000 in the 90s. In a few short years, they dropped to under 100,000. There were no horses wandering the streets or increases of abuse and neglect. We absorbed over 300,000 horses per year that weren’t slaughtered. Why won’t the pro advocates address that? Why won’t they address why the verified cases of abandonment, abuse and neglect were just as high when the kill houses were open?

It is the breed and dump crowd that is whining the loudest. How dare anyone suggest they breed responsibly. How dare anyone suggest that someone have the means to care for the horses they bring into the world or add to their current number of horses. Why should owner responsibility not apply to horse owners?

John Phipps said...

vicki:

I think you make a good point about horse ownership and perhaps this issue will encourage stiff ownership fees and licensing. I would agree with that approach.

Again, pointing to flat slaughter levels as proof ignores the very real possibility that abandonment rate is much higher than before. This is being spurred by hay prices and the mortgage crisis, as horses are proving to be far too expensive for some casual owners. This real economic influence is not mentioned in your views, I note.

Nonetheless, if those who see increased abandonment are right, it should be pretty easy to notice soon.

Regardless, I find myself wondering how many horse owners are euthanizing and disposing properly of unwanted horses. Especially if the costs were the issue to begin with.

Tommy Lee said...

John I have been in fighting to abolish horse slaughter since the mid 80s in Texas. the horses I seen are not old and sick they always used that term. Texas plants operated illegal and they broke the law by operating you seem to think if a cat a dog slaughter plant open in your neiborhood illegal would you support them as the foreign owned plants that ignore laws and pays no Gross Income Tax nor tariffs as most american business are subject too. I have read your profile and seen the people you chat too kinda sick seeing people half nude. Also that your in the AG field which farm bureau and Ag are Pro slaughter because they all have something in common they all hire illegals so they can make more profits. The stories you speak of horses turn loose or running loose is talk and false reports. Most of the article were called and investigated by our Anti slaughter folks and most sheriffs knew nothing of the sort or mistaking reported. you claim these stories are true but you have not indicated no reports. For you information Beltex operates in mexico and Texas which is now closed. Yet no one mentions that they have been open longer than the texas plant. They have only now heard of the mexican plant due to USHS reported videos. Slaughter is not Humane as the pro slaughter groups say I have heard the animals screamed and kick and fight to there deaths. A horse is a fight or flight animal and this is exactly what I witness. Why dont you do the right thing and report facts to readers. Oh but then again your in AG and you have to support the snake of a business. Yes grain and other products plays a part of owners cutting back or selling out but there are many rescues doing large and small rescuing everyday. Look up Pure Thoughts rescue just recently they group up to save 167 horses from going to slaughter from SugarCreek Auction on Memorial day weekend. It cost nearly 70,000 dollars and it was done as a team. There are reponsible people in this world its just ashame we have to save all horses and educated pro slaughter sellouts that will never get the truth out about them making profits of the flesh of horses. Many rescues are poping up every day and are being lined up to not overload there rescues.Its a crime to let loose horses or neglect and abuse them yet you write articles and do nothing but talk without facts.Sincerely Tommy Lee

John Phipps said...

Tommy:

Like the other posters I can tell you feel strongly about horse slaughter. Here is one problem you face with me, and millions of people like me: we do not have an emotional attachment to horses, so we often talk in different modes.

There are two issues here: horse slaughter (which I support as a responsible use of a very costly natural resource) and horse abandonment. The latter problem has intersected with the former, but I agree is not a cause and effect relationship.

However, my suggestion is a considerable number of the estimated 9-10 million horses in this country are in economically weak hands, and eliminating the salvage value of a horse will very likely make abandonment more prevalent. While it is commendable, saving groups of a few hundred horses will be unequal to the challenge I see facing the horse industry.

All the debunking links given me by anti-slaughter correspondents have turned out to deal with only the Kentucky article I linked to in the original posts. I have seen no repudiation of statements in the Time article, for example.

Finally, I appreciate being labeled a stooge for the grain industry. Had you read any of my work on say, corn subsidies, you might realize how I badly need help getting along with those folks too. ;-)

Thank you for reading and your comments. Good luck in your efforts to solve this problem.

Sue said...

John-

We can go round and round and not change each others minds. Most blogs defending horse slaughter turn off posting options because they refuse to share truth, but I commend you for allowing all voices to be represented.

The problem is using this "unwanted horse" argument as a reason for keeping slaughter alive was created to defeat the bill. Where were these rants when 13 of the 15 plants closed on their own for lack of business. Nobody talked about horses running down the streets yet we had far fewer horse rescues. Where were these rants when California banned slaughter in 1998? Statistics from the California Livestock Identification Board show a dramatic decrease in theft (humm, why steal when there are so many needy slaughter horses) and a report from a UC Davis researcher found no increase in abuse or abandonment even though CA is the second largest state in horse population. Number from the Illinois Department of Agriculture showed a drop in abuse following the closure of Cavel horse slaughter house. You ask for evidence and the evidence shows none of the claims being spread now. However, you take the Time article for gossip based on an interview with a rancher and a rescue that actually should be out of business for a host of other issues. As I noted earlier the State of Illinois was not able to verify a single claim of abandonment as presented by the slaughter industry and that was presented in a legal document before the Supreme Court. I agree, lets stop listening to newspaper articles and get the facts.

I hear over and over, those defending horse slaughter, ask for facts. Yet, when presented the evidence they ignore it and turn to unsubstantiated news articles. You can't beat that, but those who read your blog must realize you have an opinion and choose to dismiss any opposite view.

If a problem exists we should deal with it, not say "see, I told you so" and make calls for the reestablishment of an abusive industry. I am shocked at how we want to keep something active because irresponsible and, by making the argument itself, abusive individuals in business by allowing them to make a few bucks abusing an animal versus doing the right thing.

Wow, the logic of all of this amazes me.

Here is evidence of more lies published. This group continues to track misleading stories and I have been told none published so far this year have been substantiated. A new report will be issued soon. http://www.commonhorsesense.net/index.php?option=com_wrapper&Itemid=66

You should also check out this groups site as well Veterinarians for Equine Welfare at www.vetsforequinewelfare.org

vicki said...

Mr. Phipps, thank you for your response. I don’t doubt there are abandoned horses but what irks me is the pro folks blame the abandonment on the domestic kill houses shutting down rather than the horrible economy. I merely point out that horse slaughter is still available. There is nothing preventing sending a horse to slaughter that wasn’t available when the kill houses were open. Closing the domestic kill houses is not the cause of any abandonments. History has proven that those that abandon do so with or without the availability of slaughter. I would also point out that the pro folks zero in on the horses being abandoned but fail to mention that it is not just horses. Foreclosures are at an all time high. People are abandoning homes, farms and do you think they are only abandoning their horses if they have animals? Of course not. The pro folks will grasp at any straw to gain support for reopening the kill houses. While many of the abandonment articles have been proven false, I don’t doubt for a minute it is taking place; although not to the dramatic numbers that are being published. Many of the numbers you are seeing are reported cases, not confirmed cases. And I have no doubt you’d be seeing the same if the domestic kill houses were open. There is no correlation to abandonment and the availability of slaughter and what is going on right now, is just more proof.

As far as how owners are dealing with disposing of their animals, approximately 900,000 horses die annually either by humane euthanasia or of natural causes so it’s obvious that responsible owners are disposing of their animals. There are many alternatives to slaughter available depending on the owner’s financial situation and state laws on disposal – rendering, burial, cremation, etc. Responsibility is something we are taught from childhood. If you are going to own an animal, you must take responsibility for the animal. That means care and providing a humane death. If they choose to breed, they are responsible for making sure the off-spring go to good homes and are responsible for those they cannot place. Why should anyone provide a dumping ground because they breed irresponsibly and can’t care for the horses they bring into the world or don’t want them because they didn’t make the grade? It is not the fault of equine advocates. It is not our responsibility nor is it the government’s responsibility. They made a conscious decision to buy, own, breed and use them for numerous purposes and it is they that are responsible.

Why should we give horse owners a pass on owner responsibility?

Your idea of fees and licensing have been discussed but then you start getting into red tape and administration. Just remove the incentive. I’m willing to bet that if people didn’t get paid to dump their horses, you’d see the “unwanted” horse problem diminish or not exist. Other alternatives are establishing funds for those truly in need. I’d start with the AQHA. They have hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend on senator “donations” and professional lobbyists to promote slaughter. It’s no wonder the largest numbers of slaughtered horses are quarter horses. They’re bragging about their 5 millionth registration and do nothing to stop the over breeding. Just take a look at their foal counts vs TBs and standard breds. Let the racing industry take $1 from the admission fees to establish retirement funds for race horses. There are so many things that could be done but instead, they waste money and resources to stop us from ending slaughter instead of working with us to fix the mess they have created.

John Phipps said...

all:

Thank you for your passionate and civil comments. I have learned much more about this issue as a result. Feel free to continue. I ain't afraid of no equestrians, and it's a break from farm policy.

Some comments:
1. It strikes me as disingenuous to say slaughter is still an option when shipping costs and border hassles have sharply dropped the net salvage value. The economics have been drastically changed. there is also the issue of a "taking", where horse owners who were intending to use slaughter as part of their business plan have had their pockets picked. I realize the law does this daily, but frequently the courts recognize such actions as a taking.
2. It is bootless to tell "non-horse" folks how to "feel" about horse slaughter. I doubt if we can choose to change our disaffection any more than you can change your attraction. I worked with cattle most of early career and developed an abiding affection for the beasts. I cared for them first, and I had no problem sending them to slaughter. Our responses to animals arise from who knows where but it is difficult to extrapolate across species for analogies. There is a huge difference (about 1200#) between abandoning a puppy and a horse, hence the greater need for as many options.
3. Horses represent in nature an enormous accumulation of energy which should be respected. In the wild, predators and scavengers would benefit from this investment. The engineer in me sees disposal as a last choice, rendering better, and slaughter as the best reclamation path.
4. I will be following this story, and especially the horse industry's own response. Like many items of dispute today, there seems to be no acceptance of the will of the majority on either side. I suspect this will continue as a heart-breaking and/or irritating quarrel until overwhelming evidence forces capitulation. That is unfortunate.
5. One key to watch will be horse numbers and prices. The market will sort this out. I suspect we will never know the extent of this problem, but I would have to put Time magazine on a higher editorial plane than gossip and the sources quoted as credible.
6. Finally, the large number of folks like me who put this issue farther down our worry list may lump slaughter opponents with other single issue fanatics. It is not fair, but the language of conspiracy, corporate greed, and trumped up evidence is now standard tactics for controversial advocacy. It is also a turnoff when battling for public attention. This it not your fault, but rather that this approach has been done to death. Heck - corn farmers are using it to counter ethanol foes. I don't know what, but I think successful campaigns in the future will use some strategy other than forced conversions to sway the indifferent masses and move them to action.

People should be called to higher purpose, not badgered into compliance. The best we have done as a people was when we we led, not herded by fear.

....

Hmmm. That went off in a strange direction, didn't it?

Tommy Lee said...

First off let me say thanks john for listening in on our bickering but its been a long and wasteful fight. Ive seen elected officals like Bob Goodlatte chairman of Ag Ignore citizens and senators like Conraid burns that secretly slip a one page to a 2,000 page bill to allow mustangs to go to slaughter and why so he can allow his cattle buddies make more money by allowing them the land for grazing and telling lies that horses are starving. Wild Horse Annie fought hard without the interent to pass the protection bill of mustangs back in 1971 I believe. Our elected officals should be fighting for better fuel effcient vehicles and finding the over profits sellouts in oil etc. NO they have to fight us reponsible horse owners and make forigners millions. the whole system is messed up illegals are allowed to work here and come in. Yet local officals and sherifs sit and watch them cross the border until border control taxi's them back. Lets play round and round with the tax payer monies. Then the AG business hire's them cheap and when we are fighting horse slaughter the SW Texas cattle assocation which made $3.00 per horse slaughter fights us to keep horse slaughter going illegal based on a 1949. which was a law ignored for years. This year hay prices are now coming down I havent seen a seller selling hay more than $6.00 a bale We have a newsgroup http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/HorseHayDealers/?yguid=301607437 which supplies horse owners a place to find sellers,haulers, etc. Also we have created and committed to our fund raiser titled the Top Ten Rescues for Donations in the past year we issued more than 13,000 to rescues needing these funds. donations start at $10.00 min and our average range from 351.00 to $4,000 a month. So you see we are doing our bit to help. Neither AQHA or APHA Overbreeder Association has done nothing to date. I wouldnt mind explaing more things out with being we both live in Illinois.

Anonymous said...

I`ve no doubt those opposed to horse slaughter also oppose pig or beef slaughter? maybe fur farming or trapping /hunting? there is no reasion for a fat healthy horse to not be slaughtered for human or animal consumption if the economics indicate it. I would like to buy a horse to slaughter. can an individual buy a horse for on the farm slaughter?

clo said...

If you don't think horses are catching the brunt of the stop slaughter movement - come to Ky and talk to the "real" humane societies. The ones that have to pick up the animals and feed them and find them homes. Not the one that sits in airconditioned offices in DC and collects money. Hardly a week goes by in the "horse capitol" without dozens of horses being "rescued" from starvation. I have lived here for decades and never seen it like this. If you don't believe in humane slaughter, overseen and supervised in the US - how many free horses would you like to come and adopt? Or better yet, just send the county humane societies checks to feed them.

Aimee said...

To take anons comment and run with it...

I would be interested to know how the humane slaughtering of horses is different than the humane slaughtering of beef or pigs. Or dogs for that matter. Or cats. Specifically in SE Asia, they have the mentality that some dogs/cats are pets and some are for eating. They have no problem petting their own dog before going out to a restaurant and being served dog. I guess the only difference I can see is that most horses nowadays are raised with the purpose of being pets.

And in support of John, horses are luxuries to the majority of Americans. If it starts (continues) costing more to feed your horse and have the vet out to see him and make daily trips to whatever barn he is housed at, many people will have a hard time rationalizing how their horse can be so well fed while they are struggling to feed themselves and their kids. Abandoning horses could potentially be a solution in that case to many people, albeit a very distasteful one. Lets just hope they don't start abandoning them on random farms as people do now with their cats and dogs.