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How President Obama Made it Legal to Slaughter Horses ...

And how we plan to fight it from our little farm here in Bethany . . . again . . .

Earnestly Seeking Galileo is a 2,000-pound horse that lives with us on Locket’s Meadow Farm. On Monday evenings Ernie  carefully carries Steven, a special needs adult, who has been riding him for almost five years. Steven is autistic, but he rides independently while we blast rock and roll and sing at the tops of our lungs. We have a dozen other riders like Steven in our Star Rider’s group, and we all agree that Monday is the best night of our week (despite my abysmal singing voice.)

Nine years ago, Ernie was an 8-month old colt slated to ship to an American slaughterhouse where he would have been killed and processed into meat for human consumption in the Asian and European market. Instead, I bought him by the pound (despite the arbitrary ban my husband, David, had put on getting any more horses – silly man) and booked a trailer to bring him home.

I buy all my horses by the pound. They come from slaughter yards and kill pens and PMU ranches. They arrive thin, scarred, scared and traumatized. We shower them with love and kindness, cure their infections, rehabilitate and train them for a new job. Some are too tired and broken to ride, but we’re fine with that – we coddle them and let them live as long as they like. They are our friends and companions and we love each and every one.

I am against the slaughter of horses, and alongside thousands of others worked for years to ban it in our country. We won that battle, and in 2008, President Barack Obama pledged to keep the ban on horse slaughter permanent. On November 18, Obama lost my last remaining sliver of respect for him when he signed a bill that allows the return of horse slaughter plants to the United States. I am still shell-shocked.

The arguments for and against slaughtering horses are intense and impassioned; for those arguing for it, it’s all about the money. In fact, one of the greatest proponents of horse slaughter is the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA.) Quarter horses are bred at a rate of about 140,000 a year. There is no market for 140,000 horses total, never mind quarter horses. Why so many? Because out of every 200 or so foals born, a breeder might get one that will be worth a quarter million dollars. What happens to the rest? Off to auction by the thousands where they are bought in bulk lots by “killer buyers”  and shipped to slaughterhouses. Not only is it a cheap way to dispose of “inferior” animals, it’s profitable.

How does AQHA phrase their position? They like to say it keeps the country from becoming overpopulated with horses. Hello??? Hellooooo? Encouraging overbreeding causes overpopulation! DUH!  When numbers of unwanted dogs and cats reached crisis proportions, they didn’t build more gas chambers to euthanize them. Instead, hundreds of organizations sprang up to encourage spaying and neutering and educate people about the horrors of overpopulating the country with house pets. Why aren’t horses afforded the same courtesy? Because there is no money in killing dogs and cats, but as long as Belgians will pay $20 for a pound of horsemeat, well, need I say more?

Thousands of horse lovers worked tirelessly to make this slaughter end, at least in this country where we don’t eat horses and view them as companion animals. We won the battle, but apparently we grew complacent, dropped our guard, believed our president was telling the truth, and lost the war. Now it’s time to recommit to the fight – once more into the breech, I cry!

If I had a million acres and a billion dollars I would rescue every one of them, but that doesn’t solve the problem (and since three rich men from Greenwich won the last big Lotto pot I need another plan . . . sigh . . . ) My animals keep me close to the farm, so there is no going to Washington to lobby for change.  But what I can do is help dispute the claim that horses in feedlots and auction yards are junk horses with no future. It’s a lie manufactured to cover up the fact that the very people who profess to love horses are often most responsible for their deaths, because the fact is, they only love “perfect” horses that can fetch a huge price tag or win a small fortune on the race track. The rest are little more than by products of the industry and therefore, dead meat.

You might ask, and many do, why am I so fanatical about horses? What about all the other animals that go to slaughter? Before you start shouting “hypocrite,” our farm is not exclusive to horse rescue. We save all kinds of farm animals including pigs, cows, sheep, goats . . . we don’t discriminate, and we love them all. I’ve been a vegetarian for 30 years and avoid animal products to the best of my ability. However, my mother always said my first word was “horsy” and I imagine it will be my last, as well. My horses go above and beyond the call of duty for me whenever I ask, and to my dying day I will do the same for them.

For David and me, our lives are our animals. We are awake long before the sun rises and head outside to feed and water. We clean their stalls, blanket them, give them injections when they are sick, train them and coddle them. When they are too old and frail to survive a long winter, we hold them and tell them how much we love them while they are peacefully put to sleep, and then we help lower them into their graves. They make us laugh until we cry, and cry until we laugh. We are not armchair warriors; we are in the trenches fighting this battle every day, one horse at a time, and will never quit.

Our lives are simple. We take no vacations, buy no luxury items and wear our clothes until they are tattered. For us there is no money in horses, but there is lots and lots of love. Each morning we watch the sun rise over Locket’s Meadow and marvel at how lucky we are, and at night we gaze at our horses bathed in moonlight and smile. No one is more blessed than we are. No one.

So in response to this new development in the slaughter industry I have decided that I must tell the stories of our very special horses that would have been served up on a dinner plate many years ago if we hadn’t intervened. It’s time for everyone, including President Obama, to learn that these animals have a face and a story, and any one of the thousands being slaughtered every week could have been spared and become the very special horse that carries Steven on Monday nights . . . if only more people had known the truth.

Kathleen Schurman is editor of Bethwood Patch. She and her husband David Melina own Locket’s Meadow farm in Bethany, CT, where they have rescued hundreds of horses from slaughter. Kathleen is the author of two children’s books about the rescues on their farm; “The Long Road Home” tells the story of Earnestly Seeking Galileo and “Captain of the Dance” is about the very special and gifted Captain.

Karena Garrity December 07, 2011 at 01:42 PM
Wow, great article! Lets keep fighting to get the word out. Please keep us posted to anything we can do to fight this!!!!
FearTheTruth December 07, 2011 at 02:00 PM
What do you expect from a Man who is useless when it comes to important issues and usefull when it comes to nonsense. I thought George Bush was bad. Obama makes George Bush look like George Washington.
KathrynW December 07, 2011 at 05:03 PM
There’s something very wrong when a horse owner can send a horse to an inhumane, brutal end by slaughter, just because their color isn’t the one they wanted, or their conformation is less than perfect. Slaughter is the garbage can for the horse industry. Shame on them all for subjecting horses to this on-earth hell. See USDA’s OWN PHOTOS of violations of 9CFR Part 88: their regulations for transport and slaughter: http://www.kaufmanzoning.net/ http://www.animallawcoalition.com/horse-slaughter/article/941
KathrynW December 07, 2011 at 05:11 PM
Bravo to you, Kathleen, your heart & your head are in fine condition! I agree: “When numbers of unwanted dogs and cats reached crisis proportions, they didn’t build more gas chambers to euthanize them. Instead, hundreds of organizations sprang up to encourage spaying and neutering and educate people about the horrors of overpopulating the country with house pets.” Act NOW: Find your elected officials: http://www.votesmart.org/ Then contact Beacon Hill in support of MA S655, & your Washington Rep/Senators in support of S1176 & HR2966: the state and federal bills banning horse slaughter for human consumption.
Darrell Lucas December 07, 2011 at 05:28 PM
I disagree with you. There is a favoritism in the animal world for some animals and I cant understand it sometimes. What about bunnies? They are cute too? Most cases of horses being put down and slaughtered are old and past their prime. If I am a farmer who are you to tell me what I wish to do with my horse? What exactly is the criteria for an animal to become "safe" from the normal use of all the other farm raised animals? Just simple strait forward questions.
KathrynW December 07, 2011 at 05:51 PM
Can you train a bunny to provide 30 yrs of competent work and enjoyment? Who said 'cute' had anything to do with horse slaughter, or are you still talking about bunnies? If you're a farmer or a dog owner, there are regulations and laws at local, state & federal levels where Americans define acceptable/unacceptable treatment of animals. US S1176 & HR2966 are such bills now in Washington. Support their passage, and define slaughter as cruel treatment of horses.
sandra December 07, 2011 at 06:15 PM
Darrell Lucas: You are dead wrong. IN most cases, and the USDA will verify this, most horses going to slaughter are between the ages of 5 and 12 andboth healthy and sound. Horses are not raised as a food animal and are riddled with drugs from birth. Vaccinations, dewormers, steroids, and all have phenylbutazone, which the FDA has labeled carcinogenic. Who are we to send our tainted meat to foreign countries? If you are a farmer and your horse has served you for years and partnered to make your life better, do you not think you could give him a humane death? Do you feel you have the right to send him to a tortured death? Why horses should get favoritism is their tremendous contribution to us and to this country. They have migrated our peoples, carried our soldiers, carried our dead and wounded, and our mail. they have given us tremendous pleasure from sport and relaxation. There is a reason why the expression " My horse, my horse, A kingdom for my horse" has been around so long.
Darrell Lucas December 07, 2011 at 08:46 PM
I understand the points of view that you propose. While your up in arms about a horse, thousands of dogs and cats are euthanized everyday. Wheres your care for them? If you wanted to protect them we would outlaw the breading and selling of dogs and cats. People would be forced to adopt and spay/neuter them. Thus reducing our "slaughter" of dogs and cats. You could almost say we do "genetic cleansing" of our cat and dog friends. I accept a dog and cat as an animal that has won its place in our human lives as "special to our hearts". But a horse will never be mass bred like a cow is. They are worth more alive. So whats wrong with having a small special market for their meat? Your argument would suggest eating parakeets and alike as wrong. But chickens, pheasants, and turkeys are ok to kill and eat as you please. This is where your arguments fall "dead" (love your use of colorful turms btw). Where do you... yeah YOU, get the right to tell me I cant sell my horses meat that I payed to raise and produce to someone that would like to eat it. Seriously answer that question. Where do you get that right? Horses have made a contribution to our society? Ok and what have cats done beside sit on my lap and purr? We use horses. Why cant I eat one. The Cow, Pig, and Chicken have provided a larger service to our country for what we use them for.
Darrell Lucas December 07, 2011 at 08:46 PM
You dont like this cause you LIKE horses. Well if enough people LIKED something that you ate and then told you couldn't eat it what would you say? The most successful animals on this planet are the ones we eat. By allowing me to KEEP my right to sell as meat you are introducing a market that will INCREASE the horse population and provide a better service to those that are healthy. You like horses right? So wouldn't you like more of them? Fact is it costs more to raise and maintain a horse then the meat is worth. This measure enables a horse farmer to at lease recover some costs if the horse needs to be put down. So lets me summarize your failed arguments. 1. You have no right to tell me I cant sell my horse meat to someone who wants to buy it. 2. A horse is a valuable tool sure but when its time has come why cant it be turned around as food. WHY? 3. Allowing this measure to continue is beneficial to the farmer and to ALL the other horses that are healthy. Several breeds of heavy horses that were replaced by machinery have survived to this day because they were kept as meat animals. The other option was to stop breeding them until they ceased to exist like, for example, the Yorkshire Coach Horse, to name just one breed out of over one hundred that have been permitted to die out for lack of demand. Think about that.
Melinda Ellinwood December 07, 2011 at 08:53 PM
Spreading the word at Care2 News! > "Obama Legalizes Horse Slaughter -- Real Video" - News & Petitions @ Care2 News Network: http://www.care2.com/news/member/551391653/3035280
sandra December 07, 2011 at 11:05 PM
Darrell: You have missed the entire issue. To summarize your failed arguments: 1. If you want to shoot your horse in the head with a quick shot and eat him. Do it. That is humane euthanasia. He is with his "loving" owner who he trusts and feels no fear or pain. BUT if you want to stick your horse on a transport packed in with other horses who kick and fight injuring many, send him to a strange place where he stands panicked in the chute line smelling the blood of those before him and hearing the terrified screams, where he moves into a killbox and is shot often repeatedly with a captive bolt that was designed for cattle whose brains are closer to the surface and necks are short so they do not resist and are not hit in the eye or cheek or hit several times before hopefully being knocked unconscious and hoisted by a hind leg and eviscerated usually semi conscious, then I say you are a poor excuse for a human being. That is not a humane death. No where in this country do we say torture of any animal is permitted. Even if he is your "property" . Secondly, his meat is tainted so you are selling meat that has not been raised for food and cause physical harm to another human being. 2. Check your dictionary. A tool is an inanimate object. A horse is a sentient being. They are not a tool but do help us accomplish things and partner with us. 3. This practice is only beneficial to irresponsible owners and breeders. It certainly is not beneficial to the horse.
Darrell Lucas December 08, 2011 at 02:00 AM
Perfect then you agree with me. 1. Quote you. "If you want to shoot your horse in the head with a quick shot and eat him. Do it. That is humane euthanasia." Thank you! All that other ____ you said isnt something I agree with and I dont condone. 2. I dunno where you think that a horse hasn't been a tool for humanity? Transportation? 3. What are you talking about aren't people who breed dogs just as irresponsible? Right Yes..
Darrell Lucas December 08, 2011 at 02:27 AM
Sandra you'll like this video about Carnism. http://youtu.be/mJzpKxBer7I This is a link that supports your argument. The thing is... if you say we cant eat horses then we shouldn't be eating cows, chickens, and pigs (pigs are smarter than dogs btw) How do you pick one animal over another?
Suzanne Moore December 08, 2011 at 03:30 PM
IF the horses were going to be euthanized, you might have an argument, but they are NOT. Slaughter is NOT euthanasia! Slaughter is a tortured, long ride in a trailer designed for cattle then brutal slaughter with equipment designed for cattle-a VERY different species. This is unconscionable cruelty that would not be permitted if only more people knew what it was really like. Also, the problem of excess dogs and cats is being addressed by campaigns for spay/neuter, low cost spay/neuter clinics, etc. NOTHING like this is being done for horses on any but the smallest scale. The breeders have NO intention of reducing breeding because they WANT to have horses to sell to slaughter. They won't participate and they won't contribute to rescue/birth control/euthanasia clinics/low cost gelding - nothing. That is the difference, we are not fighting euthanasia. We are fighting SLAUGHTER for human consumption. NOT the same thing. We can tell you you can't sell your horses for meat in THIS COUNTRY because horses are not regulated to insure the meat is safe to eat and because OUR TAX MONEY will go toward inspections and whatever it takes to keep these places running. Do you have any idea how much horse theft goes up when slaughter plants are opened? No. I DO! I lived with it for 15 years in Dallas and Texas two plants.NO WAY I put up with terror like that again! Besides, cruelty is illegal and so is exporting tainted meat. Your rights stop where mine begin, remember?
Suzanne Moore December 08, 2011 at 03:55 PM
1.We CAN tell you you can't sell your horses for purposes that will cause toxic meat to be sold for human food. As the owner, YOU are responsible for affirming that your horse has not been exposed to banned substances, and for substances that have withdrawal times, that those times have been met. We have the right to fight OUR tax money being use for something that 70% of the American people have been adamantly against for decades. Special interests have spent millions to keep this legislation from ever getting to a floor vote because they know it would pass, and they want to keep on doing what they are doing. We DO have a right to oppose all of this. 2.Horse slaughter is cruel beyond compliance with the Human Slaughter Act. It's illegal. The fact that the inspectors turn a blind eye doesn't change the fact that it is cruel beyond what the law allows. And it ramains that cruel even in the state of the art, Temple Grandin designed plants in Canada. http://www.defendhorsescanada.org/lpn.html 3.How is it beneficial to HEALTHY horses that are the ones the kill buyers prize and will get by hook or by crook? They get stolen. They get purchased by the killers under false pretenses. At auctions, the killers out bid the people who want to give the horse a home, and if the bidding get too high, the auctioneer only answers the killers bids. Besides, the meat is unsafe for human consumption and that's illegal too. This is beneficial to whom? BTW Amish still use work horses.
Suzanne Moore December 08, 2011 at 04:03 PM
There are food animal biases is EVERY culture. Hindus don't eat sacred cows. That is not as strongly followed as it used to be, but it is still frowned upon. If they can do that, why can't WE have our cultural norms too? We're not telling other cultures what to eat, but they can't tell us what to eat either. Preferences exist EVERYWHERE. You may call a horse a "TOOL" but that doesn't make a horse a tractor. Or, maybe you would enjoy a medium rare tractor? Of course "puppy mill" dog breeders are irresponsible, just like "foal mill" horse breeders are irresponsible. So? If you humanly end you OWN horse's life, frankly, I don't give a damn what you do with the body. The horse is beyond pain, and that's my only concern. Heck, hopefully that horse had been given bute sometime in his lifetime! Bon Appetite!
Stephanie December 08, 2011 at 06:52 PM
Sandra, You made YOUR points very clear. It's about quality of life AND quality of death. Both humane, loving and painless if we can ensure both... Sentient being to sentient being...<3
Stephanie December 08, 2011 at 06:52 PM
Kudos!
Darrell Lucas December 09, 2011 at 05:53 AM
Pigs are 4th on the list for the most intelligent animals but the horse lovers dont care about the way they are treated. They way I see it if you love a horse and dont want to eat it then you have to feel the same for cows, pigs, and sheep. You have two choices. Love all animals and dont eat any or accept that man kind would NEVER EVER BE where it is today without eating them. I haven't made my points clear Stephanie?!? Its clear to me that most of you in this comment section want to 'pick and choose' what animal is ok to eat and not. Sentient animals is a whole other discussion and should be considered. Like I said Pigs are smarted overall then Dogs. But you choose not to care about that fact. Why is it ok to eat one and not another? None of you can answer that.. any takers? Btw America was sending it horses to be sold and processed into Canada and Mexico. Now all we are doing it making it ok to do it here in the USA. We should regulate it so its more humane. That is what you want right?
Darrell Lucas December 09, 2011 at 06:16 AM
Suzanne Moore. Ok so if we regulated horse production here in the USA so it was humane then you would be ok with it. If the sellers proved with testing that the meat was safe for human consumption then you would be ok with it. "the FDA has banned the use of phenylbutazone in horses destined for slaughter." Perfect so regulate it so "bute" isn't use in the raising of horses interned for slaughter. Beyond that you have no argument unless you tell me you're %100 vegetarian. ACK!!! What reasonable argument do you have now? Seriously? You're ether a vegetarian or accept that you eat animals and get over it.
Brianna Calmon December 09, 2011 at 08:11 AM
Darrell Lucas You have stated that the people in this comment section "pick and choose what is ok to eat and not" WELL. It seems that you pick and choose what to argue about this article. Kathleen clearly states that she harbors sanctuary for other animals. "our farm is not exclusive to horse rescue. We save all kinds of farm animals including pigs, cows, sheep, goats . . . " Also, Kathleen states she has been a vegetarian for over 30 years... She states that she tries to stay away from animal based foods, which is vegan. BUT still does not eat any animals! .this is irrevelent to slaughtering of healthy horses. My opinion.. While it is inhumane and wrong.. yeah, let this be legal for countries who actually eat horses. Fact of the matter is, in America, WE DONT EAT HORSES. Also facts, we cannot save every animal, however we would love to. We can not control other countries. But when we can have a say, and prevent it, we will do everything in our power to do what's right. It's such an issue because it was banned, but now it is accepted therefore killing more horses. It is purely and morally wrong to be cruel to any kind of animal ESPECIALLY just for the human gain AND this case, ESPECIALLY because the gain is purely money. You will find validity in this with any animal. YES, there are major problems regarding animals! Testing, domestic animal cruelty, food animals and slaughter. BUT there are people that try to prevent it. Cant Kathleen? -veganism all the way!
MH December 09, 2011 at 09:39 AM
Thank you Darrell. You say what others are scared to admit. People like to eat animal flesh. In regards to the species, who's to say eating a porterhouse in America is better or worse than enjoying thit cay (dog meat) soup in Vietnam. Consume as necessary or consume according to what your culture or regional legal limitations allow you to. It's not like its a condor quiche or braised bald eagle here. Get over it and stop being so biased. To the commenter that said Obama is worse than Bush... At least Obama is capitalizing off horse meat and not the lives of humans sacrificed by Bush/Cheney's 9/11 agenda.
Rip Fin December 09, 2011 at 11:03 PM
No one said you cannot eat a horse. No one is stopping your from taking out a rifle, shooting your horse, and butchering it. You know those jackasses that don't care which horse they slaughter for meat even if the meat will be tainted? You know those jackasses that don't give a damn that the animal isn't actually dead/unconcious and completely aware of what's going on when they start butchering it? Those are the people you should be whining about, not the people who want them stopped. Those are the people who warrant bans to be put into place that make it so you cannot have your horse butchered so you can eat it. You want to run around crying that the people who want to stop them are the cause of the problem when THEY ARE NOT you fucking moron.
Rip Fin December 09, 2011 at 11:08 PM
You, like Darrell, don't actually understand the issue, at all, and Obama isn't capitalizing off of anything, he's understanding the ban isn't accomplishing what it was intended to do: stop the slaughter of US horses. THAT is why the ban was lifted.
Darrell Lucas December 10, 2011 at 03:40 AM
Well I enjoy debating with everyone but I understand all sides of this issue and rip fin is right in the comment above. I just spoke with a horse farmer and it's illegal to shoot your own horse. Out West people are just letting their horses go and they end up starving to death or getting killed by other means. I called our local meat dealer and he has been getting calls all the time for horse meat. The American demand us there.
Darrell Lucas December 10, 2011 at 05:15 AM
When I enter into a debate like this I sometimes dont understand all the factors that are involved with the issues. That's why I enjoy the debate. I get to learn more about the issue at hand. Rip is right. The ban didn't stop the slaughter of US horses and thats why it was lifted. Horses here were just being shipped to Mexico to undergo HORRENDOUS conditions. A few of you have stated thats what makes you upset. Well the US ban is the cause of the horrendous conditions. Now that its lifted we can do in the US what we have been doing all along before the ban. A horse owner I spoke with says yes a horse raised as a pet cant be food for humans. But it certainly can be made into dog food. Its illegal to shoot your own horse and you cant even bury it on your own land.
Darrell Lucas December 10, 2011 at 05:15 AM
When I told an acquaintance about the ban being lifted he was excited to hear this and called our local butcher. The butcher told him he has been getting calls for horse meat every day. So much for America not eating horses. My acquaintance owns a Italian restaurant and when the new year start he says horse meat is going to be the weekend special. Considering that Middletown is full of Italians I wouldn't be surprised if a large handful of customers actually buy the dish. I did read Kathleens article many times and I applaud her efforts in the saving animals that are sickly and harmed. One thing she does say is that they arrive "thin". This may be true for a few but if your going to sell a horse pound for pound a majority of these horses are fattened up. The debate that horses wont be an American food item is over. Cause its here to stay.
Darrell Lucas December 10, 2011 at 05:17 AM
Brianna call your local butcher and ask how many calls he/she gets for horse meat. Seriously do it. In America we do eat horses.
Alexandra browne April 25, 2012 at 01:09 PM
I agree with your views on this issue. I'm president of my schools Animal Cruelty Awareness club and love all animals, horses alike. However, bringing the horse-slaughter industry to America would be more humane then sending the condemmed animals to Mexico or Canada, where the abuse levels are over the top. And, shipping out horse meat might help our own species, since a great portion of the humane population is starving. Please do not think I hate animals, because I sincerely love them. And as for comments about Obama, he may have made a bad decision, but wasn't stopping the trans-American pipeline a great move for our environment? No one in the general public understands an issue completely, so ignorant comments are just a reflection of someone's lack of knowledge.
Jamie February 22, 2013 at 04:48 PM
Your eating little kids ponies ,wild mustangs,and race horses filled with drugs ! Americans don't eat horses if in fact the butcher kills a horse and you want to eat him go back to your own country . We are in America now not Italy I could care less what they eat I am an American !!! If you can afford your horse then you can afford to give them respect even humane society offers help with euthanasia and cremation and other options . I know this much Americans don't eat horses there are to many foreigners this is why our country is so screwed up! Horses are a lot different then bunnies maybe a few should look up history watch the War Horse, Olympics ... The same Mexicans work in American slaughter houses so do your homework!

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