Recently I was interviewed on a radio show that included the Humane Society of the United States' (HSUS) Wayne Pacelle spewing venomous remarks like, "horse slaughter is a predatory business where killer buyers outbid people who just want to save horses," "horse slaughter is inhumane," "Americans don't eat horsemeat, and we shouldn't be supplying people who do," "all horse meat is contaminated and unfit for human consumption..." Every single one of these statements is absolutely, categorically, false.
Good people in the horse business are getting a very bad rap from so-called "nonprofits" who are anything but--radical, anti-agriculture activist groups like HSUS and their many offshoots that target honest, taxpaying citizens so they can "rescue" horses. "Rescue" is code for stealing horses without compensating the owner, and then holding them hostage so that they can be "re-homed" or kept as poster horses to raise more and more dollars. "Re-homed" means "adopting them out," or in other words, selling them to some kind hearted sucker, often for far more money than they would ever bring in a sale ring for any purpose, and with lots of strings attached. Innocent horses palmed off on someone who likely doesn't understand how expensive it is to keep a horse, or how difficult, and who is hampered by very limited options. They didn't buy the horse fair and square with the right to sell them when they find out they can't afford to keep them. They have "adopted them into a forever home as their nonhuman companion for which they are solely responsible." The end results are good people saddled with unnecessarily guilt soaked burdens they can't get rid of.
The typical horse buyer on the other hand has "rescued," "re-homed," and "re-purposed" thousands of horses, done it all on their own dime without a single handout from anybody, and don't get any credit. Horse buyers are in the business of finding a purpose for horses that are unwanted, unneeded, or no longer useful.
Of course they profit from it, that is how one makes a living in this country. Last I heard paying someone a fair price for anything (including horses) that they don't want, don't need, or can't keep, and selling it to someone else who has a use for it for a profit is still the time-honored American way.
Horse buyers differ from cow buyers, hog buyers, and lamb buyers in one significant aspect--the horse buyer has an opportunity and an economic incentive to find out if the horse they just bought might be wanted or useful for something besides meat. In a normal market situation any horse that can be ridden, driven, or even one that is really good at bucking people off, is worth a lot more than one that is only suitable to feed somebody or something. Because it means more money in their pocket, every horse buyer will take the time to find out if they can maximize their profits.
Prior to 2007 people who were good with horses would buy a horse that went through the sale ring without saddle or halter, take them home and try them to see if they could train them, fix some bad habits, tune them up a little and sell them for a tidy profit. If the horse didn't work out, they always had the option of taking them back to the sale and holding their money together for another try because any horse in reasonably good shape would hold their value as a meat animal.
That opportunity to "rescue" and "re-home" horses is now gone, and the total responsibility for the number of suffering, starving, mistreated horses falls squarely in the lap of the animal rights do-gooders who have destroyed the chances for thousands of horses. Not only are these horses not getting the chance that they used to--far too many bad outlaw horses that are bound to hurt somebody are now getting passed around from person to person because there is nowhere else to sell them. The supply pipelines to the Canadian and Mexican processing plants are plumb full of grade A meat horses and the price for even the best candidates is pathetically low.
In the end, the horse buyer is a savior to otherwise doomed horses. Horses that wind up being processed for food are slaughtered under exactly the same laws and regulations as every other species of livestock. Government inspectors responsible for ensuring both humane treatment and food safety are required to be present at all times that animals are being processed. Horses have to be killed instantaneously with a minimum of stress and no pain. As in all meat production, protocols, testing, and inspection of the meat ensures they provide a wholesome, nutritious, and delicious product to a very willing and appreciative worldwide market. A market that would be even larger if those who would like to use horse meat here in the U.S. had a chance to buy it like any other good meat.
Horses who are killed cleanly and quickly in a regulated and inspected facility that is designed for the unique characteristics of horses, in a process performed by professionals, with equipment designed for the purpose, have a far better fate than any of the alternatives--plus the added benefit and comfort for horse owners of knowing that the horse's life was not wasted. There is no fear, no screaming, no being butchered alive--all of that is the worst sort of fallacious propaganda without one ounce of truth. The horses do not suffer and they never know what hits them.
In the choice of being starved to death in the back yard because the owners can't afford to feed them, can't sell them, can't give them away; being turned out to fend for themselves and inevitably starve, die of thirst, or be eaten alive by predators because they don't know how to survive in harsh environments; to live in misery and die in prolonged agony--every caring person who knows and understand the true situation will make the right choice. The humane and regulated use of horses for meat is the only moral and ethical choice.
But common sense and doing the right thing for animals play no part in the strategy and tactics of radical activists who want to destroy all property rights for animal owners, to put animals on the same moral plane as human beings, and most importantly of all for their fat wallets and long term wealth--make humans the "guardians," not owners, of animals so that animals can be represented by human attorneys who would protect the "rights" of our animal "companions." The anti-slaughter activists have taken up the vilification of every horse business in the country as evil, uncaring, sadistic monsters who love nothing better than to profit off of the pain and suffering of animals. Sadly, they have learned that emotional misinformation is the most expedient method to wring dollars out of the pockets of horse loving people who don't know any better.
For these reasons and more, practically every horse industry and agriculture organization in the country have joined with thousands of individual horse owners and businesses to oppose all appropriations riders and bills in Congress such as S. 1176 and H.R. 2296 that seek to eliminate the use, sale, or transportation of horses for slaughter. See the findings of the Government Accountability Office's (GAO) Report on HORSE WELFARE: Action Needed to Address Unintended Consequences of Domestic Slaughter Cessation.
Instead of making things worse for horses and for the people who love them, we ask Congress and the American people to restore the horse industry. We should all be celebrating the true heroes. Those who have dedicated their lives, and work every day to find the best purpose for every horse. Those who make an honest and legitimate business making sure that no horse is left to suffer unnecessarily. If truth, honor, and a big heart count for anything in this country anymore, then a huge dose of long overdue appreciation is due to every one of the few remaining stalwart, heroic, saviors of doomed and suffering horses...the horse buyers. God bless them.
Sue Wallis is a Wyoming State Representative, rancher, and a leader of
United Horsemen, a nationwide grassroots organization of horse people working for a better future for the horse industry by advocating for the return of humane and regulated horse processing, and for the responsible management and control of overpopulated wild and feral horses on federal, state, tribal and private lands. Sue can be reached at email@example.com