One Group?s Pragmatic View Of Equine Slaughter

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I'm going to share with you today a letter from one equine group to another that shows how complex the interwoven subjects of horse breeding, equine slaughter and unwanted horses are. This letter further demonstrates the diverse and deep feelings people have about equine slaughter, a topic I've discussed several times in the last year here. The letter, dated Oct. 10, is from the Arabian Professional and Amateur Horsemen's Association, addressed to the Arabian Horse Association?s Board of Directors. In it, the APAHA thanks the AHA for ?your support for the re-opening of the equine terminal marketplace? (equine slaughtering plants) and promises ?to join with the AHA in support of the reinstatement of equine processing in the United States.? The letter continues, ?While we appreciate that this subject can be a sensitive one to those who are not intimately involved in the horse industry, there is no question that it is an integral component for the continuation of the horse's survival into the 21st century, as well as to any and all breed associations. ?The simple fact is that for the horse to continue to survive and contribute to mankind, as it has done for the last 5,000 years, the equine terminal marketplace must be re-established in the United States. Equine slaughter for rendering and consumption is a necessity in the equine livestock industry, in order to allow horses at the bottom of the pyramid a humane, dignified, and contributing end. The bold words are the important points of this referendum, not the emotionally exploited ones of slaughter, rendering, or human consumption. Without a terminal marketplace, horses today are left trying to survive, for the first time ever, after their usefulness as a work-mate to man has passed. Regardless of whether you like the idea of equine slaughter, the vast, documented increase in equine suffering throughout the U.S. since the close of the slaughter houses should be enough for all people who truly care about horses to demand that those of us who have invested our lives in horses be the ones responsible for making the decisions about the marketplace that surrounds them.? Obviously, their viewpoint is very much that of people for whom horses are a profession and a business, not a hobby or a pet. I'm not at all suggesting that there is anything wrong with that?I run a horse business too. But one of the underlying challenges to this issue (and to many others in the horse world) is the broad spectrum of ways people who own and ride horses view their relationship with the animals. For some they're a commodity or an investment; for some they're a career, a way of making a living; to some, training them is a life?s work; for some they're the means to an athletic goal; to some they're a partner in a sport; and to some they're a pet, a giant-sized dog. How we view our relationship with horses largely determines our view on equine slaughter and unwanted horses. To the pragmatic leaders of the APAHA, slaughter is a necessary evil. They write: ?Some people were affronted when the AHA stepped up last year to support the re-opening of the equine processing plants. We contend that as breeders and current caretakers of the world's oldest breed of horse, we have an obligation to support the re-opening as well. It affects breeders and the breed in a singularly unassailable way; simply, that the free and low-price market for the ?pet-quality? horses is simply no longer available. The bottom tier of every breed and breeder's marketplace, that for family riding horses, has been eaten up by the ?re-homing? of over 300,000 horses since 2007, many of whom have huge medical issues, training issues, psychological issues, and on and on. ?Often, the people who take on these horses are novice horse lovers whose heartstrings have been played by emotional, fact-less advertising paid for by lobbying groups that never invest in shelters and re-homing at all. Once saddled with an adopted horse that by contract cannot be sold or bred, these horse lovers find the difficulty of dealing with the myriad of issues draining financially and mentally. These experiences are not good at building repeat, long-term business for the horse industry.? The letter continues with an interesting observation. They note that, since 2006, the registration numbers of four equine associations have dropped quite sharply. The American Quarter Horse Association dropped from 150,000 foal registrations in 2006 to less than 90,000 last year. Paints fell from 39,357 in 2006 to 17,835 in 2010. The Morgan Horse Association registered 3,461 horses in 2006, but only 1,835 in 2010. And the AHA declined from 10,311 in 2006 to 6,660 in 2010. The key question is, is this decline good or bad' Depends on your perspective. From an association?s income perspective, it's potentially catastrophic. Take the AQHA?as I've previously noted, they charge a ridiculously low $25 to register a foal, but 60,000 fewer registrations means $1.5 million less a year in income. But if you're someone who believes that the real problem is that we breed too many horses, a decrease of 84,000 horses from just these four breeds is really good news. If you're from a breed association, you see the loss of equine slaughter in the United States as a reason why you can't sell your ?pet-quality? horses?because the people who buy them have extremely limited options to dispose of them when they become old, sick, unaffordable or simply don't want them any longer. To others, though, these numbers indicate a good result mandated by a simple law of economics?the demand has dropped (due to the economic decline We've suffered for the last three years), so the supply must drop too. And to others fewer horses being produced means?thank goodness?fewer horses will suffer. The APAHA observes that these four breeds (and Thoroughbreds too) ?weathered a similar economic downturn in the ?80's without this kind of drop in registrations, and rebounded accordingly, the difference being that when economically strapped owners could no longer afford feed for their horses, they had a way to reduce numbers until the economy changed, after which their breeding business could rebound.? Therefore, the APAHA argues, ?By reopening the equine processing plants, we are simply restoring to horse owners and breeders the option that all other livestock breeders and owners have, and that horse owners and breeders had until the last four years. We will still retain the option to care for our horses after their usefulness is done, and we will still retain the option to rescue horses from the terminal marketplace. And people will still have the option to make horsemeat available to some of the 25,000 people on earth per day who are dying of starvation, allowing horses a chance to give back and be useful to humans, as they have done for centuries, even after they have passed.? that's an assertion that we could debate into the next century, and your position will depend on your belief in the horse's ?usefulness? and his place in our lives and society?whether He's a pet or livestock. The APAHA is, clearly, a very pragmatic, business-oriented group, but their point of view isn?t shared by the vast majority of American horse owners. But, I really think the APAHA makes a very cogent observation in this letter?s conclusion: ?There are issues to address, certainly, and many different options available to improve the terminal marketplace, among them mobile slaughter units and live web monitoring of plants. As horsemen, breeders, and horse lovers, we are the ones responsible for dealing with these issues, making sure that the terminal marketplace becomes ever more humane, with a quick and dignified passing, without undue stress, and where the horse can go on to be useful to man after his demise, just as he has been for the last 5,000 years. ?This is not a job for politicians, lobbyists and animal-rights people to define; it's a job for us, so that the horse that has brought so much to our lives will survive and evolve to bring much needed help to the people coming after us.? Yes, indeed.