What We Really Need is Reasoned Discussion

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I wasn?t surprised to get half a dozen comments on my Jan. 28 blog about the Summit of the Horse, held in Las Vegas at the beginning of January. As frequent poster KansasJack noted, ?Well, John, you've done it again. I like your comparison of horse slaughter to abortion. It's an emotional subject that never fails to cause a surge in emotional responses.? Several of you made some very worthwhile and thought-provoking observations; on others, well, let's just agree to disagree. TBLover got to the heart of the issue, though: ?As much as I respect Temple Grandin, it is highly unlikely she would be able to come up with a process that would be humane to the horses without costing a lot of money. The people behind the ?build-slaughterhouses? movement want to profit from it and will want it done as cheaply as possible. It would take too long to slaughter a horse humanely, and that would cut into the number of horses killed and thereby cut into their profits. I do appreciate Temple's idea of having cameras that are monitored by a third party, but again, a program like that would cost money and who's to say the people monitoring could not be paid off' ?UC Davis [Calif.] veterinarians proposed an amazing plan to set up facilities to help unwanted horses. The program would be costly, but it could work. If the people who want to build slaughter plants would back these alternative programs, there is a good chance they would be successful. Oh, never mind, there is no profit in helping horses, only in killing them. There is a concept called ?responsible breeding?; too bad more people don't follow it.? TBLover is right that animal slaughter is not a non-profit business, but I'm not sure that's a reason for the contempt in these comments. All business seeks to answer a need of some kind, and animal slaughter fills the need of providing meat and other animal products for human society. When your horse dies or is euthanized, what do you think the hauling company does with your horse's body' They take it to a rendering plant, where it becomes part of various products (but not human consumption). Neither the hauler nor the rendering plant is doing this job for the good of society. they're running a business that meets a need. To me the major issues with horse slaughter are the transport and the method of slaughter. Both are difficult issues to solve?because of the length of the trip to whatever few plants there might be and because of the time efficiency needed at the plant to make it profitable?but disdaining discussion with the people who efficiently slaughter other farm animals and with Temple Grandin does nothing to solve the problem of the about 50,000 horses languishing unhappily (and often painfully) around our country each year. Arcadian1951 finds it hard to believe there aren?t open fields and prairies on which to release these horses and adds, ?The animals have no voice or choice unless we give it to them. One such organization is www.wildloveprese rve.org, which operates a preserve in the Northern Rockies of Idaho. These kind souls have taken it upon themselves to maintain a place where wild horses can still run free, as God intended. Maybe we should take a long, hard look at ourselves and the way in which we treat our fellow earthly residents. We need to make slaughter harder and preservation easier.? Yes, we do still have lots of open land in America, but someone owns it all, and in the West the federal or a state government owns most of it. Any open land, almost anywhere, that's privately owned is probably too valuable for any horse rescue to buy, unless it's extremely remote or otherwise unsuitable for horses (like a wetlands or a mountainside). And if it's owned by a government, it's full of restrictions that would prevent it becoming a horse preserve. (Native wild horses are an equally thorny issue!) There are two other problems: First, who would pay for the care of horses in some kind of preserve' Someone (likely more than one someone) would have to take care of them, so tHere's your first cost. Then add hay, maybe grain, and farrier/veterinary care on to that. I pay $100 per month for a retired horse we decided to leave in Virginia when we moved to California five years ago. (He lives practically wild, in a field with a small herd.) let's say the basic cost of his care is $50 per month. Multiply that by 50,000. WHere's that $2.5 million a month going to come from' And don't tell me the owners of these horses would have to pay it?these horses are unwanted because the owners can't (or won?t) pay for them. And who would pay to ship them from, say, Virginia or Florida, to Idaho' Second, why is ?living wild? necessarily better for every horse' Sure, I certainly believe that horses should live as naturally as possible, and about half our horses do live outside, with the rest out either all day or all night. For many horses, a wild existence would be great. But what about really old or unsound horses, or horses with special dietary requirements' And I've known two horses who actually didn't like to be turned out for more than an hour or two, in a relatively small paddock. One of these horses would worry himself to death in a ?wild? situation. So, I'm sorry, as natural and beautiful as it sounds, I don't think ?horse preserves? could be the answer, for more than a percentage of horses. I fully agree with this observation by KansasJack on the country?s two most well-known animal-rights groups: ?It is true that if one checks the HSUS financials they'll find it's an organization that pays their people well and spends very little on animal welfare. I challenge HSUS to spend the same amount of their budget on animal welfare as I do. I offer the same challenge to PeTA. The truth is that they won't do it. So, one can only assume that they don't care as much about animals as they profess, but instead their primary concern is their own pocket.? KansasJack owns even more horses (15) and dogs (4) than we do, and we share this view: ?I care deeply about my animals, and I CARE FOR my animals. AND, when it's time for them to go, I want the same rights to decide for them what to do as I have for myself. If I can recycle my body parts, why can't I do the same with them'? I would never sell one of our horses at a ?killer auction,? and I wouldn?t put one on a truck headed for a slaughterhouse in Canada or Mexico. Because We've made a commitment to their care and, thankfully, are able to honor that commitment. But many people who own horses do not make that commitment (unfortunately), or, if they do, their own lives and financial misfortune get in the way. So I think slaughter, done as humanely as possible, is a preferable option for the poor beasts caught in the middle and suffering because of it. it's certainly not the only option available, but it's kind of like solving our future national energy needs?there isn?t one easy answer. Conservation won?t satisfy our energy needs by itself, any more than horse-rescue organizations can solve the unwanted-horse issue alone. I wish we could have more reasoned conversations about both of these big issues.