If you talk to horse enthusiasts, most of them would say, “Of course I’m against horse slaughter!” And they do mean it. But many, like me, have never taken it any farther than that. Without knowing details, I knew there are inhumane practices in the shipment and process. I would never consider eating horse meat, and I wish other people wouldn’t. I know there is legislation in Congress to prevent the killing of horses for human consumption. And that’s about it.
Then yesterday, I came across a news article buried on a horse forum about a double-decker trailer transporting 59 horses that overturned in northern Illinois on Saturday. This was a huge, inconceivable accident that brought together a community, yet we’ve heard nothing about it in national news. We all know Britney Spears was caught swearing outside a courtroom, but how many outside Chicago or a devoted horse world heard about this tragedy?
It caught my eye because there were 59 horses jammed in this trailer. That blew my mind. I mean, it’s hard enough to load three horses in a spacious slant load that’s made for horses to ride in comfortably. Besides having an unbelievable number of equines, the trailer was designed for cattle and pigs and most of the horses couldn’t even stand all the way up. And to top it off, they weren’t even sickly or old animals … they were young Belgian draft horses between the ages of 6 months and 6 years, and most were only in their first and second years. They were healthy, strong, and sound.
18 of the animals either died in the crash or were euthanized afterwards due to their extensive injuries. The survivors were given refuge at a nearby farm where they continue to receive veterinary care, turnout, and a good supply of hay. The community rallied behind the stricken animals; it took hours of work to rescue the horses from the overturned trailer, half a dozen fire departments, and countless volunteers with horse experience.
Reports say that the driver of the trailer ran a red light and was struck by a pick up truck. He was going too fast and couldn’t regain control of the vehicle. The driver said that he was transporting the horses from Indiana to an auction in Minnesota where they would likely be bought by Amish farmers. The name of the owner has not been released, but he has been contacted and said that he is concerned for the welfare and safety of the horses (which I say is a load of bull since he had them transported like that!).
However, the buzz in the horse world (and anybody who has half a brain) is that the unfortunate horses were probably bound for a slaughter house in Canada. Sure, they may have been going to the sale first where a few might have been bought into loving homes, but most wouldn’t be so lucky.
The three slaughterhouses in the U.S. (one in Illinois and two in Texas) have been shut down recently due to legislation banning horse slaughter on U.S. soil, but equines are still transported to Canada and Mexico. There they are killed and processed and shipped as a delicacy to Japan and some European countries. Though there isn’t concrete evidence at this point, many believe this was the fate of the 59 horses. If it was, the accident was a blessing in disguise. The community is rallying behind these horses, and it is highly probable that they will all be adopted into loving homes or rescue agencies.
Horse Slaughter in the U.S.
After reading everything I could find about this incident, I finally started researching more about horse slaughter practice and legislation in the U.S. It’s by no means a pretty picture.
I had always been under the impression that old, sickly, skinny, unsound horses were the ones sent to slaughter. But I’ve now learned that most of these ill-fated animals are actually young, healthy, sound, and in good weight, if not overweight. They’re more valuable as meat that way! I also learned that many of the slaughtered horses are babies born as a byproduct of the production of a drug called Premarin used to manage the symptoms of menopause and decrease the chances of developing osteoporosis. Premarin is made from estrogen found in the urine of pregnant mares. These horses are impregnated solely so they will produce this hormone, and the unwanted babies tend to meet their fate in a slaughterhouse. Many are shipped directly to Japan where they are slaughtered and distributed fresh. Some people are speculating that our 59 young Belgians were Premarin babies born as a byproduct and raised to be slaughtered. I don’t know if we’ll ever know for sure where they came from or where they are going, but it’s an incredibly likely scenario.
Horse Protection Act
There are bills in the early stages of approval in the House and the Senate that would amend the Horse Protection Act to “prohibit the shipping, transporting, moving, delivering, receiving, possessing, purchasing, selling, or donation of horses and other equines to be slaughtered for human consumption, and for other purposes.” Contact your representatives and let them know that you would like them to support these bills!
What is the Horse Protection Act?
Horse Protection Act Amendment Bill in Senate (overview, supporters, and status)
Horse Protection Act Amendment Bill in House (overview, supporters, and status)
Sign Online Petition to Ban Horse Slaughter in the U.S. (deadline 12-21-07) I signed it, why don’t you? It’s a quick and easy way to get involved and help make a difference.