Valley Meat Company, New Mexico‘s new abattoir is putting horse meat on the menu, but can we stomach it? Valley Meat Company received approval to open its doors to a new abattoir, (horse slaughter facility) and will soon be joined by applications from Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, and Iowa. The slaughter of horses in the United States came to a standstill shortly after Congress voted to defund inspection of the meat in 2007. In order to circumvent the ban, the USDA offered fee based private services for almost nine months, until it was found to be in conflict with other legislation. At that time, the remaining three plants in the U.S closed their doors, and the business went across the border into Canada and Mexico. Exportation of horses to Canada and Mexico for slaughter increased 50% after the ban.
- there are 9.2 million horses in America and 2 million owners.
- the horse industry has a direct economic influence on the U.S reaping $40 billion annually
- horses are employed as race horses; show horses, recreation, farm and ranch work, police escorts, rodeos, polo and competitions
- the majority of horses that go to slaughter are healthy says the USDA
Horse slaughter is a $62 billion dollar industry, and in banning the slaughter of horses for human consumption, America votes itself out of market share.
Horsemeat, can we stomach it?
Voting itself out of the horsemeat industry seems fine to about 80% of Americans, because they regard horses with a strong sense of friendship and companionship. Seventy percent of Canadians agree with their American neighbours regarding the consumption and slaughter of horses. If we legalize the slaughter of horses for consumption should we make the meat available in domestic markets? If horse meat is on the menu, can we stomach it?
With that said, however, opponents on each side of the debate point to very different facts regarding the welfare of these animals when they are no longer financially viable to keep, or when they are no longer reaping a profit.
Advocates of the horse slaughter industry say there is a “problem” with too many neglected and starving horses left for dead, in spite of state legislation that regulates the care of the animals. They also say there are insufficient rescue and adoption agencies to see many retired racehorses, or family pets given a dignified old age and graceful death. What has been reported is starving and neglected pets that have no place left to go and so end up being sold cheaply to slaughterhouse ghouls, also known as “kill buyers“.
Video Does Not Contain Graphic or Disturbing Scenes
Horse activists and Humane Society spokespersons claim, this argument is a false attempt to justify cruelty to animals, because “most horses who go to slaughter are not unwanted, but instead wind up in the hands of kill buyers because they are in good health and will bring a good price per pound for their meat.”
Furthermore, the treatment of the horses who are auctioned off and destined for slaughterhouses is inhumane, due in part to their being raised with so much intimacy to humans, and because the standards and practices are yet to meet a level of necessary to minimize their suffering.
Horses are not raised for slaughter. They have been raised in close human contact for racing,
ranch work, pleasure riding, etc. This sudden treatment as pure livestock disorients and
frightens them, compounding their suffering. – HSI Canada
The fact is, there are alternatives to slaughtering horses, feasibly and compassionately – the slaughter of horses for meat consumption offers additional economic profits and that is what stands in opposition to the sentimental attachment many Americans have towards this livestock. Can America transcend this cultural taboo anymore than Muslim nations would transcend a prohibition on pork? And the next question raised by the practice of eating livestock that was not intentionally raised for consumption, is whether it’s safe? Even if horse meat is on the menu, can we stomach it?
Hippophagy The American Taboo
Although hippophagy (eating horse meat) is strongly disliked by over 80% of Americans, the custom is accepted in other parts of the world. The European Union is one of the main destinations for the exported meat, along with Russia and Asia. In January of 2013, the “Burger-Gate scandal” broke the news that Burger King, Ikea, Taco Bell, & Buitoni (in Europe) and other prepared foods contained large amounts of horse meat, in what is supposed to be 100% beef.
The concern that a Burger-Gate could happen in America is valid; and of major concern since some of the horses led to slaughter are exposed to strong pharmaceutical drugs that are toxic to humans. Concerns about the meat being sold domestically by horse slaughter ghouls to blend in with beef for fast food restaurants, and processed food giants looms in the shadow of the European scandal from earlier this year. The circumstantial evidence asks, if horse meat was labelled as beef in Europe and passed, could it have been successfully mislabelled in America. The USDA adamantly states that no such mislabelling or meat fraud has happened domestically. Yet, long after consumption demand dropped in Europe, horses were being shipped for slaughter to Canada and Mexico, and the numbers didn’t add up.
The number of U.S. horses sent to other countries for slaughter has nearly tripled since domestic slaughter was banned in 2006, according a 2011 report from the Government Accountability Office, and yet the demand for it wasn’t proportional to the export.
We have been watching the numbers of U.S. horses slaughtered closely, because we knew they would tell us how much of the meat from our horses was being sold as beef,” states John Holland, President of the Equine Welfare Alliance.
How much? A great deal of it, Holland says.
The discovery of horse meat sold as beef explains why more U.S horses were being exported for slaughter despite a decade-long slump in direct consumption of horse meat in the EU. More than 160,000 U.S. horses were slaughtered for their meat in 2012.
The number of U.S. horses sent to other countries for slaughter has nearly tripled since domestic slaughter was banned in 2006, according a 2011 report from the Government Accountability Office, the only way to account for the discrepancy is to recognize that the meat has been sold falsely as beef on the international market, which means it could very well have happened domestically.
Legal counsel for Valley Meat Co. said today that there is a domestic demand for it with the U.S, and that yes, the company is capable and willing to supply those demands. The demand for horse meat raises another concern for those interested diners, is it safe to eat livestock that wasn’t intentionally raised to end up on our plate? Many of the horses that end up in auction houses have been exposed to pharmaceutical drugs that are toxic to humans. Drugs like Bute (phenylbutazone) and Banamine (flunixin meglumine) are routinely administered to injured race horses, and work horses alike, as they are anti-inflammatory. Canada’s reporting system for identifying horses that have been exposed to these drugs is weak and filled with fraud by kill buyers. Slaughter house ghouls have been known to lie on the intake cards that are presented at auction, leaving the system open to dishonest dealers, and kill buyers, whose only concern is to make a dollar.
America has a lot to consider in this debate, over abattoirs and hipphophagy, fancy ways of saying slaughter and consume horses. A minority group of chefs and exotic food lovers, are already beginning to consider the numerous possibilities for cuisine and hot new recipes, should horse meat become available within the United States. In the meantime, in other parts of the world, horse meat is on the menu, but can we stomach it?
follow me on twitter ~ Tonnya Marisse
Equistrian Channel – U.S Horse Industry Statistics
HSI Canada – Fast Facts on Canada’s Horse Slaughter
Huffington Post U.K – Burger King UK Reputation Damaged by Horsemeat Scandal
Huffington Post Weird News – Is Horsemeat Legal In the United States? Yes and We Ate Some
Latitude News – Shady Trade in Horsemeat
Montreal Gazette – US officials approve only horse slaughterhouse in the country, but ban still pursued
Wildhorse Foundation.Org – More Horses and Cattle Found Starving to Death