The picture above is of my beloved Lassy. My mother had always wanted a good Quarter Horse (so named because they are the fastest horse in the quarter mile) to take West to ride in the Rocky Mountains. Pine Raider's Lassy -- her registered name -- was born in 1978 and came to live with us in 1980. I was 4 and she was 2, so we basically grew up together! My mother rode Lassy all over the country and as I got older I also rode Lassy quite a bit. Eventually, as a teenager, I got my "own" horse: Tewanna. This wonderful mare passed of old age (approx 36!) while I was living in Washington DC. When I returned to Ohio, Lassy & Abe the Mule eventually came to live with me at Harrison Farm. I was the official "retirement home" for my mother's older equine!
By the time my mother passed on, Lassy & Abe were both getting up in years. This picture of Lassy with my godmother & friends was taken in September of 2009. Lassy was 31 then, and was no longer the gorgeous, noble horse who had once thundered along the mountain trails. Instead, Lassy was slower, a bit grumpier, but still quite loving toward me (if not Abe the Mule!). In August of 2010, Lassy passed quite suddenly. There was no lingering illness, simply a quick death from old age. I miss her, and especially missed losing that tie to my mother. At the same time, her death did lift a burden from my finances. In order to keep Lassy as healthy as possible, I was spending a great deal of money on a special feed for her. Even with this measure, she was still quite thin -- simply as a result of age. I do not regret spending that money whatsoever, but I did have to give up things I needed (goodbye health insurance!) at the same time I was making this purchase.
I wonder what I would have done if I was in a different situation. When I experienced a major job change and resulting financial strain in 2010, I was fortunate enough to have a roof over my head, supportive family & friends, and plenty of goats I could eat! But what about those who don't have my resources? If a single parent loses their job, has four children to feed, a mortgage to pay, and a car payment to keep up to date -- do they keep buying expensive grain for a high-maintenance horse? Beyond that, is it wrong for our society to expect them to do so . . . with the possible situation of children suffering as a result? I would resoundingly answer: YES! Sadly, few options exist for a horse owner in this situation.
Prior to 2007, three horse slaughter plants operated in the United States. Horsemeat was processed for sale to overseas markets (where it is commonly eaten) and for zoos & other wild animal facilities. This provided numerous positives: unwanted/untrainable horses had value because they could be sold for slaughter, they were processed in American facilities with inspectors on hand to ensure a humane end to their life, American jobs were created & product was sold overseas that added to our American Gross Domestic Product, and the horse industry could rely on the fact that every animal had economic potential. Due to Congress no longer authorizing federal funds to pay inspectors at USDA plants for horse slaughter, combined with the closure of the three existing plants due to state lawsuits in TX & IL, horse slaughter ceased in the U.S. in 2007. Since then the horse industry and horses have suffered.
A few months ago, the U.S. Senate requested that the General Accounting Office (GAO) issue a report on the unintended consequences of ending horse slaughter in our country. I have pored over the document, and found that my observations have now been documented through this comprehensive study. Jobs HAVE been lost. Revenue HAS decreased. Horses ARE suffering. The equine industry IS reeling. The worst part to me is the documentation that removing slaughter has created an increase in incidents of mistreated horses. There is no longer an option to sell your horse, thus the value is gone during a time when Americans are struggling economically. Do you feed your child or your horse? Many horses are being abandoned on public lands: state parks, federal forests, etc. This creates suffering for domesticated horses that are not used to a wild mustang lifestyle. There is not enough food on these lands for abandoned horses, thus it becomes the burden of the taxpayer to fund state governments & federal agencies to deal with these animals.
Admittedly, animal rights groups (including HSUS), maintain in the GAO study that the end of horse slaughter has NOTHING to do with the dramatic increase since 2007 of 1)abandoned horses, 2)shipment of horses to Canada & Mexico for slaughter, and 3)reports of mistreated or malnourished horses. It is baffling to me that anyone could look at the rise in these three statistics since the key year when horse slaughter ceased in the U.S. and profess there is NO connection. Unless, of course, they had another agenda in mind . . .
As humans we must guarantee animals are treated humanely in life & death. The United States has excellent inspected slaughter facilities that work to produce quality products. There is a strong market for a product we have in abundance at a time when we need jobs in our country. Horse meat is full of protein and there are people who are starving in our world. Let's tell our Senators & Congressmen to bring back horse slaughter . . . and make sure that all horses have value & humane treatment!