Save the Next Barbaro From Slaughter

It was a big deal on Capitol Hill, apparently, but not a big deal on teleivsion or online. A House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee held a public hearing Tuesday on the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, a rare species of legislation whose titled aptly describes what it does and whose overwhelming appeal ought to be self-evident. The bill would make it illegal for horses to be slaughted here in the States (where there is currently an industry that caters to overseas consumers of horse as meat).

Full disclosure: I own two horses. And I have lived around them for most of my life. I support horse rescue efforts, am working on a doozy of life-saving plan for harness horses, and am truly surprised when everyone I know doesn't immediately rush to support the cause as well. So I won't pretend to be unbiased or objective on this one. Most of the time I can at least understand the "other side of the story." On this, I do not.

It is shameful that horses can legally be slaughtered for money in this country. It is shameful that our federal government hasn't done anything to stop it until now. It is particularly shameful that last year the Congress blocked efforts to get it done. And it will be even more shameful if the careful momentum that has bulit up for this legislation falls victim again, as so many other good intentions, to the sleaze of politics.

The only people in the country who are against the Slaughter Prevention Act are, predictably, the folks in the horse slaughter business, who have brainwashed themselves into believing that they are just a regular part of the supply and demand chain of commerce, like grain farmers or dairymen, and those who believe that horses, like all other "private property," shouldn't be regulated by the government. Surely, even now those constituencies pale in comparison to the millions and millions of people who have been touched over the past two months by the triumph and tragedy of Barbaro, for example, or the tens of millions more who would be appalled if they knew what happens to unwanted horses in their own country. And, surely, even the current crop of particularly inept politicians in the nation's capital can understand that this is the no-brainer issue of all time; horses deserve at least this much protection.

In September, the legislation will go to the floor of the House. I will be following it between now and then for me and for you and I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, your elected representatives will be back near you for their summer break and to get busy campaigning. Tell them to back this bill. Remember, always, there are more good horses than there are good people.

By Andrew Cohen |  July 26, 2006; 7:00 AM ET
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You're kidding me right? With all of the issues facing the world we're talking about Mr. Ed and Barbaro???!!! Sure, it's a bit repulsive to imagine eating pony, but honestly, who cares.

Posted by: Flabbergasted. | July 26, 2006 10:45 AM

I guess I have no social conscience. It is not as if we are stealing someone's pet and slaughtering it for profit. I just do not see how raising horses as a source of meat is any different than raising cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, turkeys, fish, or rabbits. If its okay to shoot Bambi for venison, why isn't it okay to raise any other animal as a source of food.

Posted by: wally | July 26, 2006 12:08 PM

I ride horses, grew up with them, love them, etc., but why is it "shameful" that horses can be "slaughtered for money" in this country like cows or rabbits or chickens?

Is it because horses are cute and sweet and we ride them and like them?

Why is a horse so different from a cow which is raised to be slaughtered?

Why isn't it even more "shameful" to slaughter bunnies for food since they are even cuter and sweeter than horses although we can't ride them?

I don't get it.

Posted by: tom | July 26, 2006 12:09 PM

I've owned horses - work animals and pets - and appreciate them for the magnificent animals they are. However, many of the horses sent to slaughter are the old, infirm, or weak. Should we just let them die and rot in the pasture?

And what is the difference with other animals raised for consumption? Just because it's not PC to consume equine in America does not make it immoral.

And to compare these horses to Barbaro is ridiculous. Barbaro is only alive because of the monetary investment of his owners and their willingness to continue treatment on the basis of future stud fees.

Posted by: homestatus | July 26, 2006 03:08 PM

Two comments:

Regulate the method of horse slaughter, by all means. However,
I don't see the justification in regulating whether a horse can
be slaughtered and even less can I see the justification in
regulating what subsequently happens to the carcase (beyond
ensuring that it's not a health hazard). In particular, I have
no qualms about the trade in and consumption of horse meat.

This appears to be yet another very minor matter for the US
Congress to be involved in. This is surely a matter for states
to regulate. I wish that congress could grapple with some of
the important issues facing the country and avoid nannying us.

Posted by: Charles | July 26, 2006 04:37 PM

I agree with tom. I like horses. I think they are beautiful animals, but in reality, what is different about them than cattle, goats, or pigs. It is all a matter of perception. The public sees them as a noble animal, and as a result, we have people like Andrew, who don't think logically, but make statements based entirely on illogical, emotional perceptions that may or may not be true.

Posted by: Tim in KC | July 26, 2006 04:40 PM

If you want an unbiased source to learn the other side of the story, I suggest you track down Donna Ewing, the 71-year-old founder of the nation's oldest horse rescue group, the Illinois-based Hooved Animal Humane Society. She is so adamant about this. She's someone we should listen to. In a recent interview in the Houston Press, she said that instead of shutting down horse slaughterhouses, we should build more of them. We could cut down on the travel time for horses by building a state-of-the-art, humane slaughterhouse in larger states. The meat sales would pay them off. The service would save horse owners money and probably reduce abuse cases. Whether it's worms in the ground or Frenchmen, it doesn't concern Ewing who eats the horses. And that's the point. This is about the humane treatment of these horses when they're alive. There are only 6,000 spots in horse rescue shelters - all are full now. Try adding 90,000 unwanted horses to the equation. This legislation will drive us to a disaster that will hardly be humane for horses.

Posted by: David | July 27, 2006 05:17 PM

You all people that talk about killing horses for comsuption and have a cold hearted reaction to it, you all make me sick to my stomach, you should be glad you are not horses.You are he ones who should take their places in the slaughter house for a change, I am pretty sure you will be crying like little girls for your lives,and see if all those sleazy politicians friends of yours are going to help you.They are as cold hearted as you people and greedy.

Posted by: Luv Barbaro & Co. | July 29, 2006 03:06 PM

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