Horse Sense (more)

I don't usually respond directly to folks who comment on my posts, especially when those folks don't identify themselves and really truly especially when the commenter calls me unprincipled and tries to compare me with religious conservatives. But I am going to respond to "Don't Get it" anyway and forgive him or her for the tone of his or her post about the American Horse Slaughter Protection Act and my reaction to it. Don't Get it asks: "I don't get your objections (to the mass slaughter of our horses for human consumption). Are you against the use of horses as meat or do you believe that horses can be used for meat but should just be euthanized in a more human (sic) manner?"

I also want to respond to a much more polite comment from Horsegal, who wrote: "I have a rescue horse but I still don't think this is a good idea. My horse was taken away from cruel owners. Is that a better life then going to slaughter? Where exactly do you think these horses will go? I know how much money it takes to care for a horse especially one that is injured or older. Who is going to pay for the feed, vet, farrier, shelter for these horses? Are the folks that want to save these horses willing to fund the shelters needed to care for them for the rest of their lives?"

Here is my answer to "Don't Get it": If the French want to eat horsemeat let them brutally skin alive their own horses. If the Japanese believe horsemeat is a delicacy, let them shoot metal rods into their own horses' heads. I don't think the United States should allow the slaughter of horses for human consumption, period. I don't think we should allow foreign-owned companies to conduct their dark business in our country and I really don't believe we should be giving them tax incentives to do so. I don't believe that the three slaughterhouses operating in this country come close to humanely euthanizing horses (and there is a ton of evidence supporting my conclusion).

I believe that horses played a crucial part in the development of our country and therefore ought to hold a special place worthy of protection in our society. Governing is all about choices, about policies, about directing the rest of us in a particular direction. The Congress tomorrow has an opportunity to choose a policy that ends a barbaric, anti-American practice. I hope "Don't Get it" now does.

And here is my answer to Horsegal: Your concerns are valid ones and you have hit on the practical ramifications of what the new law would mean.. The end of the slaughterhouses will mean that people will have to take care of more horses. But there are three things you should remember. First, the legislation in Congress doesn't take away a horse owner's right to humanely euthanize his or her own horse. Second, horses today are NOT being slaughtered humanely by those companies. Check out this video if you don't believe me. And, third, the end of organized slaughter for human consumption might create a disincentive for breeders to expand their herds. Look, I'm not arguing that it is all going to be peaches and cream once the slaughter ends. I'm just saying that just because it won't be perfect afterwards is no reason not to do the right thing now.

By Andrew Cohen |  September 6, 2006; 12:30 PM ET
Previous: Big News in Boston | Next: Finally, Light At The End of the Island


Please email us to report offensive comments.

To answer "don't get it" who also called me unpricipled and suggested that I was one "who tried to push my views on others"...quite the opposite. I was suggesting the the laws of our country should reflect the values of those who live here. In this case, people don't eat horse meat and our laws should reflect that fact. Two of these plants operate in Texas where it is illegal to sell horsemeat for consumption.

I also really disagree with the whole "I don't personally do it..but anyone else can do what they want" I would agree with you if we were discussing smoking or any other issue where there is a group of American citizens who have an interest. But in this case, there is no one arguing that we should be eating horsemeat, and no one would dare. So this "lets just look the other way" is not ok.

Posted by: kc | September 6, 2006 02:06 PM

Okay, I checked out the link. There's no mention of horses being flailed alive. So where does that come from? Slaughter seems to take the same form as for cattle. Enjoy your hamburger tonight. Mr. Cohen could perhaps be a little less sensationalistic and emotional. Comparing horses to cattle is like comparing eagles to pigions? I'll accept that. Ben Franklin wanted the turkey to be our national symbol--and in effect it is--on Thanksgiving Day. There's nothing here that Sinclair Lewis didn't document a hundred years ago.

Posted by: Dave, Freeport, Il | September 6, 2006 02:47 PM

I would just like to offer up the following link so my fellow horse lovers may enjoy this healthful, delectible delight:

Posted by: Sweet Louis | September 6, 2006 02:55 PM

For the misinformed. Here is a study about the captive bolt and why it is not a humane method of enthanasia. By the way, euthanasia is Greek for good death. Death by captive bolt is not a good and stress free death.
Or you can go to the International Fund For Horses site at:
People against HR 503 are misinformed. It is not about property it is about making death cruelty free and stopping slaughter. Slaughter is not euthanasia it is a quick way to make a buck or to get out of paying a vet bill for lethal injection, which is euthanasia. If you can afford to own a horse, then you can afford to put it down when the time comes with lethal injection, period.

Posted by: sirensong50 | September 6, 2006 03:50 PM

You state that

"I believe that horses played a crucial part in the development of our country and therefore ought to hold a special place worthy of protection in our society."

Certainly the process of turning large ungulate mammals into steaks and burgers ought always to be carried out humanely. However, I'll note that cattle and bison have ALSO played a crucial role in the development of our country, and there's no hue and cry to stop slaughtering them for human consumption except of course from hard-core vegetarians. The difference is that Americans aren't used to thinking of horses as food.

Posted by: oldhonky | September 6, 2006 08:58 PM

Andrew, I believe I posted on the column you reference but do not see my post there. How many times have you written on this subject?

My major objection was that because no american wants to eat horses, there is no real FDA constraint on the process of slaughter and production of horsemeat. Pets and working horses are NOT the same as meat cattle, totally different feed and rearing methods. There's no guarantee the meat is even safe.
I just see too much potential for the abuse of the loopholes and too many import/export implications.

What's to stop people from butchering wildlife meat and exporting it as "special" horse meat? Or diverting it from import to an occult domestic market? The USDA does not regulate meat production enough as it does-- due to understaffing.

I don't think their resources should be used to regulate horse meat production which does not benefit the American customer. But to not regulate such production leads to a lot of smuggling issues. Therefore the best solution is to BAN horse slaughter for meat.

I do agree with you... unfortunately I did misunderstand your position slightly when I first read that column. I just wanted to repeat this point because I think it is a good one.

Posted by: Against slaughter for foreign markets | September 6, 2006 09:06 PM

Again, I still don't understand why you keep bringing up the issue of how the animals are killed. If inhumane methods of euthanasia are a problem for you, why aren't you railing against the methods of euthanasia for cows? Aren't they the same methods as they are for horses? If your objections against such euthanasia are principled, then I hope you are a vegetarian or, at least, you are raising your own cows, pigs, chickens, etc., and then killing them in your own humane manner.

On the other hand, if you're simply against the eating of horses, would it really matter how they were killed? I mean, I'm against the death penalty, regardless of whether it's performed in a painful or pain-free manner. It's the principle of the death penalty that I'm against -- not the methods.

So, Andrew, I will assume, for argument's sake as well as based on your posts, that you are against the production of meat from horses, even if such production could come about through humane ways (I could be wrong, but I think you would agree with such a statement). So, now, my question is: What is your underlying rationale for why we should ban the production of horse meat? Assuming it could be done in a humane manner, why are you against it?

Most of your arguments against production of horse meat are based on the inhumane aspect of the slaughter, but you do argue that horses have a crucial part in our history and deserve protection (I assume from being eaten). I have to agree with the other poster, though, who pointed out that cows, bison, and the turkey have also played important roles. Should we not protect them? In fact, any animal that has been a major food source (e.g. chickens) has played an important role in our history.

I'm sorry that my previous posts irritated you so much. I was trying to provide a critical examination of your arguments. Your arguments certainly lacked a, shall we say, dispassionate objectivity. Nonetheless, I have scoured both your posts on this issue and have not found any other arguments (besides the one above) against horse meat production, except for the ones based on the inhumane slaughter of the horses.

If you really believe that other people should hold the same value as you on this (namely, that the production of horse meat should not occur in this country, regardless of the method of slaughter), then I suggest that you find some arguments that rely less on pathos. Also, Andrew, if you don't want to reply by starting another post, just post a comment below. I'd really like to hear your response to this.

To kc, there is a difference between the cultural value of "I don't eat horsemeat" and the value of "I don't want anyone in this country to be able to produce or eat horsemeat". They're quite different. I hope that you understand that, in a country like this one based on democratic principles, such differences are critical to how we govern.

Posted by: Don't get it | September 6, 2006 11:02 PM

Dear Andrew Cohen,
I commend you and thank you for your informed opinion and brilliantly written column. The majority of horse owners, horse lovers and animal lovers strongly object to the presence of these facilities in our country and want them closed forever. Many of those who object to the closing of these facilities have no idea of the horrific treatment our equine friends receieve and how they are forced to meet such a tragic end. These animals are used as pets, companions, therapy animals, work animals, for sports and many other enjoyable activities. They deserve humane treatment, even in death.
There are a large number of us across the country who are networked together and have pledged to continue the fight until these facilities are closed permanently.
Thank you again,

Posted by: Janice Hess | September 7, 2006 07:13 AM

Don't get it? Read the links another poster put in.

The steel bolt methods works more effectively on bovines (that's cattle for youse), than on horses because the brain position is different. The horses actually regain consciousness in time to find themselves butchered alive. That's pretty darn gross.

Posted by: Against slaughter | September 7, 2006 09:44 AM

If there is to be a horse-slaughtering industry in the US, then it should kill the horses in as humane a way as possible. But I don't see anything intrinsically wrong with killing horses (or dogs or cats for that matter) for food. What's the difference between a horse and a cow or pig? One is prettier than the other? So what? In Korea they eat dog soup. Does that make Koreans barbaric? Pigs are reputedly just as intelligent as dogs.

I also find unconvincing the idea that "since we don't eat horsemeat here, we shouldn't be making it to use overseas." I'm sure there are a plethora of other such foods (or other products) which are made here but rarely consumed here. If we were to limit our industrial output to only those products which we also consume domestically, it will be pretty hard for us to compete globally.

As far as captive bolts goes, from what I've read, the meat in cattle is actually affected by the amount of anxiety the cow feels just before it is slaughtered. This is why the captive bolt is used -- it causes the minimal release of the "fright" toxin that ruins the meat. So apparently it is the most humane way yet found to slaughter cows.

Posted by: David Curtin | September 7, 2006 11:17 AM

Oops! Upton Sinclair.

Posted by: Dave | September 7, 2006 01:52 PM

If we all work together then maybe we can help get this bill passed. Me and some friends are asking people to send an email to their senators asking them to push this bill through and vote to end horse slaughtering.

Go to and type in your zip code. Send an email to both of your US senators and tell them to stop horse slaughtering. The vote is coming before the Senate in early October so please do it NOW! :-) Thanks!!!

And here is a blog that we set up so you can read more information about it:

Posted by: Jenny | October 1, 2006 11:16 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company