Debate over horse meat gains new life - U.S. news- msnbc.com

Horses being transported to slaughter at a now-defunct Texas plant.

The Animal Welfare Institute says these horses, including one with cut and swollen eyes, were among animals being transported to slaughter at a now-defunct Texas plant. Such cases illustrate the inhumane treatment of many horses destined for the meat market, the group says.
Dixie Wilson / ARTEX

Mike Stuckey
Senior news editor

The emotional debate over slaughtering horses for human consumption gained new life in Washington this week as a House committee approved a measure that would ban the practice nationwide and halt the export of U.S. horses destined for dinner tables in other countries.

While it’s unclear whether the Judiciary Committee’s Tuesday approval of the slaughter ban will lead to passage by the full House and Senate before the clock runs out on the current session of Congress, the panel’s hearings refocused attention on an issue that has motivated animal-welfare groups for years.

Horse meat in package, bought in a Dutch supermarketImage via WikipediaOutraged by what they say is cruel treatment of horses sold for meat, the groups already have succeeded at forcing closure of the three remaining U.S. horse slaughterhouses — two in Texas and one in Illinois — in recent years. But since thousands of horses are still exported for slaughter in Canada and Mexico, and many states have no laws that would prohibit the opening of new plants, the groups have been seeking federal regulation since 2001.

“There’s absolutely no way to make it humane,” said Chris Heyde, deputy director of government and legal affairs for the Animal Welfare Institute, one of the ban’s principal backers. “It’s an industry that cannot be regulated to make it humane.”

So the “Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act,” sponsored by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., chairman of Judiciary, and Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., would make it a crime punishable by up to three years in prison to possess or transport horse meat for human consumption or horses intended to be slaughtered for human meals.

A necessary option

But opponents of the law, including some cattle ranchers, horse breeders and veterinarians, say that the now-defunct U.S. slaughterhouses, regulated and inspected by the Department of Agriculture, were run in a humane fashion and provided a necessary option to deal with unwanted horses.

“From a welfare perspective, they’ve made things a lot worse,” said Mark Lutschaunig, director of governmental relations for the American Veterinary Medicine Association, which represents 76,000 U.S. vets. Lutschaunig said his group is hearing reports of a sharp increase in cases of horses being neglected and abandoned by owners who can no longer sell them at auction for slaughter.

Despite the fact that horse meat is widely eaten by Europeans and Asians, the vast majority of Americans have no interest in taking a bite out of Old Paint. Since no U.S. horses are raised for that purpose, they only come to the meat market as castoffs: old, sick, too unruly to ride or genetically deficient. Because horses are not regulated as meat animals, Heyde said, the process by which they are slaughtered is fraught with cruelty.

About 100,000 American horses are exported for slaughter in Mexico and Canada each year, roughly the same number as when the U.S. slaughterhouses were operating. There are about 9 million horses in the United States, according to federal estimates.

Harrowing stories, images

Web sites maintained by Heyde’s group and others contain harrowing accounts, photos and videos of horses being transported to the slaughterhouses. “Deprived of food, water or rest, the horses are forced onto double-decked cattle trailers” and hauled for 24 hours or more, according to the Animal Welfare Institute’s site. “Callous workers use fiberglass rods to poke and beat their faces, necks, backs and legs.” At one plant in Mexico, horses are “stabbed repeatedly” with knives in “a barbaric practice (that) simply paralyzes the animal. The horse is still fully conscious at the start of the slaughter process, during which he or she is hung by a hind leg, his or her throat slit and body butchered,” it says.

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The First Day of FALL! What Happened To SUMMER?

Okay, I know I say this every fall, but dang it, fall and winter pass SO much more slowly than spring and summer. Hopefully we will have a nice "Indian summer" this year so Indy and I can make some more progress.

We did have a nice ride a couple of days ago. It was longer than usual, and he was higher than I think I've ever seen him. Maybe it was just getting out to the grass, because I know he's really hungry - more about this later - or possibly it was the adjustments I made to his sidepull - I raised the noseband because it looked too low, but he didn't seem to like that at all. So, it was a bit more of a ride than usual in addition to being longer.

It all pointed up how out of shape I am. Indy was fine, but the muscles in my legs were - and still are - really sore, with my arms and hands a bit of a problem as well. I readjusted the sidepull, but I think I'll do some more ground work, possibly with the bit, to get him a little lighter. I just hope, like I said, that the weather will give us a break.

The reason I knew Indy was really hungry was because we've had to cut down on their ration of hay - again. I've mentioned that we had a lot of clover this year, and they have already started gaining weight from our hay! Dang! They were already on a diet, and we've cut them back as much as we feel like we can. And needless to say, we never feed grain or any other concentrates.

If we have as much clover next year, we're just going to have to kill it out. These two just can't handle the calories, and they need to be able to have at least enough hay to keep their digestive systems healthy without getting obese. It's no fun being an easy keeper, as I know from experience. I was always an easy keeper myself, gaining weight on a claorie count that most people would have lost weight with.

Since my muscles are much to sore to try to ride - or even do ground work yet - I've just been grooming. But - I'm having no end of problems with one of our half grown barn kittens. I named her Terror when she was just a baby, little knowing how well that name would fit her. Oh, she's very friendly. In fact, that's the problem. She won't leave me alone while I'm trying to work on the horses.

She's incredibly persistent - if I try to ignore her she will leap from the stall rail half way across the stall, landing on my neck. Needless to say, this can be quite a shock. It also can be quite painful when her little claws dig into my skin, protected only by a thin shirt. At least Indy doesn't spook when I scream into his ear.

If Terror isn't launching herself onto my back, she's wandering around the stall under Indy's feet. As one can imagine, this is most distracting. She is such a sweet kitty, and I love her dearly, but if she doesn't lose interest in this game pretty soon I'm not sure what I'm gonna do with the little demon. Oops! My bad - Demon is another pesky little half grown kitty that's always under foot.....


Groups Working to Rescue Stranded Galveston Horses

by: Erin Ryder, TheHorse.com News Editor
September 16 2008, Article # 12704

While most residents fled the island of Galveston, Texas, as Hurricane Ike approached amid National Weather Service warnings of "certain death," numerous horses and other livestock were left behind. Now rescuers are working to get the surviving animals to safety on the mainland, where a staging area for horses has been set up at Jack Brooks Park in Santa Fe, Texas.

Jerry Finch, president of Habitat for Horses, an equine protection organization based in Galveston County, is assisting in this effort. As of the evening of Sept. 15, crews were just beginning to assess the damage and see to equine needs. Finch's team covered a portion of West Galveston.

"I just went down basically to do an assessment, and there are a bunch of (horses) down there," Finch reported. "There are probably at this point 80 to 100 horses that we're going to have to pull out, in just the little section that we saw."

Finch reported the Galveston flooding was reminiscent of the plight of Plaquemines Parish, La., after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. "The water (in Galveston) got 8 to 10 feet deep, so these horses had to swim out of whatever pastures they were in," Finch reported.

"For those that had to leave their animals, if we can find them we'll take care of them," Finch added. "We're horse people, but the livestock's important to us, too," he said of the stranded cattle that have been spotted in the region. "We'll do whatever we can do to make sure everybody's taken care of."

Finch said horse owners can assist in the rescue in two ways: They can donate time or money. Volunteers will be needed to help care for animals at the staging area. Anyone interested in volunteering can contact Habitat for Horses at 866/434-5737. Finch said cash donations are most useful to the group. Donations can be made via the Web site, Habitatforhorses.org, or mailed.

Damage at the Habitat for Horses ranch in Galveston County.

"With money we can buy the things we really need," Finch explained. "So many people donated things in Katrina that we just never really needed. We need the money to buy the necessities, to pay the vets, to buy the hay."

Aside from the rescue operation under way, another concern is the Habitat for Horses' own primary facility, located on 27 acres in Galveston County. That ranch is home to around 50 animals. Finch described it as "in shambles. But the horses are okay. That was our biggest thing. As long as the horses are okay, we can handle it. We had a brand new barn, operating room facility, everything else, and it no longer has a roof. The sheds and storage are gone. But that's physical stuff--let's take care of the horses first, then we'll take care of (the rest of) it."

Other groups, including the Texas Animal Health Commission, members of a National Veterinary Response Team, USDA Veterinary Services, and the Texas State Animal Resource Team, are also working on the scene. Find contact information for these groups and other resources at "Hurricane Recovery: Contacts for Texas Livestock Owners, Rescue Crews."

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Storm Warning

Galveston contains many restored Victorian homes.Image via Wikipedia

Ike has passed on by, and I guess Galveston is still there - part of it anyway. If you've never been to Galveston you can't truly appreciate what's been lost. Galveston is/was a lovely city. I'd love to live there if it weren't for the hurricanes.

I'm sure it will be pouring rain in my home town of Dallas as well. There will be street floodings, but it will still be nothing like Galveston. I was still living in Dallas in the 1960s when Carla hit about the same area. It seemed it would never stop raining in Dallas that time.

We here in Indiana had some heavy rain and gusty wind from the remains of Ike yesterday afternoon. We could have used the rain a couple of weeks ago. Now, it's too late to help the farmers, and the yields of soybeans and corn will likely be hurt from the weeks of no rain we had. Well, as far as us personally, we weren't planning on a third cutting of hay anyway - good thing because there isn't going to be one - and this rain will perk up the grass enough so that Indy and Ami will have something to nibble on over the winter.

Since this post is pretty much off topic anyway, I might as well get into deeper water - no pun intended, believe me. It's just that I have a rule to keep politics off this blog. It's totally off topic here. This blog is about Indy, and he's about the most apolitical being I know.

Actually, I'm apolitical myself. As a somewhat conservative independent, I usually don't want to have to admit I voted for either of the bozos that are on the presidential ticket. Over the years though I've tended toward the Republican party because of my conservative leanings.  But, things have changed.......

In recent years - and especially under George W. Bush - the Republicans have begun pandering to a sliver of a sliver of religious extreemests who want to turn our country into a Theocracy - their Theoracy of course - and then take us back to the Dark Ages by declaring war on the basic tenets of virtually all branches of science in favor of their particular version of the creation story. I find this terrifying.

In spite of these strong misgivings, I was at least considering McCain until he selected Sarah Palin as his running mate and then started well, lying about practically everything.

For McCain to choose Palin after accusing Obama of being inexperienced would be funny if it weren't so serious. It was especially incumbent upon McCain to choose a running mate who would be able to run the country in his absence because, let's face it, McCain is 71 years old plus having had a run in with an extremely virulent form of cancer. Like it or not, he's much more vulnerable than Obama in this regard.

If McCain chose Palin because he honestly thinks she is a good choice, this throws his judgment in  serious doubt. If he chose her because he thought she could grab votes that he otherwise would not have gotten, this throws even more serious doubt on his integrity. I'm really sorry to have to say this, but the truth is the truth. As far as I'm concerned, a McCain/Palin victory is unthinkable.

Even if I agreed with her views - which I do not - I would still realize that she absolutely cannot be ready to take over the most important, most difficult, most complicated job in the world. It's simply not possible.

Besides, as I said earlier, I've lost all faith in John McCain. I had previously thought that probably either one of them could handle the job, come right down to it. Now?

I plan to do everything in my power to see to it that Barack Obama is our next President. 

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"From my earliest memories, I have loved horses with a longing beyond words." ~ Robert Vavra