Return to horse slaughterhouses?

February 25, 2009
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Paul Dieterlen is the unusual veterinarian who doesnâ??t have a pet. But Dieterlen, who retired recently from overseeing the meat-inspection division within the State Board of Animal Health, says that if he had one, it would be a horse.

So it might seem counterintuitive that Dieterlen believes the ban on slaughtering horses needs to be lifted.

The practice was done away with for good reasons, he says. Old, arthritic animals were being trucked hundreds of miles to the few horse slaughterhouses operating in the country, often with little water, food or rest. (Dieterlen isnâ??t aware of slaughterhouses having operated in Indiana, ever.)

Now, though, instances of horse neglect are on the rise because owners canâ??t afford the hundreds of dollars needed to euthanize their animals and dispose of the bodies.

â??It leaves us with an intolerant problem,â?? he says. â??What do they do with them?â??

Indeed, it isnâ??t a small problem in a state where horses are popular with people from exurban types to the racing industry to the Amish, who still use them as draft animals. The Indiana Horse Council estimates Hoosiers own more than 200,000 horses. Thatâ??s nearly twice the population of Hendricks County.

Montana is considering opening the door to slaughterhouses. Dieterlen thinks an alternative would be for animal welfare groups to help raise money for euthanasia and disposal.

Anyone have a better idea?
  • Indiana may have never been home to a slaughterhouse, but despite the ban on US slaughter of horses, Indiana IS home to one of the most infamous slaughter auctions in Shipshewanna. As President of Friends of Ferdinand, an Indianapolis based non-profit that provides options for retiring racehorses that are at-risk for slaughter, I do know that after the slaughter of horses for human consumption on US soil ceased, the Shipshewanna kill auction did not close its doors, nor did it slow in numbers. I also know that on average, during the racing season, 40-60% of the equines entered into the weekly Friday morning kill auctions are racehorses who are not infirm, arthritic nor old – they are simply just slow or injured. A little closer to Indianapolis : recent change in management of the Strawtown livestock auction has made that venue much more inviting to kill buyers who then haul their live meat to slaughter.

    The truth of the matter is that almost every horse is alive because a human thought it was a good idea to breed a mare to a stallion. Mares have one foal a year - this isn’t a situation of cats and dogs indiscriminately breeding litters multiple times a year. The problem is poor choices in mare/stallion selection, over-breeding and backyard breeding. Currently, breeding practices are rewarded by breed associations that, shockingly, are earning revenue on foal registrations which is simply a matter of sending in paperwork. The onus for the unwanted horse population in the US lands squarely on the shoulders of the equine breeding industry rather than the already overburdened welfare industry. Here’s my better idea: Responsible breeding and horse ownership. If you are going to choose to breed horses, then as a part of your foal registration you should include funds that are set aside to support humane euthanasia of the animal that you choose to create. Veterinarians could then have those funds available to them to help offset the costs of humane euthanasia of the sick, old, infirm, unsound, insane and unwanted horses. I wonder if Dr. Dieterlan has thought about setting up a euthanasia clinic for his own clients?

    Sara Busbice, President
    Friends of Ferdinand Inc.
  • Ms. Busbice hits the nail right on the head. Horse slaughter rewards irresponsible behavior.

    The facts are available...the contradictions of the pro-slaughter factions are well documented.

    One reason why horse slaughter has become a hot topic at the state level is because foreign interests from Belgium and other European countries - interests who owned the now closed U.S slaughterhouses in Illinois and Texas and also own the Canada and Mexico slaughterhouses - have found that we are not the United States of America, but the United States of (insert name of highest bidder here). Unforunate, but not surprising and nothing new, I suppose.

    The pro-slaughter factions now have foreign money greasing the way to getting states such as Minnesota, North Dakota, Indiana, Illinois, and others to introduce legislation at the state leverl that would permit the construction of horse slaughter facilities in these states and make a statement that the pending federal legislation that would effectivly end the slaughter of America's horses for consumption by the wealthy in Europe and Asia. It has nothing to do with helping horses or solving problems and everything to do with the almighty dollar.

    Beware Indiana, do not take the word of horse slaughter proponents at face value, or count on their contrived statistics that are manipulated to show that horse slaughter is a must have. Do your homework. You have more to lose that you think.

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