Horse story misleading
To the Editor:
Your story, “Chance Gets a Second Chance” makes several misleading and inaccurate statements that I’d like to address. While it is good to know that this horse did not end up at slaughter, it is important that the public know the verifiable facts about horse slaughter.
First of all: Horse slaughter is “not” illegal in the United States. The last three remaining major horse slaughter plants were shut down in 2007 in Illinois and in Texas. However, these plants weren’t shut down due to illegality. Technicalities led to their ultimate closings. Individual states such as California have outlawed horse slaughter. Federally, it is legal.
Secondly, the public should know there is a proposed Federal Bill entitled The Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act. (Senate No. S727 and House No. HR503), continues to languish in the U.S. Congress. Therefore, citizens should be made aware that this bill is very much key to shutting down the transport of American horses to Canada and Mexico for purposes of slaughter. Until such a bill is passed, trailer loads of horses from Maine cross the border at Jackson into Canada every few weeks.
My third point is that the shutdown of the Illinois and Texas plants did not change the slaughter numbers one iota for horses transported from Maine. The primary kill buyer here in Maine has been sending the same number of horses to the slaughter market for years – before the plants shut down and after. Why? Because as long as there is a demand for horse meat in Quebec and Europe, people will find a way to make money by filling that need. Whether or not there are 100 or 1,000 “extra” horses in Maine makes no difference. The market demand for horse meat drives the number of horses going to slaughter. This is an economic reality.
My fourth point is that related to the third point: Your subject mentions an overage of horses in Maine due to over breeding. The so-called overpopulation of horses here has far less to do with over breeding than it does with kill buyers and middlemen bringing shipments of many new horses into the state of Maine from auctions elsewhere every few weeks. These horses are treated like used cars. They get traded out and at the end of the day the ones left over are loaded onto trailers and sent to Quebec. As long as people can throw horses away by sending them to slaughter, breeders will continue to produce more horses.
My next highly unpopular point is one of economics: The basic tenant of free market trade is that if you don’t buy the product, the business will fail. By allowing a so-called “horse dealer” to name an exorbitant price for Chance, at $1,250, when the market for such a horse is about $200-$300 at best -- trailer or no trailer -- the rescuer adds to the problem. It is critical for horse owners to stop working with kill buyers here in Maine. As long as individuals and rescue organizations continue to line the pockets of kill buyers by paying exorbitant prices for horses, kill buyers can maintain a healthy, profitable business. These folks are unwitting supporters of horse slaughter by supporting the horse slaughter industry. Kill buyers make good money on “rescue” folk. As with the public outcry to boycott Sea World by Bob Baker and other last year when an orca whale killed a trainer, the only way to shut down the horse slaughter trade is to boycott. Horse owners should “Boycott” kill buyers in Maine. named? I see no reason why this business is not named. If this dealer sells horses to slaughter and Chance was at risk, why not reveal the perpetrator who was willing to send him to his early untimely death? The only business in Maine that routinely sent horses to slaughter in Canada for the past three years is Hemphill’s in Vassalboro. This business that masquerades as a tack shop. As one who has been collecting the hard evidence in Maine for years on the subject, I possess USDA FOI documents that reveal Hemphill’s as a major supplier of horses for slaughter to the nearest Quebec plant.
What is the answer to the horse slaughter problem? I propose two concurrent solutions: The first is to treat horses as the noble animals they are, by changing current attitudes. Horses have helped found this country, carried men into battle, have been a main source of travel for hundreds of years, and continue to be widely used in recreational and sports venues nationwide. They have not been raised as food animals in the U.S., and they should not be used as such. Horses deserve recognition as companion animal. They are not livestock and this legal status change should be made to protect the horses.
The second solution is to protect horses from unscrupulous kill buyers and middlemen by creating a Maine State Law that closely monitors horse transport. All horses entering the state should have a current Coggins and health certificate. Currently, no one is enforcing such a law. The ceaseless and unregulated transportation of horses from Florida and the Midwest up to Maine as a last and bottleneck outpost before that fatal leap into Canada is the single largest reason for the horse population movement in Maine. This spring 2010 Boston Globe story accurately depicts the trouble: http://www.boston.com/news/local/maine/articles/2010/03/08/not_all_the_p...
The public deserves the truth about horse slaughter. Unfortunately, your story promulgates the fiction.