Oklahoma Approves Slaughter of Horses

The state of Oklahoma has approved a law allowing for the slaughter of horses.  The horse meat will be sold for export.

Most of us cringe at the thought of sending horses to slaughter.  Animal rights activists fought the law, and even its supporters were not happy about it.  However, for horses, there may be worse sufferings than a processing plant in Oklahoma.

During the past five years of killing drought, horses have stripped their pastures down to dry dust.  Commercial horse feed has become exorbitantly expensive.  Some horse owners have rationed their horse feed down to a trickle, and then to nothing.

Thousands of horses are starving to death.

Starving horses succumb to a range of nutrition-related diseases.  Veterinary treatment for horses is expensive—assuming you can find a vet who treats horses.  Many horse owners experiment with medicines from the local feed store, which are also expensive, and will not work until the underlying malady is treated.  Meanwhile, horses grow weaker and sicker.

In the last couple of years, horses for sale have glutted auction barns.  The selling price of horses dropped until their owners were willing to give them away, but could find no takers.

At that point, some people drove their horses to the next county and let them out on the side of the road to fend for themselves.  Others let their horses starve in the back pasture.  Some of these horses escaped, to become a problem on neighboring fields; and some died, to become a thousand pounds of hazardous waste in a barren landscape.  Horse rescue groups could not keep up with the number of horses that needed care.

Many owners have been shipping their horses to slaughtering plants in Mexico, where it is legal to butcher horses.  It is estimated that 166,000 horses were shipped to Mexico and Canada last year, and even more horses are headed to Mexico this year.

The long trip across the border is an agony for horses; the lack of water, the exposure, the stress.  The abuses of a Mexican slaughtering plant are another misery altogether.  The only relief for these horses comes with their passing.  Their meat is sold for food.

Allowing the slaughter of horses in Oklahoma, if nothing else, saves tens of thousands of horses the long drive down to Mexico.  It is a bad option among many bad options to relieve the suffering of these poor horses.

Animal rights groups protested the decision to allow horse butchering, and nobody is happy about the slaughtering.  But what are the alternatives?  I welcome your ideas on how to address this tragedy.  We have not experienced some of these problems since the 1950’s, or even since the Great Depression.

A thorough education about horse welfare is a good start.  If potential horse owners clearly understood the costs and challenges of keeping horses, they might be more thoughtful about taking on the responsibility.  This is true under normal circumstances, but it is doubly true in this historic, lingering, killing drought.

10 responses

  1. Interesting piece — one that would be a good debate. Would you consider publishing this on the wwn?

    Sent from my iPhone.

  2. Education is where it needs to begin. Slaughterhouses do not want skinny or ill horses, nor do Americans profit from it…but we sure get the stained soil and waterways and increased crime rates (including theft of horses), where these foreign owned companies have operated.

    It is a meat business, and a predatory one, at that. Folks don’t hear the stories about kill buyers abandoning horses at the border because the slaughterhouses didn’t want them.

    The captive bolt is NOT euthanasia, which is a viable option. A well placed bullet is kinder than the captive bolt. Then there’s the whole issue of the meat being tainted, as well, with dewormers, bute, etc.

    Grass roots efforts to encourage gelding are becoming more successful.

    Awareness about the plight of racehorses is burgeoning, and efforts are increasing to retrain them for new careers. It would be fantastic to see breed registries promote cross training horses and education programs, as well.

    I am of the opinion, aside from the logic above, that it is a huge betrayal to imprint a foal, create a trust-based partnership with a horse, and then send it to such a grisly end.

    • Thank you for posting your thoughtful, informative comment. I learned as much from your comment as I did from the very educational FSF posting.

      I’ve longed for having a adopted horse or two on our little hundred acres outside Victoria, TX, but this sobering look at the reality of that responsibility has given me a healthy dose of pause and reflection.

      • Dogsnoseknows, I adopted my first horse (off the track) a handful of years ago- and it is not always easy. I’ve been involved in rescue, assisting in the rehab of skinny horses. It’s heartbreaking when they don’t survive, but it’s so enriching to see the light come back into the eyes of the survivors as they fill out and thrive. To see them go to a home where they are well-treated means that we have done the right thing. Drought takes its toll, and I can not encourage or discourage you to adopt- only you know your situation. I can tell you that if you decide to, a horse is so worth the effort!
        We cannot plan for every possible circumstance, there are no guarantees in life, and security is, at best, an illusion. That does not mean I’ve headed into ownership willy nilly- there are some things that will happen, and those I do try to adjust for.
        As for me, I must follow my heart. I own one horse and care for about 35 that do not belong to me. I’d own more if pocketbook and time permitted. And so when both do, I shall.

    • Anna, thank you so much for your thoughtful reply, and your knowledge about this subject. I think there is little public awareness about what is happening right now with horses, and you are a great person to help educate people about what is going on.

      I appreciate your heartfelt and informed message. I hope your wisdom is passed to all future horse owners. Thank you, Justin

      • thank you, Justin..I don’t know about wise..haha…but
        oh, the stories I could tell…and in my little corner of the Gulf Coast, that is small potatoes. Our mustangs are in serious danger of being eradicated entirely. Some would say good riddance…but the cost we, as taxpayers, are incurring for warehousing these wild horses is unsustainable. Some have gone to kill buyers, it has recently become known.
        There ARE other workable options, but special interest groups play a large role in what actually happens, no matter what we see as right or wrong as the public. The political atmosphere in the country right now is ample testimony to that.

        Change is not easy, and things often get worse before they get better.
        But if we do not stanch the inherent cruelty with slaughtering horses, then it continues and remains a horrific issue. I well remember the horrors of Dallas Crown in Kauffman- which messily affected the entire community. Paula Bacon, former mayor of Kauffman, was forthcoming with all that went on during and after the plant’s operations.

        If we do put a stop to it, then we have grown in our capacity as compassionate human beings. Riding a horse is a brilliant example of what can happen when the animal trusts a human- it is not natural for a prey animal to allow a predator (we are predators) to sit upon their backs, as a cougar would leap on their back to take them down. It is through trust that we are able to use horses to suit our purposes. When trust fails, I promise, the rider is coming off, one way or the other!

        Will there be a glut of abandoned or neglected horses? I cannot say that we would not see any rise at all.
        However, those who would neglect or abandon animals have always existed. What we do have is increased awareness of such incidents through social media.

        I don’t have any issue with what becomes of a horse’s body after death. Rendering, composting, burial- all viable. What I take issue with in the case of slaughter is how they died.

        We pay to dispose of items we no longer want, in many cases. There are times when we can get a few bucks back from an old washing machine or a sofa, but either way, it remains our responsibility to contend with, as the owner of the property.
        We are not entitled, as owners of animals, to make a few bucks at the end of our use for them. I could point you at story after story of a horse that was pulled from the kill pen or slaughter bound truck in the nick of time…and became a champion in a new discipline, or a star therapy horse.

        Pitting humans against animals in a fight to the death in Rome was “sport” for some. Why is it a thing of the past? Because it was cruel.
        Convenience for the sake of excusing a “lesser evil” does not make it right.

        We become responsible for that which we tame.

      • Thank you again, Anna, for your wonderful comments. I am so glad to know your thoughts, and am so glad to know that you are out there! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your ethics, and your sincerity. I hope we can connect again soon, have a wonderful day!

  3. Thnk you for a thoughtfu land sensible article. Nobody wants this to happen to horses, but like you said, what else can humanely be done?

    Pam K, A reader Port Aransas,

  4. I’ve never owned a horse, but I do a lot of driving in South Texas for work. It makes me sad to see skinny horses grazing on dirt patches. I think they are beautiful and majestic creatures. I have seen shows on the very inhumane way that Mexico kills them. It was very disturbing. They stabbed them in the spine to paralyze them first, although now I can’t remember the reason behind it. I hope that Oklahoma has devised a swift and humane way to slaughter them.

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