By Jesse Bussard
Reports of the reinstatement of horse slaughter have remained constant in news media since the passage of an ag appropriations bill by Congress in November of 2011 that lifted the federal ban on horse slaughter, refunding federal inspection of horse meat. Along with these reports have come recent announcements of plans to build horse processing plants in some states.
One plan for a processing plant slated for Mountain Grove, Mo., in particular has been brought to a screeching halt by local residents. Proponents of the plan did their best to sell the idea to locals touting jobs and tax revenue. However, stories of community stigma, foul odors, and environmental concerns via testimony and public records gathered while the last three horse processing plants in the United States operated were more convincing.
Residents told Wyoming state legislator, Sue Wallis, and Chevideco, the Belgian company to sponsor the plant, “Go home! If we have a horse problem we’ll solve it ourselves. We don’t need her (Wallis) and a Belgium company coming in here.” With that bold-faced response, Unified Equine, run by Wallis and Chevideco, announced they’d look elsewhere.
Since then a plan for a processing plant in Oregon has been announced and hints of the possibility of another in middle Tennessee. Whether these two projects will be met with the same opposition is yet to be seen.
As I’ve said in previous columns, I personally do not feel that there will be any horses slaughtered on U.S. soil anytime soon. The recent shutdown of the plan in Missouri shows me that it’s going to take more than the promise of some jobs and money to convince people that horse slaughter is a good thing.
In addition, a January poll conducted by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), which telephone surveyed 1,008 registered voters, found that 80% of respondents were opposed to the slaughter of U.S. horses for human consumption. The ASPCA’s poll provides further evidence that the general public isn’t buying what horse slaughter proponents are selling. There is an element of questionability as to the demographics of the ASPCA sample pool, but with that aside, the evidence is still pretty convincing to me.
At one time, I was fully on the side of the pro-horse slaughter crowd. But over time, through various conversations and watching the progression of the pro- and anti-horse slaughter campaigns, I’ve become skeptical. Though I may understand the benefits of slaughter, the general public does not, and to be quite honest, I don’t think they want to.
The fact is the concept of consuming horse meat has become taboo and unfathomable to most in everyday society. Americans have not consumed horse meat since during the World War II era. And because of this, the reintroduction of horse slaughter into the United States is a hard, may I say almost impossible, sell.
I’m not trying to be pessimistic here, just realistic. We can sit and argue the pros and cons of horse slaughter until we’re blue in the face. But I have a feeling that all the convincing in the world won’t change the general public’s view of the practice.
In the end, arguing does neither side any good. The reality is we’ve got an unwanted horse problem in this country, and the sooner we stop arguing, the sooner we can start finding solutions.