Now that Congress has passed an appropriations bill that will allow for the inspection of horse meat in the United States, many in the humane field are debating the best way to protect horses. There are many answers to the question of how to protect horses from slaughter; but like the cat and dog overpopulation issue, the long-term solution is in changing the attitudes of those who breed, train, own, or work with horses.
In the horse community, many horse owners do not consider the purchase or adoption of a horse to be a life-long commitment. Many complain they cannot afford to keep multiple horses and don’t want to pay board for a horse who is no longer showable or needs maintenance to stay sound. So, the old horse must go to make room for a new, competitive mount. These owners may delude themselves into thinking someone else will care for their aging equine in his or her retirement. The mythical home that just wants to trail ride or admire and groom the old horse is just that, a myth. Just as with dogs and cats, it is important to remember that we must care for our horses their whole lives, not just during the fun parts. All companion animals deserve it; especially those that carry us on their backs or pull our carts.
Providing such equestrians with their fresh, young mounts are the many breeders and horse registries, including those for Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses, Arabians, Appaloosas, and others. While many registries carefully manage their breed, others promote the mass production of horses, without care to overall hardiness, overpopulation, or the ethics of individual breeders. Unbeknownst to many of their members, some of these organizations even lobby for the reinstatement of horse slaughter. To them, it is an easy outlet for the glut of horses bred every year. United Horsemen, an organization that promotes legal horse slaughter in the United States, has published a list of industry groups that also want to see horses slaughtered in the country.
When you think about it…the real solution to horse slaughter is in changing the way we think about our relationship to horses. Those of us in the horse community need to work to establish a new tradition of lifelong care, even if it means skipping a few seasons of horseshows.