Last week, a U.S. House panel voted to lift the ban on slaughtering horses at meat processing plants. In 2007, funding was removed for USDA inspectors at meat processing plants with horse meat.
The panel voted 27 to 25 in favor of providing inspectors at the facilities.
Karl Hoopes, equine extension specialists at Utah State University, said this is a controversial subject but it’s important to look at what’s going on behind the scenes.
“There are currently 137,000 horses every year that are shipped to either Canada or Mexico for slaughter,” Hoopes said.
When animals go to slaughter in the United States, regulations are put in place to make sure the animals go through with the least amount of stress possible. Hoopes said if it’s done outside the United States there is less control over the process.
“As far as saying, ‘Will it be more humane?’ I don’t know. I haven’t been to those facilities,” Hoopes said. “I have heard a lot of horror stories about it. I have not personally seen it.”
Hoopes said for people in the equine industry, lifting the ban would give a route for horses to go through that can no longer be used, are unwanted, untrained or are too old.
“And that’s one side of the argument. The other side of the argument is that horses are not livestock, they shouldn’t be subjected to that form of death,” Hoopes said.
Another thing to consider when talking about lifting the ban are wild horses. Hoopes said in each state there is designated range with an amount of land that will comfortably hold a certain amount of horses with enough food and water. He said the Bureau of Land Management has not indicated if wild horses would go to slaughter, but this discussion will probably come up in the future.
“Right now we are three times that number in Utah,” Hoopes said. “We are extremely overpopulated. The BLM recognizes it. They understand that they’re overpopulated but their hands are tied because the public opinions says, ‘No you can’t round them up. No you have to leave them there.’ Well, they’re starving to death, they’re going to die if we leave them there.”
Hoopes said there are a few things the public should consider before making any decisions.
“Understand the difference between emotion and facts,” Hoopes said. “Yes, emotion does play a role in how we make our decisions and I’m not saying that it shouldn’t. I just think that we need to be able to look at the decision, look at the facts that are presented, look at the science and the research that’s done off of it to really make that decision.”