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[Politics] Slaughterhouse Legislation

I don't usually post political stuff in my LJ anymore, but this one I'm going to go make an exception for. Rather than trying to summarize, I'm going to just repost (with permission) the original write-up that Elizabeth Moon sent around.

[Slaughterhouse legislation] comes up for a vote today, Sept. 6 (well, unless they change it again.)

For a list of Congresscritters in each state who oppose it, and whom you might want to contact if you care about this issue, see:


Some of these people consider that opposing the slaughter of horses to export the meat to foreign countries is a violation of property rights...but they don't seem to grasp that the horse slaughter industry depends on stolen property just the way auto chop shops do. It is the market for horse meat for human consumption abroad that drives the profit and makes horse theft so much a problem for breeders, trainers, legitimate horse dealers, and individual horse owners. And a dead horse cut into chunks is unidentifiable...and can't be put back together again...just like a stolen car.

The property rights being violated here are those of horse owners whose animals disappear into the maw of the slaughterhouse.

Horse owners who can no longer support their animals, or whose animals are aged, infirm, in pain, etc., always have the option of euthanasia (in the case of those suffering) or private sale. There is no "need" for the kind of horse slaughter that we have presently. Under this Administration, there is no hope of sufficient regulation of the horse slaughter industry to ensure that horses are not stolen to feed foreign appetites for horse meat. (And note that the nations buying our slaughtered horses for human consumption are not starving nations--we're not feeding the hungry, but the affluent, mostly in countries that have plenty of horses of their own, but are too squeamish to allow horse slaughter there.)

In addition, and not mentioned usually, is that the feeding and care of horses in this country is not regulated with the intent to make the meat safe for human consumption. Most horses are on some artificial feed, and many of those commercial feeds contain additives which would not be allowed in, for instance, beef cattle feed within so-many (varies) days of slaughter. Old horses stolen from private owners may be chock-full of anything the owner thinks makes the horse healthier or more comfortable--wormers, hormones, antibiotics, pain medication, other feed and medical additives, etc. They can treat their pastures with chemicals not allowed for pastures where meat animals graze. Horse meat is probably the least safe large-animal meat to consume, if you're at all concerned about what's in your own stomach, since thieves and their allies in the slaughter industry don't do any checking to find out what a given horse ate before it was stolen.


Elizabeth also summarized the points she made to her Congresscritters, which I'll include below. To other horse-lovers, do realize that saying that 'eating horse meat is evil' is not really going to make any difference. Plenty of people feel that eating cow is evil, too, and so on. But the slaughterhouse industry /does/ have negative economic impacts -- especially as one of the primary sources of slaughterhouse horses is still stolen animals -- and that's the best thing to focus on:

1) The horse slaughter industry depends on horse theft and operates like automobile "chop shops", converting valuable personal property to unidentifiable chunks.

2) Regulation of the horse slaughter industry has failed, in that stolen horses are still a main source and horse owners are still unable to recover their property in useful condition.

3) Feeding and management of horses in this country is not regulated with intent to produce meat safe for human consumption. Many if not most horses slaughtered will have consumed chemicals (as medications, feed additives, or pesticides) which are illegal for use in animals intended as food.

4) No human need is served by selling meat from stolen US horses abroad. The meat does not feed the starving; it feeds the wealthy in countries which have a horse population but are too squeamish to kill their own horses.

5) Responsible horse owners have alternatives to slaughter sale for horses they can no longer care for.

6) Job loss by closing down horse slaughter houses is minimal compared to the job loss from major industries leaving this country, which Congress is doing nothing about.

7) The horse slaughter houses are foreign-owned and pay almost no income tax on their profits (figures for one such place were millions in profit, $5 in income tax paid.)

8) The property rights of horse owners are violated when Congress colludes in the criminal enterprise of horse theft.


I have one major question. If this bill were to make horse slaughtering and butchering legal, would that not have the same effect as, for example, the end of Prohibition on the Mob of the 1930s? The same effect that decriminalization and/or legalization of marijuana? That is, removal of the criminal element from the profit stream? Not to mention the resulting imposition of standard regulations for animals raised for meat?

I assume that there is a cogent response to this question somewhere among your platform, and I await it eagerly -- but right now, I see it as the biggest possible weakness for your argument, and I do hope that you have some effective way of addressing it.
No, no... you've got it slightly backwards. It's legal NOW.

The thing is that, at present, it's legal to slaughter/butcher horses, but there's no real checks on it. The thing is that it's a very profitable -- and legal -- business, but there's less availability of horses. As such, the supply stream has often turned to illegal means (purchasing horses under false pretenses, outright theft, etc.).

The current push in Congress is that it either needs to be outlawed, or regulated (for health /and/ legality), but that having it in a twilight 'eh, it's not illegal, do whatever you want' zone is bad.
Interesting idea, wrong argument. The stolen horse angle works against the horse owner, at this time, due to the Agriculture Department's plan to RFID every horse in the country to track animal diseases. A lot of small breeders and individual horse owners don't want to deal with that hassle, and small stables don't want to have to do the record keeping of every horse that enters and leaves their stables.

Yet the argument presented may be the strongest one yet to go ahead with Ag's plan; it prevents horse theft, it allows for the tracking of contaminated horses. Sending this to every congresscritter right now is probably the worst timing possible.

Two years ago, damn, this would have likely shut down every horse slaughterhouse in the country.
You'd be surprised how many horse owners support the RFID tracking too, actually. It's not popular in all corners, but the majority of folks who've had a horse stolen -- or know someone who has had a horse stolen, as I do -- support the RFID legislation provided that more than DoA has access to track the RFID tags.

This is thus not, to my mind, a downside. Have the RFID tags, legislate slaughterhouses to /require/ them to show the tag of every horse that they take in...
I'll also note that the two things aren't up for consideration together. Sending this around might add some support for DoA's RFID proposal -- which honestly, as far as I know they plan to just go ahead with anyway -- but that's not what's on the table right now. ;)