Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Horse World has a Dirty Little Secret

Hello, followers. My apologies for a long absence from the blogosphere. (Feeling better now, thanks.)  Well, I was until today. As many of you have surely read, horse slaughter is once again legal in the United States. See the Trib's decent article on it for more details.

Falcon is 25 years old and worth about $800
as meat and about $0 as a riding horse. The only
thing standing between him and the kill pen is
an owner with a conscience.

It's a complicated situation to be sure: tanking economy, growing numbers of neglected and abandoned horses starving on mud paddocks, and a flourishing less regulated slaughter business flourishing in Mexico in which horses are horrifically mistreated. But I must admit that I have been shocked by a couple of responses I've gotten to this legislation from old friends in the horse business. You know what they said? Good. At least when I sell my old horses to slaughter I know they'll be slaughtered "humanely" in the US now. They bemoaned the high cost of euthanasia and disposing of the body of a dead horse. They admitted to knowingly sending their horses to the "kill pen" auctions and shrugged it off as part of the business.
 I scratched my head for a minute. I did a gut check. Maybe they're right, I thought. Maybe if I were in the horse business professionally--as a trainer or a breeder--I would share this point of view. But then I shuddered. Really? REALLY? What kind of horseman--indeed, what kind of human--can sleep at night knowing that his or her life's work is dependent on the ability to dump an unprofitable, old, or lame horse for a few hundred bucks knowing his life will end in pain, terror, and confusion?

I write this as someone who has been a part of the horse show world for 25 years, and who has owned the same horse for 19. I love competition, and I understand the drive to breed and raise better and better horses. But in the end, I return to where it all began--the love of the horse. What is sacred and honorable about our continued relationship with the horse is our symbiosis, that we trade a lifetime of green grass, grain, care, and a humane end for the deep, magical bond that our horses allow us to have with them. We know they are our teachers and our therapists, and that we would not be who we are without them. And so I want to know why it is that so many horse people with whom I share so much are happy today with the news that the US has once again legalized horse slaughter. Who are you? What has become of the horse business? If we won't insist on protecting the horse who will?