Supply and Demand Part 2
This is the second of three parts addressing the behemoth of an issue that is horse slaughter. In Part 1 we discussed our problems with the current regulations (or lack thereof!) in regards to transport and animal documentation. Today, we get into the nitty-gritty stuff – the slaughterhouses themselves.
One of the biggest issues with horse slaughter in North America is that horses are “processed” in mass assembly line plants that were originally intended for cattle. Horses and cattle are very different animals!
For starters, horses have about twice the volume of blood per body weight that cows do. Their blood is also much harder to effectively treat. Remember how horses are often given medication that’s not fit for human consumption? It can be problematic for pets too. Ivermectin, a very common dewormer, is actually fatal to some breeds of dog. This means that, unlike with beef, the “extra bits”, ie. anything not marketable for people, cannot be used in pet food. The combination of these two things creates massive amounts of by-product that the facilities are ill-equipped to handle.
Every horse slaughter plant in the States, including the state-of-the-art, purpose-built facility in Illinois, has had major environmental violations. Former Kaufman, Texas Mayor Paula Brook had the misfortune of having a horse slaughter plant running in her town while she was in charge. You can read her description of what it was like in this letter; apparently bloody waste water would sometimes back up into residents’ bathtubs and chunks of dead horse would wind up scattered around town. Needless to say, she’s anti-slaughter!
Not only do these facilities lead to processing problems, but they make humane treatment nearly impossible. Cattle are a lot less agile than horses, with significantly less flexible necks. Stun rooms that will properly restrain a cow don’t have the same effect on a horse. Horses are also more difficult to stun than cattle – their brain placement is different. This leads to many horses being repeatedly shot in the head and neck with the captive bolt before they actually succumb.
There’s a reasonably graphic video on this site, along with some very damning statistics. In undercover video footage of two straight days at a slaughter plant, over forty percent of horses were not stunned on the first shot. The auditing standard for humane slaughter is less than five percent! One horse had to be shot 11 times before it was finally rendered unconscious. There was also evidence of horses regaining awareness while being hoisted and bled out. Not freaking acceptable!
This is not to say that we find horse slaughter inherently evil; we simply feel the whole North American slaughter process requires a drastic overhaul. The following video is from an abattoir in Britain. Ironically enough, it’s meant to be anti-slaughter!
However, if you ignore the propaganda and watch the actual process, you’ll see horses being led individually into a room the size of a large box stall and then killed with a single bullet. There are no panicking animals and no missed shots. It’s not pleasant to watch, but nothing screams inhumane either. It is a hell of a lot more expensive to run…
We’ll get into feasibility in Part 3.