More Dubious Claims About Horse SlaughteringBy Jeffrey Rolo
Note: This article concludes our look at some myths behind the horse slaughtering debate. If you haven't read Horse Slaughter: Why Both Sides Are Wrong About Horse Slaughtering yet, I suggest doing so first before moving on.
The Claim: Without Humans, Horse Starvation Wouldn't Be A Problem
Opponents often claim that it's those pesky humans that are causing the overpopulation problem. If only we would stop breeding horses for racing, showing or selling, the problem would go away. All horses would have plenty to eat, rescue operations wouldn't be at maximum capacity, and abandonment would be a thing of the past. Yeah… good luck with that.
I'm the first to admit that people sometimes breed horses irresponsibly, just as people irresponsibly choose to have children they cannot afford. But let's not attempt to exaggerate the "problem" while ignoring the realities of nature.
Your average everyday horse owner will not breed a horse. In fact, a general rule of thumb among many just seeking a single horse as a pet is to seek out a gelding, since a gelding's personality and temperament is the safest bet within most breeds. Mares can be too "witchy," and stallions can be too alpha and dangerous.
This doesn't happen in nature. Stallions don't geld themselves. They don't isolate themselves in separate stalls or paddocks. When animals want to breed, they do… and do so as quickly and as repeatedly as they can. As recently as December of 2009 the BLM has reported that the wild horses in the Midwest were too numerous, and advocated for increased roundups in hopes of culling the numbers and finding some of them new homes.
Overpopulation can decimate grasslands needed for both horses and cattle ranches alike. It can impact water supplies. And eventually it can lead to wild horses dying of starvation when the numbers exceed the available food supply. Despite the BLM acknowledging this is a problem here and now, they are still facing battles by misguided animal activists that would instead prefer to just allow these wild populations to continue expanding unchecked.
Activists need to understand that nature requires balance, and part of this balance means ensuring that overpopulation doesn't occur. Hunters are needed in many regions to ensure deer overpopulation doesn't destroy their own food sources. One year a local town decided to severely limit hunting, and the result over time was deer overpopulation. Deer were dying of starvation and the woodland was being stripped and destroyed. When the "enlightened" activists running the township saw the error of their ways and the hunters were allowed to control the population again, balance was again reached.
The same holds true for wild horses or any other animal. You can love them to death and support their existence, but part of supporting their existence is ensuring that population is kept under control so that they can exist. Starvation and the stripping of land isn't all it's cracked up to be.
The Claim: What's Good For The Horse Is Good For The Cow
Proponents state that opponents of horse slaughter are hypocritical for not advocating the banning of all forms of slaughter… cow, chicken and pig alike. Opponents claim that horses should be treated differently because we don't eat them in the United States. They are companion animals, not cows.
Although I understand the emotional foundation for opponents' stance, I'm going to have to side with the proponents on this one. You walk on thin ice when you attempt to force your personal views or preferences upon others based on emotional whim. I love horses. I would never slaughter one, nor would I ever try horsemeat. But people in many other countries do, and there's absolutely nothing unhealthy about horsemeat, so there's no reason why they shouldn't be permitted to do so.
What makes a horse any different than a cow, besides my personal love for them? Eurasian and European countries have used horse milk and horsemeat since horse domestication first began, and many continue to do so today. And although horsemeat has been relatively taboo in America for almost the entirety of the 1900's, it saved lives during the World Wars when soldiers used horsemeat to survive. It was also available for purchase in the U.S. as late as the 1980's.
Many Americans love their cows and will quickly attest to the fact that cows are capable of the same emotions as horses. Hindus will take it a step further and state that beef consumption is to be considered as taboo as we treat horsemeat. So should we stop eating beef out of respect to others' wishes?
If you're a vegan you will emphatically say yes, and I can respect that. I disagree with the position, but it's consistent and doesn't attempt to split hairs based on personal emotion or preference. Vegans are walking the walk, and while we'll never see eye to eye I'll commend the consistency.
But if you're a meat eater and you oppose horsemeat based on the emotional claim that horses are somehow different because they are companion animals, ask yourself why in your case what's good for the goose is not good for the gander. There are many that own pet cows and pet pigs, and both of those animals possess the same span of emotions and fears that horses do. Their owners love them as much as you may love your horse. Why should we so easily discount their feelings?
There are several other topics I can being up that cast a questionable light on both those that support horse slaughtering as well as those that wish to stop horse slaughter, but this wasn't meant to be an exhaustive study of the topic, but rather something to provide both sides of the argument some food for thought. I know my somewhat libertarian position will put me at odds with both extremes, but I firmly believe that too many of us today are seduced into blindly advocating positions without truly considering the intricacies that surround detailed debates. While many things in this world should be considered black or white, such classifications should be based on self-evident rights or wrongs, not ones fashioned from emotional appeals or personal preferences.
I don't know that there is a perfect answer regarding the topic of horse slaughter, and history has shown when extremists of any position use the heavy hand of government to impose their will on others, it creates unintended consequences. Horse neglect will never go away, despite our best intentions. Horse starvation, which is a brutally slow death, will always be a factor so long as we refuse to heed the realities of wild horse overpopulation and horse abandonment. Slaughterhouses of any type will likely never be perfectly humane… but given the work that is performed at them, how could they be?
I believe that it's far more constructive for each of us to personally focus our attention on what we can change, rather than tilting at the impossible windmills. Care for your horses. Educate others on how to better care for them. Learn the ways of the horse, such that any exposure you have around horses is bettered. If you have the land, desire and financial resources available, open a horse rescue operation. If you can't yourself, consider sending a donation to one – they are almost always strapped for cash.
Do I support horse slaughtering? Nope. And truth be told, it doesn't bother me that most Americans hold a negative view towards slaughtering horses either. But I would hope that regardless of which side of the debate you fall on, such a debate could be held honestly. It serves neither us nor horses well to blanket such a serious topic with lies and emotional appeals, rather than logical assessments of the pros and cons of each side.