Monday, June 27, 2011

Horse Meat Consumption Ban Piles Up Unintended Consequences

By Douglas V. Gibbs

In October of last year I wrote that horse meat bans would have serious unintended consequences. The desire to protect horses would actually make the entire situation more miserable.

In 1998 California passed a law banning the shipping, transporting, moving, delivering, receiving, possessing, purchasing, selling, or donation of horses and other equines to be humanely slaughtered (processed) for human consumption, and for other purposes. The U.S. Government followed suit recently. Supporters of the laws were successful in their campaign to create an atmosphere of disgust among the voters when one considered that there are actually people out there that enjoy consuming horse meat. The image of a slaughterhouse full of able-bodied horses that just wanted to be cared for by some loving and caring human was used with great success. After speaking with a couple people, despite arguments of the unintended inhumane consequences of the law, people who know little about horses argued with me in support of the horse meat ban.

We have a tendency to humanize horses, and wrongly view them as very intelligent animals.

Sure, there is a part of us that is appalled by the fact that there are people out there that eat horse meat. Without being properly educated, we assume the meat's an acquired taste of an otherwise not very tasty meat. We imagine the poor animals shaking in fear as the owner decides that old Sea Biscuit needs to become Friday Night's Blue Plate Special.

Some of us may imagine the scene being more like a van showing up to take sweet Boxer to the glue factory, as in Orwell's dystopian allegory, Animal Farm.

When a horse dies the disposal process is incredibly difficult. Between the red tape, and the heavy regulatory laws on the books, it is very difficult to dispose of the poor animals. Whenever a horse is injured, or suffering from other sources, it used to be much easier, quicker, and humane, to put the animals down, and then be simply picked up by those that wish to profit from the sales of the meat.

The laws to ban horse meat consumption, intended by animal rights groups like PETA, to be humane, are actually very inhumane to the poor animals. Horses have no concept of death, but they do understand pain, and to string out the time they must suffer because there is no van to pick of the body for a meat processing plant because some people have a problem with horses being used for meat consumption is actually much more inhumane to the animals.

"Horses are good eating," a ranch owner once explained to me. "The meat is real red, like venison, and is very tasty. Think about it, these animals are fed the best food. They aren't sent out to graze on weeds. They are given alfalfa and grains their whole lives, ensuring their bodies are healthy."

The meat ban also results in a rise in the rate of horses that are abandoned. These unwanted horses now are worth nothing because their meat can't be sold, and the increasing number of unwanted horses has been saturating public animal rescue facilities.

There are even economic consequences, because eliminating the allowance of horse meat for human consumption, eliminates an entire market. The overall national export value for horse meat was in the tens of millions of dollars, and since California has the second largest number of horses, the law in California to ban horse meat consumption largely impacted that number. This also affects governmental revenues, which vanished in this State once the law went into effect. Since the horses are not being consumed, it also raises the question, 'What to do with the body?' Burying the body, or disposing of them in landfills, gets the environmentalists upset because of the negative impact on the environment. Adoption has gone down as well, increasing the number of unwanted animals that literally live lives of suffering because they aren't put down, and they aren't adopted. The law has also hugely impacted the cost of buying horses, as well. You can buy a horse for $25 dollars if you really want to. But the people that are now beginning to buy horses are those that have no understanding of what goes into horse ownership, and who have no ability to properly care for the animals. This also adds to the number of horses that live miserable lives.

Now, since there is no option stateside regarding the disposal of these poor animals, they are still going to slaughter, but must make the long miserable trip to Canada or Mexico for the final moments of life.

The Government Accountability Office said the policy of banning horse meat consumption has led to “unintended consequences” such as depressed prices for all horses and an increase in reports of animal neglect, abuse and abandonment.

“Those horses are traveling farther to meet the same end in foreign slaughtering facilities where U.S. humane slaughtering protections do not apply,” GAO said in unusually blunt language that said that the horses are sometimes shipped in too-small containers for hundreds of miles, and that the inspection regime is too lax to help.

Horse meat is regularly used for consumption by circuses and zoos, and it is now sent to Eastern Hemisphere countries where it is an accepted food. But slaughter is a prickly issue in the U.S., where animal-rights activists and some horse lovers pushed to close slaughterhouses and ban exports.

While banning the consumption of horse meat, the Congress also eliminated funding for inspections of horses in transit and of slaughterhouses.

The market has shifted to neighboring countries, and the horses that once were destined for U.S. slaughter are now sent across the border.

GAO said policymakers could either go back to the previous state of affairs, when slaughter was allowed and created a market for surplus horses, or go the other direction and ban export of horses for slaughter.

The latter choice would simply prolong the miserable lives of horses that need to be mercifully put to death.

The ban as it is now is not only causing undue misery for the horses, but is costing jobs and hurts the horse industry as a whole.

The GAO report makes it clear ending horse processing has had a detrimental effect on both the economy and animal welfare. From what we know now, Congress should re-evaluate their misguided policy banning horse meat consumption so as to allow responsible horse management which would create jobs, generate revenue and strengthen a struggling horse industry.

-- Political Pistachio Conservative News and Commentary

Horse Meat Ban has Unintended Consequences - Political Pistachio

Slaughter Ban Sending Horses Across Borders - Washington Times

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