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Bonnie Erbe: Horror of horse slaughtering back

Updated: March 8, 2013 8:12PM

Here we go again. The soulless, heartless humans who make their living by slaughtering horses have managed to persuade Congress and this supposedly liberal president to open up horse slaughterhouses once more.

The plants were banned in 2007 and blissfully became a thing of the past. They should still be in the past, but for the work of Montana’s Democratic Sen. Max Baucus and other pro-slaughter lawmakers. Baucus was able to hang an amendment onto an omnibus spending bill that put horse slaughterhouses back in our future. He routinely receives thousands of dollars in contributions from the meat industry and brags on his website, “Baucus Awarded ‘Meat Exporter of the Year.’ “ There’s no better example of blood money, and it’s a sorry development.

The New York Times reported this month that the U.S. Department of Agriculture was likely to approve a horse slaughtering plant in New Mexico in the next two months. Oklahoma’s governor is also taking comments from the public on whether to open up such a plant. This will be terrible for our great nation and for the communities where horse slaughter plants will do business.

Do horse slaughter plants create jobs? Yes, but not the kind of jobs anyone would want nearby. They pay minimum wage and warp the minds of people assigned to shoot bolts into the horses’ heads, which results in lingering death. Research by the University of Windsor’s Amy J. Fitzgerald and Michigan State University’s Linda Kalof and Thomas Dietz has shown that this type of work produces higher rates of violent crime and sexual crime in communities where plants are opened.

The connection between horse slaughter and violent crime is not that remote. If you spent your days torturing and killing living creatures and getting covered in their blood and guts, wouldn’t you go a little crazy?

But let’s return to the economic benefits of horse slaughter. Paula Bacon, the mayor of Kaufman, Texas, spent years trying to close down equine slaughterhouses near her small town. She found they polluted the town’s water with horse blood and left offal all over the place. They did not create jobs worth having nor did they pay their fair share in taxes.

Oh, and the claim that the U.S. has too many unwanted horses and something needs to be done with them is bogus, too. Some 64,000 horses were shipped to Canada and another 68,000 were trucked to Mexico in 2011, according to That amounts to about 1 percent of all U.S. horses at the time. Even if there were too many unwanted horses, that could be resolved by limiting breeders on how many horses they could breed each year.

The reviling truth about why people sell horses to slaughter buyers is, in two words, money and greed. If you pay a veterinarian to humanely euthanize a horse and have its carcass properly disposed of, it costs about $750. I know because I had to put down one of my beloved horses last summer. His leg had been shattered in a pasture accident.

But you can earn several hundred dollars by selling a horse at a killer-buyer auction. Do the math and you’ll quickly see why the average age of a horse sold to slaughter is 7 (not old) and most of them are sound and in good health.

This is not an industry that should be raised from the dead.

Bonnie Erbe, host of the PBS show “To the Contrary,” writes this weekly column for Scripps Howard News Service.

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