Helping Hearts Equine Rescue, Inc

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Jane Smiley, author comments on Horse Slaughter

Posted on May 3, 2009 at 1:43 PM

Jane Smiley, has published a pro-slaughter opinion in the May 1, 2009 New York Times:  It can be viewed at: .  The article disturbingly parrots a lot of pro-slaughter rhetoric.   There are many responding comments published both for and against the slaughter issue.  The following is my response, which has been published on the NY Times' website:


Jane Smiley, you've not done your research. There are plenty of comments here correctly listing the figures and facts of slaughter.  These are facts, not emotional diatribes. The truth of the matter is that the slaughter pipeline is inhumane. Pro-Slaughter speak as though slaughter does everyone a favor - - removing abused/starved/neglected horses from the earth, "savings them from more suffering". I have actually had someone tell me that slaughter is the ray of hope for these horses. Sounds very poetic, BUT, most suffering horses don't wind up going to slaughter. They sit in their fields and backyards being starved, still suffering. That's another issue, totally apart from the slaughter issue. Even if a plant were to be opened in every state, people who abuse, will continue to abuse. Slaughter does NOT make that go away. That's another issue that we rescues deal with.

For the majority of slaughter-bound horses, their suffering BEGAN the moment they entered that slaughter-plant pipeline. 'Stable to Table in 7 Days'. That's 7 days of fear, confusion, potential injury, deprivation and discomfort. All of which culminates in an excrutiating death: being dismembered while still potentially sentient and conscious.

I recently spoke with a former USDA Chief Inspector of slaughter plants. He spend 10 yrs overseeing slaughter in a cattle plant. Prior to that he was an equine vet. The PROPER captive bolt method of killing requires that the animal's head be restrained to ensure that the death is humane and quick. This is the way it's done with cattle and other food livestock. Horses are not restrained in the stunning/killing box in that way. There is no economically feasible way to restrain the long neck and head on a horse in a assembly line situation.

The former chief inspector stated that it is his professional opinion that horses suffer due to their ability to move around in the kill box. That it often takes several shots to put the bolt into the brain. That due to the time speed required to accomplish this task in an assembly line environment, some of the horses are not totally brain dead at the time of vivisection.

It is his professional opinion that captive bolt slaughter of horses is more inhumane than the captive bolt slaughter of food animals. There is more pain and suffering for the horses. This is due to their physiques and ability to avoid the bolt. He indicated that cattles heads are restrained when the bolt is being administered, while clearly horses  heads are not.

He reiterated that all of this is his professional opinion. And of course, unless we could interview the horses directly, we cannot ascertain directly from the animals how much pain and suffering they endure for slaughter. We develop our opinions on all things by speaking with others, obtaining information and by observation. My decision is to rely on the veracity and opinion of a man who spent 10 years as a Chief Inspector for the USDA. While he was not directly involved in equine slaughter, he has previous equine veterinary experience with the accompanying knowledge of their anatomy & physiology, as well as a decade of experience with the slaughter-house environment, the equipment, the methods and handling of animals. That confirms the veracity of his statements and opinions to me.

PLEASE, do NOT make the mistate of considering the equine slaughter pipeline "humane euthanasia."  It's nasty, it's brutal, it's inhumane. And it's that way because a few foreign business owners want to make money on our horses.

To make it humane would not be economically advantageous for them. It's a business - - pure and simple. Horse meat sells for $20/lb in Europe and Japan. Horses go to slaughter not because they're unwanted, they go because they ARE wanted, there are orders to fill for upscale diners on another continent. Kill buyers often outbid private buyers for horses. Because they have orders to fill. And No, our horsemeat is not feeding the destittute, it's a culinary treat for the well-off, gourmet palates of Europe and Japan.

The slaughter pipeline is not doing anyone any favors (by taking care of the Unwanted Horse Problem), they are making money, and that's it. On the backs of our horses.

 Lisa Post, Helping Hearts Equine Rescue

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