Welcome to The American Horse Crisis – Impact, the second of our three part series. In our previous article we focused on the overview of the issues surrounding horse processing facilities and who we are fighting against. Today we will focus on the impact of the closure of such facilities and some of the challenges Americans face now and will face in the future if we do not act soon.
The legislative battle to reopen horse processing facilities brings several important issues to the forefront of our minds. How will American farmers feed 9 billion people in the not too distant future? Can animal rights harm overall animal welfare? What value do animal rights activists put on human lives, rights, and well-being?
Although there is not a distinct answer to the first of those questions, there is a tentative plan. If farmers, in America and all over the world, work towards modern farming techniques that are proven to be more efficient, hunger might be a conquerable foe. Currently there are almost a billion people in the world that are going hungry or are undernourished, so we are not only fighting an uphill battle but have already been dealt a serious blow. This is why one important realization must be made: we cannot afford to be short-sighted.
Horse meat is utilized by many cultures around the world; its consumption is more than just logical, it’s tradition. But to focus on the logical side, we have to realize that to have such a huge resource and to not use it would be exactly what we cannot afford to do. As we mentioned in our previous article, in 2011 Americans imported around 1,380,000 pounds of horse meat (1). There is no negative stigma attached to the consumption of horse meat that animal rights activists like to tout, especially in America. Horse meat is seen as what it is: an important source of food that can lower market prices for meat and feed those who are hungry.
Those who are fighting against this important food source are radical animal rights organizations like HSUS and PETA. Although they represent a small fraction of society who disapproves of using necessary means to feed the people of this world, they have one important resource that gets more done in congress than almost anything else: money. Although we are not going to go in depth about the financial and ethical corruption of these organizations, we encourage you to read HSUS “The Payoff” (2) by our friends at the United Horsemen to gain a better understanding of the individuals who are fighting to end horse meat consumption.
With their questionable morals and greater financial resources in mind, it is more important that we gain more support and imperative that we hold a united front. We cannot relent in our demands for the reopening of these facilities, because we care more about the welfare of these animals than the concept of animal rights.
As anyone who is proactive in conservation knows, the biggest threat to animals is often themselves. The land and resources that are available can be depleted. Horses are facing this issue right now, and without processing facilities those who wish to stop them from suffering have no efficient way to do so.
Horses have virtually no natural predators, which means their rate of growth is enormous. A herd can grow up to 20% each year. Estimates of wild horses on public lands in America are anywhere from 50,000-100,000. The largest problem with this statistic is that the Appropriate Management Level determined in the same area is just 26,600 horses (3). This means that water sources are being depleted, grazing lands overused, and environments destroyed.
These public lands have traditionally been utilized by farmers through a permit system. However, the overpopulation is putting them, their livestock, and American food production at risk. Please watch our video over Kevin Borba to fully grasp what our ranchers are facing.
There are many like Mr. Borba who are being forced off their land because of wild horse overpopulation. Our government needs to stop trying to mitigate the problem at the expense of American farmers and ranchers, and instead start fixing the problem.
The land that we have is depleted. There is not enough food and water left to feed cattle, let alone wild horses. Sometimes the issue is made even worse by the financial situations that and ranchers are in due to these problems. Many horses are dropped off in the wild or even on the side of the road, simply because their owners could no longer care for them. Adoption and care facilities are full and turning people away, and with the horse processing facilities closed the farmers have no other choice. A statistic from the Unwanted Horse Coalition says that 81% of unwanted horses are because the owner could not afford them. It is not uncommon in some states to see a dying horse starving and dehydrated on the side of the road.
Yet, this is a recent plight. Over 85% of rescue and adoption facilities agree that abuse and neglect of horses has increased significantly since the prohibition of horse meat production. 72% of horse breeders cited the closing of processing facilities as the primary contribution to the problem of horse neglect (4). If we reopen the facilities, horses can begin to rehabilitate from this terrible point in history; if not, then they will continue to suffer.
Other options are available to solve this problem, but they would require millions of dollars and massive negative ramifications. In the past, the U.S. has implemented several initiatives to lower populations of certain animals. For example, they implemented the Dairy Diversion and Whole-Herd Buy-Out programs of the 1980s, and the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933 that bought, killed, and buried 6 million hogs and bought 8.3 million head of cattle (18% of which were slaughtered) (5). Nevertheless, problems arise with this method that animal rights activists are not ready to solve.
We can logically induce that if mass-scale killings are the form of population control that the government will opt for, the American people will demand that it be carried out with chemical euthanasia instead of with a bullet or bolt gun. Some concerns arriving with the thought of chemical euthanasia would be the size of the chemical stocks needed, the cost of such a collection, the safeguards put in place to address environmental concerns for the toxic waste, and the storage and control of these chemicals.
An estimate from the Unwanted Horse Coalition Survey of 2009 said the cost of chemical euthanasia came to about $385 per horse. Costs for are large scale chemical euthanasia project are estimated to reach over $86,240,000. Also, if we consider solely the 170,000 horses that are exported annually for production in Mexico or Canada, and not the wild horses devastating public lands, the toxic waste would equal 170,000,000 pounds. The high demand of this form of population control is drastic, and the risks are not ones America can afford to take.
When animal rights activists fight against horse meat production they have no regard for the consequences of their actions. Because of groups like HSUS and PETA, horses and various other animals have and will continue to suffer. Their ideas create a massive financial burden on the people and have the possibility to ruin environments and ecosystems with their waste. They also ignore the positive economic impact of the horse meat industry and are forcing the worst off Americans into an even worse financial situation.
The industry as a whole was conservatively estimated to contribute between $152 and $222 million each year (6). It gave Americans jobs and provided a cheaper product to be sold so that families in the U.S. could pay less and still get the nutrition they needed. Losing this industry because of animal rights activists’ intervention cut that revenue out of local economies. Families lost their livelihoods because their jobs were stripped from them, and the meat that was once extremely cheap is now burdened with the high cost of transportation across national borders and back.
Animal rights activists have continued to try and push through legislative action or cut funding for vital parts of the horse production industry, at no regard for human or animal welfare. They left us with very few options to protect ourselves. No matter what we do, unless the slaughter houses are reopened, we will suffer some form of negative consequence. Whether we abandon conservation efforts and let the horse population boom and then crash (ignoring the suffering of the animals), or commit a large scale chemical population control effort that will leave both our environment and economy in poor condition – both options paint a gloomy picture of America.
The closing of these facilities has impacted horses that now are overpopulated with nowhere to go, nothing to drink, and nothing to eat. It impacted farmers by taking away precious grazing lands and not giving them an ethical out when they cannot afford their horses anymore. It impacted the economy by taking away jobs and raising the price of meat.
We cannot be bent to the will of these radical animal rights organizations. They are the minority. If we bind together and demand congress reopen horse processing facilities, then our country and horses have a chance.
Will you stand with us?