from the Stupid to the Sublime

It’s not often I encounter someone whose IQ is so low that I consider their existence to be a waste of space.  My definition of stupidity is:  ”Stupidity is the unwillingness to learn” because I didn’t believe in “stupidity” per se.  In this particular case, I’d also add one of my favourite quotes by the poet John Donne:  ”No man is an island…ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”  I’ll explain shortly why that last quote is so relevant to this rant by a livestock owner who is only at the top of the food chain by accident of birth or, um species, and certainly not for any other saving grace.  Note that the emotional, almost hysterical, tone adopted by this, um, writer is exactly what the pro slaughterers claim is what horse advocates indulge in…reminiscent of Anita Bryant or Pa Kettle (well, to be fair, Pa was thick but kind-hearted).  Hmm…read on and decide for yourself.  Then go on to read two responses, one from another farmer, and one from Animal Advocates of Michigan.

In answer to a politely written Letter to the Editor of farmanddairy.com located in Salem, Ohio, he writes:

FED-UP &PO’d farmer says:

January 5, 2012 at 3:44 am

Yet another pathetic lie and attack of our constitutional rights by another self-righteous arrogant tyrant. This letter is filled with incorrect information and a complete disregard for the freedoms and values this country was built upon-of course-the author is not a US citizen-so she really has no right to any input for this country…FACT: horse slaughter is no more “inhumane” than any other species slaughtered-it is the inspectors job to insure animals slaughtered are humanely treated and have authority to stop a plant if animals are mistreated…FACT: these “videos” posted show only what the poster wants to show you-NOT the truth-just because they show a couple of horses that have to be shot a second time in NO way means that is the norm-infact, you can count on that ALL the other horses were killed on the first shot or they would have posted it in the video…incidentally, the latest videos put on by the ARs show completely the opposit that they say-the horses were ALL in very good shape, VERY calm and content, and were NOT thrashing around and spooked when in the “kill box”-unlike what they claim. FACT: horses are PRIVATE personal property-NOT the property of the public-and people who own them have the right to breed and sell them to who ever they want-meat buyers included. FACT: horsemeat has had FEWER drug residue violations than any other meat-nearly ALL drugs given to horses are the exact same as what cattle and other species get-and have withdrawal times…as for the argument of “bute”-very few horses are actually given this-I have had dozens of horses and only used it once-other breeders I know very seldom use it-and it has been proven to be eliminated from the horses system within a few days-if people have to use it so often as the anti-slaughter crowd rants about, their horses should be taken from them and they shouldnt be allowed to own horses if their horses are in such pain that they continually use it (this is alie perpetuated by them) The author has every right to do with HER horses as she wants…however, she has NO RIGHT to tell ANYONE ELSE what they may or may not do with THEIR horses-her insinuation that anyone who is pro slaughter is heartless shows her childish and self-righteous way of thinking….So-let the deluge of comments from the other anti slaughter tyrants begin…just remember that their BIASED claims can ALL be refuted…it is sad that there are so many people in this country that feel their opinions is above the constitutional rights of US citizens-I have no respect for these people whatsoever and will not waste my time on them.

This is the immediate response from another farmer:

Happy and Well Adjusted Farmer says:

January 5, 2012 at 9:01 am

I was born and raised on a small dairy and crop farm in central Ohio and completely agree with the author of this article. As a farmer, I am tired of other “farmers” moaning all of the time about being picked on or having their rights taken away. I was raised to respect the animals we had on the farm and we never sent horses to slaughter. While horses are livestock they aren’t meat animals. The one commenter above must not be a real farmer and is clearly not a horse owner. I have had and been around horses all of my life and almost every one of them has gotten bute at one point. All get dewormers. Both drugs are banned. Meaning, you can NEVER use them on an animal sent for food no matter when it happened. Not a single drug approved for horses is approved for horses sent to slaughter. I suggest the one commenter sit down and relax and take some time to reflect what really makes him angry. It is time to ban horse slaughter! We shouldn’t be taking our limited number of slaughterhouse inspectors for our own food out of the process so they can work in foreign owned slaughterhouses. As a tea party supporter that is what makes me mad. I don’t want my tax dollars going to help prop up a foreign industry. If we have money it should go to helping American industries.

And here is a concise, point-by-point riposte to Pa Kettle, the first letter-writer above, by Animal Advocates of Michigan:

Since the closure of the US horse slaughtering plants the pro slaughter groups have spent millions of dollars on paid lobbyists and propaganda in an effort to re-open slaughter facilities. They achieved a small victory in November when a few politicians held a closed door session and removed language from the 2012 Agriculture Appropriations Bill that would have continued to ban funding for USDA inspectors in horse slaughtering plants. This decision was based on misinformation provided by various pro slaughter and special interest groups.

Due to economic conditions every small animal rescue in this country has experienced a significant increase in abandonment and neglect cases. However, pro horse slaughter articles cite the closure of the US slaughter plants as the sole reason for equine cases. Horse owners still have the option to sell and ship to slaughter but approximately the same number of American horses have been slaughtered each year since the US plants were closed as when the plants were open. Since the slaughter option is still available, it’s ridiculous to assume that owners are starving and abandoning horses because of the location of slaughter plants. If a true relationship existed between slaughter and the number of abuse/neglect cases, the number of horses slaughtered would have significantly increased while the number of abandonment and abuse cases would have decreased.

Pro slaughter groups claim that opening plants in the US will create jobs and increase tax revenue. The last three plants in the US, all foreign owned, employed less than 200 people in low-paying positions with the majority of the workers proven to be undocumented. In one year the Beltex plant in Texas generated millions in income but paid a total of $5 in federal income taxes. This was largely due to the tax benefits offered to foreign owned corporations which is why they operated plants in the US as opposed to their own countries. The cost to the communities in which these plants resided was astronomical. Regardless of EPA oversight, regulations continued to be ignored. The plants were repeatedly charged with wastewater violations. In some areas this illegal activity caused blood products to seep into homes. The same violations take place at the Canadian slaughter plants one of which was recently closed after it was found to be illegally dumping truckloads of blood into a river. In every area in which a horse slaughtering plant existed, increases in crime, including stolen horse cases, and decreases in property values occurred.

Those in favor of slaughtering horses claim that horse flesh is safe to consume. This may have been true in the 1920’s and 1930’s before the widespread use of equine medications became commonplace. Currently, we give our horses numerous medications to keep them healthy and comfortable. One of the most regularly used medications is Phenylbutazone (bute). Bute, an NSAID, is as common to equines as aspirin is to humans. At one time this drug was prescribed to humans but was pulled from the market after causing significant health detriments including deaths due to aplastic anemia. While the US plants tested for bute, of the 140,000 horses slaughtered in 2005 only 318 samples were taken. Of these, 10% were positive for bute. More frightening is the fact that the samples were tested using the ELISA method which is a urine based test. There is no research to show how long bute or its many metabolites remain in muscle tissue which is precisely why the FDA completely bans this product from use in food producing animals including cattle. Even pet food manufacturers understand the hazards of bute which is why in the 1970’s they ceased using horse meat in their products.

Other often used arguments claim that domestic slaughter is needed in order to set a minimum value for horses and to provide an outlet for old, sick and crippled horses. These arguments are based on an opinion that some owners, who value quantity over quality, and irresponsibility over doing the right thing, should be rewarded for producing a product which has no real marketable value. In other words, they want a set financial reward for producing an unwanted or unmarketable product instead of having to incur a cost to dispose of the product. Every industry relies on demand to price a product but the pro slaughter minority subset of the equine industry wants a base price set on supply. The ‘old, sick, and crippled’ argument is negated by the consistent reporting by the USDA that nearly 95% of horses slaughtered in the US were young and in good condition.

The last of the most often used pro slaughter arguments relates to the cost of humane euthanasia and disposal of horses. The cost of such averages $350. This amount is less than the monthly cost at a typical boarding facility and is not much more than the cost to euthanize and cremate a canine. Even the cost of a low quality, run of the mill saddle exceeds the cost of euthanasia and disposal.

Slaughter is not a humane death for horses. The USDA provided proof of this when they obliged a FOIA request for documented violations which occurred at the Beltex plant in Texas from January to November of 2005. This report is over 900 pages long and cites violations ranging from issues with transporting and incomplete documentation to the inhumane activities observed throughout the slaughter process which included horses still functioning and able to feel pain when bled out and vivisected.

With animal ownership comes the responsibility to provide food, water, safe shelter, and a humane death. Common sense dictates that the larger the animal, the greater the costs. One cost that none of should have to incur is the cost of providing USDA inspectors in horse slaughtering plants. If the taxpayer funded USDA can spare millions of dollars, this money should be used to inspect facilities that produce or import products that Americans consume, not toxic products sold to unsuspecting foreign markets.

Thank you, Animal Advocates of Michigan, for a clear exposition of all the facts surrounding horse slaughter in the US (especially addressing where American taxes should or should not go to).  It’s refreshing to read as well because there are no ad hominem attacks, surliness or sarcasm, and no personal animus:  just the facts.

Please visit their website which I particularly liked because they caution against so-called “shelters” which are bogus.  I’ve seen enough of those here in Quebec to know how true that is, and how careful we all need to be.  Oh yes, why the Donne quotation above?  People in this day and age who think that they are not responsible to others–even others in foreign countries–are doomed to go the way of the dodo bird.  As in the classic American argument on freedom, everyone knows that your claim to freedom ends when you shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre just for the heck of it.  That man’s claim to rights granted by his country’s constitution is necessarily abrogated when he refuses to even consider whether sending toxic horsement overseas might be a greater harm than a restriction on his rights as a citizen.  The death knell is sounding, tolling, for people who persist in living in a bubble.  (And I’m not saying that just because I just joined FB.)

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