How do you think of horses?
Is it a pack of colorfully clad thoroughbreds thundering around the turn into the home stretch as the crowd cheers them on?
Is it of wild horses joyfully running and jumping free in a grassy field?
Maybe you envision an old Western on TV, a heroic cowboy on his trusty steed.
What you probably don’t think of when you think of horses is the road to the slaughterhouse — of packs of once-noble horses, many now sick and emaciated, being rounded up by dogs, corralled into metal pens and forced through narrow gates with electric prods and sticks.
Of panicked animals being sprayed in the face with water. Of foals lying in the mud unable to stand, urinating on themselves, waiting to be shocked to their feet.
Of horses packed into large trucks stomping, biting and struggling to breathe.
Finally, in the slaughter area, they’re channeled down a chute into a brightly lit room, where an employee holds a bolt-pistol to their heads and fires a 4-inch piece of thick metal into their skulls.
As the horses panic and resist, the bolt often doesn’t kill on the first try, so the employees have to fire several times until the maimed horse finally stops moving.
The body is then dumped out a side door, the horse is strung up by its feet, its throat slit and its blood drained before it’s cut into pieces and sent to a meat company.
It’s this practice that state lawmakers last week passed legislation to end, and which federal lawmakers are working on their own to prevent.
The Legislature last week passed a bill (A4154B/S1442B) that prohibits the slaughter of race horses and breeding stock, as well as the transfer of horses intended for slaughter or to where one might assume they’ll be slaughtered. Violators will be denied licenses from the state Gaming Commission licenses and face other penalties.
The bill also mandates that horses be micro-chipped, that breeding organizations set up funds to support retired horses. The micro-chip information will be used to track horses and ownership transfers.
On the federal level, an amendment to the HR3684 infrastructure bill would ban the transport of horses across state lines or to Canada or Mexico for slaughter for human consumption. A similar bill, known as the Save America’s Forgotten Equines (SAFE) Act, would prohibit the sale and transport of equines for slaughter and stop transport across state and national boundaries — effectively preventing horse slaughter plants from operating in the U.S.
There’s no reason to slaughter horses for meat. The animals are treated cruelly. The meat is often tainted with chemicals and drugs. And there are kinder alternatives.
State lawmakers deserve credit for passing this potential model legislation, and sponsors of the federal legislation deserve credit for keeping this issue alive in Congress.