Why Texas Should Reopen Its Horse Slaughterhouses

Categories: News

horse-meat.jpg
We hear horse definitely doesn't taste like chicken.
It's been five years since the nation's last horse slaughterhouse was shut down. The Cavel horse slaughterhouse in DeKalb, Illinois, closed after Congress banned USDA inspections of horse meat -- effectively ceasing operations at the few abattoirs in the United States that dealt in horses. If the meat couldn't be inspected, after all, it couldn't be sold.

Now, Congress has quietly moved to end the ban, which means that horse slaughterhouses could once again operate in the U.S. Wrote the Chicago Tribune yesterday: "The USDA issued a statement Tuesday saying there are no slaughterhouses in the U.S. that butcher horses for human consumption now, but if one were to open, it would conduct inspections to make sure federal laws were being followed."

After the ban forced the closure of the Illinois abattoir as well as the two based in Texas, most horsemeat processing moved to Mexico and Canada, where horses are shipped long miles in cramped quarters before being put down and taken apart. Nearly 80,000 horses were shipped to Mexico in 2008, and 40,000 sent to Canada, where the processed meat is sold for roughly the same price as veal to markets in Japan, France and Belgium.

That's right; if we don't kill horses and sell their meat, our neighbors are more than willing to do so.

T. Boone Pickens -- yes, the former Texas wildcatter turned alternative energy advocate -- was instrumental in getting horse slaughterhouses shut down in the first place. When Pickens first went on his campaign to get the abattoirs closed for good, however, most Texans (nearly 90 percent, in fact) didn't even realize that horse slaughterhouses existed, let alone right in their backyard.

Dallas Crown, Inc. in Kaufman and the Beltex Corporation in Fort Worth made up two-thirds of all the horse-meat production in the U.S. before the USDA ban shut them down. Granted, neither slaughterhouse painted a rosy picture of the messy way that humans shuffle off a horse's mortal coil, but what slaughterhouse does? Robb Walsh reminded us all of the fact that getting a nice cut of beef is a dirty, bloody business in this cattle slaughterhouse video from 2009, yet we still all eat steak.

So what's wrong with having horse slaughterhouses? The only difference between the two is that Americans are born and bred on beef, but have a serious problem with eating horsemeat (aside from, oh, that time in the 1940s when Americans were eating horsemeat in record amounts). Our aversion to the stuff is the exception rather than the norm, however.

Horses have been hunted and eaten since Paleolithic times, long before humans ever domesticated the animal. The first dumplings were likely filled with horsemeat in the steppes of Central Asia (and still are today in places like Kazakhstan); today, it's considered standard fare in European and Asian countries.

One of the main reasons that horsemeat isn't as popular as other meats is that it's one of the worst animals at converting grain to edible flesh -- in other words, you have to feed a horse far more than you would a cow over its lifespan. But there's also the rather silly taboo associated with it in Anglo cultures, a taboo which primarily stems from our attachment to horses as pets and assistants rather than livestock.

20080927-002505-1 (1).jpg
Horse meat is sweeter and more tender than beef; it's leaner, too.
Australia, for example, produces horse meat, but its population does not generally eat it. Like the U.S., the horsemeat is exported to other countries, mainly Belgium and Japan. And in 2007, the horsemeat industry there netted $10.3 million for the country. Meanwhile, countries like Canada are making upwards of $70 million a year through the sale and slaughter of horses -- money that could have remained in the U.S. were our slaughterhouses not shut down.

Granted, the two slaughterhouses in Texas had their share of issues: Both were cited for environmental concerns, and both were notorious for not paying their taxes. And neither should reopen without addressing these two serious topics. But imagine the jobs and profit that could be generated if horse slaughterhouses were to reopen in Texas -- two things that are especially needed here after the drought has taken its toll on the state this summer.

More to the point, horses would no longer need to be transported across international lines to be killed and could, as a result, be put down more humanely here in the U.S. The possibility of new slaughterhouses opening is a real one, according to the Tribune:

Dave Duquette, president of the nonprofit, pro-slaughter group United Horsemen, said no state or site has been picked yet but he's lined up plenty of investors who have expressed interest in financing a processing plant. While the last three slaughterhouses in the U.S. were owned by foreign companies, he said a new plant would be American-owned.

"I have personally probably five to 10 investors that I could call right now if I had a plant ready to go," said Duquette, who lives in Hermiston, Ore. He added, "If one plant came open in two weeks, I'd have enough money to fund it. I've got people who will put up $100,000."

Texas was once the home base of horse abattoirs in the U.S. Why shouldn't it be again?



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34 comments
Wolfdillon
Wolfdillon

The author of this is leaving out ALOT of important info about HOW the horses SUFFER, prior to slaughter, during transport, and during slaughter, itself.

Luke Thomas
Luke Thomas

Billions of cows are slaughtered every year in USA for meat guzzling gluttonous America.  So what's the problem with horses?  I actually wrote to President Obama and asked him to please rescind the horse slaughter ban because I was hearing far TOO MANY cases of horses being most cruelly transported to Mexico where they die during transport (with broken bones, etc), and should they survive, they just get a tree saw and cut their heads off. At least in USA they have better standards of slaughter.  Far TOO MANY HORSES are also slowly starving to death because of the economy and horses are very expensive to raise. Something like $500 a month per horse.

Paul_olle
Paul_olle

its time that we get away from the childes thought that horses are just for pleasure,  they are working animal whether they are working to please someone on a trailride or working stockyards.   we kill our dogs , we kill our cattle, we even kill bambi.   the horse industry needs to realize that we are in a fix!   with our preasent times of hardship,  horseowners are letting their horse go to strarve to death , or even i head from one our local vets that he was called on a case where someone had tied their horse to a railway track, for exicution,  let these animals have kinder death,

Preslee Jorgenson
Preslee Jorgenson

i have had horses since i was a little girl and when i heard about horse slaughterhouses wanting to reopen in the u.s, i was devastated. like seriously, do people not see how these horses are treated at the auctions, on there way to the slaughterhouse, and even while being at the slaughterhouse. i just read an article on how they get to the slaughterhouses and the horse haulers as i would call them brutally abuse them just going there. and worst of all they cram them into these double decker cattle trailers that dont even allow them to hold there head up. how sick is this? Horses are classified as livestock in the U.S. But, the only thing that makes them different from cattle, pigs, etc, is that they aren't raised to be slaughtered. They actually get to live a life before. And if were going to treat them like family, make movies about them, name cars after them and paint pictures of them, then they deserve a humane and dignified end.

Shellmybell
Shellmybell

This is just sick. Would you slaughter and eat our soldiers or your best friends. I sure wouldn't. The reason we don't slaughter and eat horses is because they have so much meaning and importance to our history. Who knows where mankind would be today without the help of horses. They fought our wars with us, took bullets and swords for us, ran head on into danger when they could have turned and ran, plowed our fields even though they could have kicked us in the face and walked away, carried us west when they could have thrown us off their backs and been free. They are 100% loyal to us but yet we think its okay to slaughter them for meat. That makes no sense and money is not a valid point for doing such a thing. And if people are worried about them being taken over the border to be slaughtered then do something to make sure its not possible to do that. This doesn't solve any problems and its very sad to know that other people seem to think it does.

Matthew
Matthew

interesting to see that most of the people that own or have owned horses don't have a problem with it.

Jeremy Parzen
Jeremy Parzen

In Europe, particularly in Italy (Apulia and the Veneto), people eat horse meat every day. There are even restaurants devoted exclusively to horse meat. It's one of the cheapest and healthiest ways to deliver high-quality protein to your family. In some areas, it's even considered a delicacy. I eat horse meat nearly every time I travel to Italy for my work (3 to 4 times a year). The U.S. could be a leading purveyor of horse meat throughout the world. And even if we don't start eating horse meat here, we could provide top quality products to the rest of the world, while regulating the business in a healthy manner. It's a win-win-win for everyone, including the horses, who would be treated more humanely. Great post, Katharine. 

Amy B.
Amy B.

I must say I have loved and owned horses my entire life, and the thought of them being slaughtered is sad. I have two crippled horses in my yard right now that I would never sell or give away because I know no one else will take care of them. BUT...

With the slaughterhouses shut down, I have watched the horse market become over-flooded with horses..you can't even sell a horse around here..and with the drought people have not been able to feed their horses and so they turn them loose only to have them get hit by a car, or they let them starve to death in their backyards. Auction houses are having problems with people dropping their horses off and just leaving them there. I think the slaughterhouses keeps the market balanced with good horses and removes the bad, injured or just plain useless horses. I would rather see a horse be slaughtered and a needy family get to eat, than see a horse that slowly starved to death over a period of weeks or months in someone's yard...

Its time to take a mature look at this issue...The animal shelters put millions of puppies and kitties to death every year. This is no different - it has to happen to balance the population.

Susan Hemingway
Susan Hemingway

I have no problem with the idea.  My daughter owns a horse.  We are horse people.  In fact both my daughters and their best friend just walked in from spending the morning riding.  But we seem to forget that horses are not indigenous to the U.S.  They are an invasive species brought over by the Spaniards.  We pay a great deal of tax money to wealthy farmers in order to allow "wild" mustangs to roam through private, leased and BLM land.  They are not wild.  The ranchers or farmers are required to feed and water them through the winter.  Most are horses left at auction houses because they couldn't be sold and the owner didn't want to take them home again.  The cost of keeping a horse is very high, especially one not used for cattle ranching or riding.  The horse is then considered "feral or wild" and of course once returned to a herd and allowed to roam free, it becomes wild or "green".We have no problem killing feral cats, bambi or eating cows that can be just as loving or even pigs, whose intelligence I think sometimes rivals those of our politicians.Why is my tax money going to some wealthy rancher (they make an incredibly high profit from horse subsidies) so he can upgrade his house or his truck or his equipment when the meat that would come from those horses can be used to feed people that don't have enough to eat?No, I do believe we, as a nation, would rather lay off teachers, fire fighters, police officers and public servants than stop paying for "wild" mustangs roaming free.  As if most of us have ever seen one except on TV or a painting meant to romanticize the West.

Jawehrle
Jawehrle

This article turned my stomach. Please do more journalistic research on the subject and less sensationalistic reporting before broaching this topic again. Horses carry great value in our culture, showing a little respect should not be that much to ask.

Coming for your kitties.
Coming for your kitties.

I only eat animals that had names and were loved by someone at one point in their lives. Their sense of sadness and shocked betrayal at being slaughtered imparts the meat with a piquancy that you just don't get from plain old livestock.

M86
M86

Most of your arguments seem to fall short.

"Horses have been hunted andeaten since Paleolithic times, long before humans ever domesticated theanimal." --- Should we also start using stone tools again?

"The first dumplings were likelyfilled with horsemeat in the steppes of Central Asia (and still are today inplaces like Kazakhstan); today, it's considered standard fare in European andAsian countries." --- Cats are eaten in other countries. Tyrannicalgovernments are in place in other countries. The French aren’t allowed to wearreligious garb or display religious symbols in public schools. In this country,we don’t adopt a social practice or principle merely because of its normalizationand acceptance in another part of the world (nor should we.)

“One of the main reasons thathorsemeat isn't as popular as other meats is that it's one of the worst animalsat converting grain to edible flesh -- in other words, you have to feed a horsefar more than you would a cow over its lifespan. But there's also the rathersilly taboo associated with it in Anglo cultures, a taboo which primarily stemsfrom our attachment to horses as pets and assistants rather than livestock.” ---Here you present a legitimate reason to not raise horses for human consumption(because they require more resources to raise than other livestock), but then yourefute this fact with an opinion/claim totally unrelated; namely that Anglo’s,due to some kind of sentimental attachment to horses, do not eat them, and thatthis is a bad reason to not consume something. Well, is this a bad reason, andon what grounds is this a bad reason? Should we never factor emotion into our ethicaldecisions? Is it even possible to make decision on purely rational terms,devoid of all emotion? Is it morally permissible to eat a dog or a cat? Withoutanswering questions like these, you don’t really have an argument; instead, you’vegot empty opinions, which aren’t all that interesting.

"Moreto the point, horses would no longer need to be transported acrossinternational lines to be killed and could, as a result, be put down morehumanely here in the U.S." -- I think all of the Houston Press foodbloggers need to take a field trip to some Texas slaughterhouses and come backwith a report for us--at least the ones that want to write about the ethics ofraising animals for human consumption and the realities of slaughterhouses. Itseems like the responsible thing to do, in my opinion. I apologize for beingpresumptuous if you already have.

Pvalqui
Pvalqui

During mad-cow disease in Europe in the 90s, horse meat became widely available again, so I had my share of horse meat, that I loved to use for grilling, for its grilling times, its flavor and the effect it has on people, I must confess. Specially my Texan students complained of the psychological pain inflicted on them due to me cooking up horse meat. I believe it is enriching to find other than beef, pork and chicken on the meat market and hope that we will soon be able to find other fowl, camelids, donkey, etc. as well. Each meat has its own advantages and flavors that can make a roast more exciting, a BBQ more diverse and sausages more tasty. All cultures have animals they do not eat, but there is a culture on the other side of the globe that eats that certain animal with pleasure (dogs in South East Asia but no beef in India, beef here but no dogs). What better way of understanding another culture than when we have shared the same kind of food. People here and it other places have already opened up to eating each others food, hence the flood you can see, for example in Houston, of Chinese, Mexican, Indian, etc. restaurants, even though the pioneers had to adjust to the American palate slightly. The trend however goes to more and more authentic and soon we will see, for example, Peruvian restaurants using guinea pig (even more a pet than horse I am certain) and alpaca or llama meat instead of beef or chicken. And soon NASA can bring us some more meats from out of space.

BeaElliott
BeaElliott

One of the first things to be considered is halting all Federally funded "breeding incentives". That ought to save enough money to provide better care to the horses people must relinquish. If we have an "excess" - It's absurd to make more foals/horses come into existence - at taxpayers expense at that! I fully support passage of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, H.R. 2966 / S. 1176

Finally the video: getting a nice cut of beef is a dirty, bloody business -  "yet we still all eat steak " --- Um... No we "all" don't. ;)

Anse
Anse

Shilcutt really delivered a nice response to the haters who complained about how she's been talking too much about veganism lately. Nice.

Just saying
Just saying

If youonly knew how beef is processed for human consumption you probably would stopeating it.  It’s totally disgusting theway they treat the cattle and what they feed them.  Some are even sick, none the less they are butcheredand packaged and we have been eating it for years.

Moony10
Moony10

The slaughter houses in Mexico and Canada are foreign owned by Beltex a Belgium company. I doubt Canada is making that kind of profit since the meat has to be shipped overseas where it does cost a pretty penny, Slaughtert house jobs are generally done by illegals and indeed are very low paying jpbs.It would cost the taxpayers just in inspections 5 million dollars a year. There are going to be cuts in the Usda, you really think this will realy fly. Horses are our companions and mostly used for pleasure. Do you all realize that Bute which is used as a horse aspirin is not to be ever in the system of a horse if is going to be used for human consumption. Is carcinogenic and causes all kinds of medical ailments. You all are ready to feed this to your children? In the last meeting of the United Horseman the pro horse slaughter groupit was said that to build it humanely it would be cost prohibited. A horse is not a cow and no pig. They are a flight animal.  There were many environmental violations before and many inhumane treatment of horses in both transport and at the slaughter houses. Currently it is illegal to slaughter a horse in Texas for human consumption and has been for years. These plants and politicos broke the law in Texas for many years. is a dirty filthy business and each day that passes I am more convince that vegetarian is the way to go because of all the cruelty animals most endure. Keep going Ag business and you might just be out of business.

Craig Malisow
Craig Malisow

Boy, you sit next to someone for years, and you think you know them! I shudder to imagine how many times Shilcutt has secretly nibbled away on horsemeat-and-mayo sandwiches at work, without her innocent co-workers realizing her evil little secret. It's "My Friend Flicka," not "My Food Flicka," dude. I will pray for your soul. 

Terry Alexander
Terry Alexander

Interesting article. I can't say that I am behind the idea, though. While I am aware that other cultures eat horse meat, I don't condone it. The reason being as you stated above - horses are thought of as pets and partners in the American culture. I would no more think of eating a horse than I would a cat or dog. I also give little credit to the argument that it would allow the U.S. to make sure that the processing of the horses would be more humane. Hell we are just as brutal in our slaughter houses as most other cultures. We just have better PR firms and Lobbyist.TA

Rockloesch
Rockloesch

Ignorance is bliss if something is not done to allow people to get rid of dangerous ,old,or crippled horses at some profit .then the over population problem is going to create much more suffering of horses than slaughter ever will. I had a mare that I recently had to have put done she was 30 yearsOld and was a great horse IWould have never considered saleing her to be slaughtered she was like a part of the family but I am practical youMust have a market for these type of horses I have a 16 year old mare that has navicular she is a dangerous horse to try to doctor and shoe . She kicked me in the neck two weeks ago and could have killed me .to sale her to an individual knowing this is wrong she could her or kill some one the only option would be slaughter so that know one is at risk. People tend to forget that horses although Useful are not pets they can be dangerous animals .

Lisa Epperly Quintanar
Lisa Epperly Quintanar

I have had horses for over 15 years and I love them, however I have also seen situations where people cannot afford to keep them due to conditions beyond their control and with the cost of hay sky rocketing to over $20.00 a bale cannot afford to feed them.  So then what happends?  The santuaries are full.  So people turn them out in the desert to fend for themselves. Drop them off at auctions?  That is better right?  I support horse slaughter IF it is done in a humane matter and would prefer it done here in the US.

Rockloesch
Rockloesch

This is probably the most sinceable thing I have read .I have registered quarter horses with champion blood lines before the close of the slaughter industry I could get 3000 for yearlings now I can hardly get 300 . The market is flooded with old crippled horses and people buying them cheap who have no idea how to care for or the means to feed them there fore they are starving or being turned out .

Jack
Jack

What is humane about slaughtering a horse that was ridden for fun. Have you seen the pictures, they are a lot worse than watching a cow get slaughtered. The ban was secretly lifted, and if you get $500.00 for the horse multiplied by 4,000,000.00 equals $2 billion. Don't you think this is really to pay back the $14 trillion to China, and Mexico. It seems too related to the deficit to me. There is a few foreign countries that do eat it. Sounds like a business deal to me.

Susan Hemingway
Susan Hemingway

Without discounting your obvious dislike for entertaining the idea of slaughtering horses or eating them, I think your responses to the arguments stated are irrelevant to the general theme.  What do stone age tools have to do with eating horse meat?  How is obstruction of religious belief the same as eating, say, veal?  Since when do we use emotions to make ethical decisions?  Feelings are not facts.  They are simply feelings and they can be wrong.  We put innocent people to death in this country every year and yet we consider that punishment ethical and moral.  If we used emotion to define our ethics, than according to my friend who works for PETA, we should all be vegans because fish are scient beings and chickens mourn over the loss of their eggs.  I prefer rational decision making over emotional decisions.  We would have avoided the Crusades, the Civil War, the war in Iraq, the mass slaughter of Native Americans.  Emotional ethics - now there's a conundrum.

Tfc713
Tfc713

Not to mention how disgusting the handlers can be with beef. If horse meat is healthy, it wouldn't be by the time it got to your grocer's case.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

It's Miracle Whip, not mayo. See? It's like you don't even know me!

Suzanne Moore
Suzanne Moore

You are right on the money, Terry. Our plants were no better than the European Union regulated plants in Mexico - where almost all our horses go - and the plants in Canada. In fact, some of the plants in Canada are actually BETTER as facilities than our hell-holes, and I believe the EU inspectors do a much better job. After all, they are their families are the ones who actually eat the stuff.

Sue Wallis and her cronies are in total denial about the food safety issues. They are very serious and are not going away. The EU - by far the biggest customer for our horse meat - is well aware that our horses are not raised and regulated as food animals, They found banned substances in our horses in Mexico last year, with forged affidavits stating the horses were drug free. The same thing happened in Canada just a few weeks ago. The EU has been saying for the last two years that by 2013, if we don't have a system in place comparable to their passport system which Mexico and Canada are themselves implementing right now, our horses will no longer be accepted for export to the EU. It's bad enough to have to pay our tax money to inspect horse slaughter plants that at least 75% of Americans are dead set against - and have been for decades - but to have tax payers shell our the millions it would take to implement a complicated traceability system  which would be much more burdensome than the NAIS that was proposed - and failed - several years ago - for something they do not want is incredible. As a horse owner who would NEVER send a horse to slaughter I'm very unhappy - not only about the cruelty of horse slaughter - but that I will be forced to help PAY for it, besides having to hassle with all the details and paperwork of a complex traceability system. I'm also outraged that my country is continuing to knowingly export meat containing dangerous contaminants for unsuspecting consumers overseas to eat. It's disgraceful!

M86
M86

Ms. Shilcutt didn't make very good arguments for eatinghorses. Many of her arguments relied on assumptions; for instance, she wanted us toassume that cultural practices in the Paleolithic era, like eating horses,are good (and/or) useful, therefore, based on this assumption we should also eat them today. The point Iwas trying to make with the stone tools remark was this: just because humans atone time in our history engaged in some kind of practice does not mean it'sworth engaging in today. That's all.

Also, I wasn't comparing the obstruction of religious BELIEF with anything. I wascomparing the banning of the display of religious symbols in French public schools with...well,not really anything. Again, a proposition was made by by the writer that wastotally unsupported, which I was pointing out.

You're right: feelings are not facts. I think it's pretty clear from my commentsthat I agreement with this, as would most reasonable people. What not everyonewould agree on is that FACTS determine morality. The nature of facts is that they are just propositions which describe the state of something in the world. They do not tell us how we ought to behave.

While making ethical decisionsbased only on rationality is an attractive idea to those of us who valuerationality and reason, divorcing ourselves from our emotion may be harder thanwe think. There’s a whole field (Ethics) devoted to exploring these issues.

Also, you're making an awful lot of assumptions about me based on my comments.Why you're bringing up capital punishment, the Iraq war and the genocide of theNative Americas is really beyond me...I never claimed even that I supported allowingour emotions to dictate our ethical decisions. I do, however, recognize that whatdoes goes into or what should go into making our ethical decisions is not as simpleas some make it out to be. That’s not to say we should not make judgements orethical decisions.

Anse
Anse

I don't want my meat to be treated cruelly while it's on the hoof. Then again, nothing is more cruel than death.

SHUT UP & EAT!!!
SHUT UP & EAT!!!

A food critic admitting they like Miracle Whip is exactly like a music critic admitting that they're completely deaf.

Helen
Helen

Horse meat I could almost forgive, but Miracle Whip?!??!? Unpardonable!

Corey
Corey

Love the pro-horse meat vegan, you rule!

Emaddux
Emaddux

Lifting the ban on horse slaughtering in the US, is to pay off the $14 trillion deficit to China and Mexico that America owes. $500.00 per horse multiplied by 4,000,000 equals $2 billion dollars. The ban also was lifted they say, "Quietly." I really feel that Americans if asked, would they want to eat horse meat the answer would be no. Meat markets could do what was done years ago and sell horse meat in place of beef, which did happen.

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