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Lipstick on the pig of horse slaughter

If I needed people to defend an indefensible position, I’d find a way to make it look morally acceptable. To help my soul wrestle with the cognitive dissonance, I’d slap a heap of lipstick on that pig.

As a public relations professional who helps organizations restore their reputations, I know a little something about framing discussions, so when well-meaning people regurgitate the same tired talking points to justify horse slaughter, I can’t really blame them. Some of them earnestly believe they know something I don’t. (In fairness, I suppose I believe I know something they don’t as well.)

If we’re going to have an honest disagreement, it’s essential for us to have the same information. As a former investigative journalist, I know how important it is to know the facts behind the emotion.

Yes, I wish I could save all horses from the horrific fate of foreign slaughter because my heart aches when I imagine the torture of intelligent, sensitive, sentient beings; but my opposition to horse slaughter comes from cold, hard reality.

Heartstrings are great. Facts are better.

The fact is, if Americans were allowed to vote on whether to legalize horse slaughter, 80 percent would oppose it (including 90 percent of women). The SAFE Act, which would permanently ban the barbaric practice by making it illegal to transport horses for the purpose of slaughter, has 224 of 435 members of the House signed on as co-sponsors, but it can’t get out of committee to a vote. The same bill has bounced around Congress in some shape or form since at least 2013, but it can’t make it to the floor where it would overwhelmingly pass.

How can 20 percent of the population have so much power that it can quash the will of 80 percent? Of course that’s a rhetorical question. We all know the answer.

But, for one who makes a living off of shaping messages, it’s at least instructive to examine how they continue to get away with it. We, the majority, will never prevail as long as those with deep pockets can get people to parrot the rote myths that justify horse slaughter:

  • It does not control parasitic horse populations (the slaughter industry’s transparent ploy to garner support from deer hunters). Read on to learn who created and feeds this myth. The Bureau of Land Management controls nearly 27 million acres of land in 10 states, on which about 70,000 wild horses roam. America has tens of millions of deer. Just for perspective. 
  • It does not resolve “wild horses tearing up ranch lands.” The Bureau of Land Management cuts deals (17,000 a year) with ranchers to allow cattle and sheep to graze public lands for 1/10th what they’d pay for private lands. These livestock outnumber wild horses 30 to 1. If lands are being destroyed (and who knows if they are), why are we blaming horses? And please don’t talk to me about how horses pull grass out by the root when they’re outnumbered 30 to 1 by other voracious herbivores.
  • It does not give good ol’ American farmers a way to dispose of old, useless horses they can no longer care for (a tug at the heartstrings of Americana). Farm bureaus aren’t spending hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying for the rights of the occasional make-believe farmer who doesn’t know how to put down a lame horse. They’re more likely fighting for ranching dynasties that want to graze hordes of cattle for near nothing on public lands.
  • It is not for mostly sick, old and lame horses (faux compassion for horses). Veterinary associations are not paying politicians hundreds of thousands of dollars to give poor old horses the humane endings they deserve. But that sure sounds a lot more noble than fighting for breeders’ rights to create life and dispose of living creatures because they’re not fast enough, big enough or pretty enough.
  • It’s not “better than letting horses starve to death in the hands of people who can’t afford them” (as though our only choices are to let irresponsible owners starve their horses to death, or let irresponsible owners make money off of killing horses they can’t care for). Slaughter is never a solution.
  • It is not “basically like euthanasia.” Because of the difficulty in hitting a moving target, it can take several shots with a bolt gun to stun a horse in fight or flight mode (and horses are always in fight or flight mode). Then the terrified and paralyzed horse is hung by its leg so it can be exsanguinated and bled to death. That’s nothing like sedating a horse and letting it die in its sleep.
  • Horses are not worse off since U.S. slaughter plants shut down. (142,620 horses were slaughtered in the U.S. in 2006. In 2019, 61,941 shipped to foreign slaughter, with no reported increase in cases of abuse and neglect.)
  • It does not feed hungry people. Horse meat is a delicacy – fed to people who can afford it. Meat processors are not looking to kill horses for some beneficent purpose.

These are all logical lies being fed to well-meaning, compassionate Americans by the same organizations pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into politicians’ pockets. Don’t believe me? Go to opensecrets.org and see for yourself who’s pimping horse slaughter. You don’t throw around that kind of money unless there’s promise of a return. What’s the return on dead horses?

Horse slaughter is about money. Period.

  • It allows very wealthy people to breed, exploit and dispose of living creatures like underwear.
  • It allows the federal government to round up and brutalize iconic creatures so cattle barons can graze their herds for one-tenth what they’d pay on private lands.
  • It allows irresponsible backyard breeders to pop out and dispense horse puppies like Pez candy to any unprepared mouth breather with a pulse.
  • It makes a few foreign meat magnates wildly wealthy.

So the next time you get the urge to justify a heinous practice as some painful but necessary solution, ask yourself where you got your information and whom it really benefits.

Swingin’ D wants and appreciates support from all kinds of people with all kinds of ideas; but we have no tolerance for anyone wishing to extol the virtues of horse slaughter. We’ve done the research and arrived at our own opinion, and we encourage anyone who wants to engage in the discussion to do the same. 

Here’s a great place to start.