Are you as tired of the banal, unproductive Beltway arguments over jobs, taxes and Obamacare as I am? If you’re not, you’re either a masochist or a lobbyist. Let’s move on to something simpler, more obscure, but probably equally controversial. And if you’re one of my staunchly pro-animal rights friends who saw my tweet yesterday announcing this column’s topic, I’m sure you’ve been sharpening your proverbial knives since, but do listen.
For the past five years, thanks to the efforts of animal rights groups, federal funding for the inspection of horse slaughtering plants has been verboten. This year, that funding was almost restored; it’s still in committee limbo. Since the funding was withdrawn, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has seen an increase in the abuse and neglect of horses. If you want to put a number on it, try 138,000 – that’s how many horses end up slaughtered anyway, in Canada or Mexico.
Here’s a spokesperson from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA): “Americans are revolted by horse slaughter, it’s cruelty they just don’t want to support.” Except for the towns of Rockville, Missouri, and Roswell, New Mexico, both of whom have been selected as locations for new slaughter facilities and have majorities of residents who want them. Horses make glue, of course, as well as feed for zoo creatures. Not exactly market movers, but to a town like Rockville, which is 162 strong with a median household income under $20,000 and one grain elevator, it can mean a lot.
I realize that some people may not be swayed by economic arguments, so let’s try something else: Funding the inspection of plants like this ensures that any ensuing slaughter is done as safely and humanely as any slaughter of animals can be. (By the way, if you’re vegan, don’t even bother with this one.) The alternative, as we have seen, is to let horses die slowly after abandonment. Rescue ranches fill up fast. Horse-owning families can’t afford them forever. And domesticated horses can’t survive in the wild.
My point is that these horses will die of causes other than old age regardless of Congress putting up some money for their slaughter. If we accept this as an inevitability – which, unless you expect horse owners never to stop affording these animals – we might as well take the opportunity to create a few American jobs. It’ll help people in towns like Rockville much more than a few middling tax credits and streamlinings.
For those who have read this column and would like to make a scathing comment about my heartlessness, please offer a detailed alternative that would not involve lots of horse death. And I don’t want to hear about new state-run shelters.