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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Horse Slaughter...Can it Be Stopped?

Recently there has been a lot of press regarding the currant administration re-opening or allowing Horse Slaughter to be once again operational in the US. And with this comes the controversy if it should be allowed at all. Despite if the US has slaughter houses, it is still going to happen. It IS happening. Daily horses are loaded into trucks and take long miserable trips to the border North in Canada and South in Mexico.

What about California? Most Californians are unaware that there is a law against horses being sold for slaughter. As most Californians are unaware that horses even go to slaughter.

California Penal Code Section 598c

(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, it is unlawful for any person to possess, to import into or export from the state, or to sell, buy, give away, hold, or accept any horse with the intent of killing, or having another kill, that horse, if that person knows or should have known that any part of that horse will be used for human consumption. (b) For purposes of this section, "horse" means any equine, including any horse, pony, burro, or mule. (c) Violation of this section is a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months, or two or three years. (d) It is not the intent of this section to affect any commonly accepted commercial, noncommercial, recreational, or sporting activity that relates to horses. (e) It is not the intent of this section to affect any existing law that relates to horse taxation or zoning.

But horses do go to slaughter in California, daily.They are not sent to slaughter houses in  California, or the United States. Most are transported to Mexico, others are shipped to Canada.

So if it is illegal, why isn't it enforced? And who is suppose to enforce it?

Sections 20438 /23043 (a) of the California Food and Agricultural Code give all peace officers the authority to stop any vehicle hauling cattle or horses for the purpose of making an investigation.

Now here's something that doesn't make sense.

Documents Required for Transportation (According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture):Horses, Mules, Burros, No documents required at this time unless destined for slaughter.

HUH? The last three words, "destined for slaughter". Now wait a minute CDFA, doesn't this go against the Penal Code? It's very confusing. And that is why the Killer Buyers and Transporters get away with it!

So, no, its not enforced. And horses are transported from this state to Canada and Mexico. However it is very difficult to catch them and even prove that is their destination. There are hundreds of "Feed Lots" where doomed horses are stored until transported. They are pretty well kept secrets and blend well into the many agricultural communities in California.

Some Horse Rescue groups know who the Killer Buyers are and do rescue horses from them. The rescues won't revel who they are or where their "lots" are for fear that they will break the very thin trust between them. If this is broken the Killer Buyers will just move their operation somewhere else or refuse to sell horses to rescues at any price and the rescue wont be able to save horses from them. Other rescues go to the same auctions that the Killer Buyer frequent and try to outbid them to save horses from being loaded onto the Buyers trucks. Horses at auction are sold "cents by pound", just like cattle.

Killer Buyers also do prey on unsuspecting private sellers. Often people who, due to the economy are forced to sell or give away their beloved horses. Crafty Killer Buyers have been known to bring their kids and spouses as a ruse that the horse is going to a good family home. Or a "married" couple show up to buy a horse or horses. Killer buyers are reaping from this poor economy and high hay prices that are forcing owners to sell healthy horses or give them away. How do we stop them? How are we suppose to enforce the law when we don't have proof or they have covered their bases. Kill buyers are a sleazy bunch but they stick together and cover for each other.

As for the Slaughter itself. I will NOT go into details, you can look it up on the Internet yourself. I will say that the horses that go North are treated only slightly more humane than the ones going South. Slaughter houses in the South would make Horror Slasher Movies look like Mary Poppins.

The other side of the debate is, if there are no slaughter houses, and lets say that the demand for horse meat in other countries was to miraculously disappear (it is illegal in the United Stated to purchase and consume horse meat), then what do we do with the surplus of horses? Rescues and shelters are full of unwanted horses. The cost of feeding, medical and even humane euthanasia and disposal at at an all time high. In this area is costs approximately $100.-$200. for a vet to come out examine a horse, determine that it needs to be euthanized and humanely euthanize it by lethal injection. Then it costs another $200.-$300. to have it picked up and disposed of properly. If people don't have the money to feed their horses or provide vet care how are they going to afford euthanasia and disposal? I'm not saying slaughter is the answer, but this is where the debate is.

What about population control? Stop over breeding?

There is are certain demographics that are over breeding and indiscriminately breeding. We can't keep up with them. They move, hide, cross boarders, and leave a path of destruction in their wake. Many cannot be influenced because it in "their culture". Others just don't care, if the horse isn't making them money or stopped making them money, such as Race Horses, they are discarded to whoever will take them. Most often the Killer Buyers. I personally try to educate and enforce as much as I can but there are so many of them and not enough of us. Plus the politics and laws that tie our hands to be able to act more quickly. Many times I have been between outrage and defeat when I work so hard to get a case built only to have it dropped or dead-ended. It's not going to stop me from doing my job to the best of my ability, but I am one of few. It just doesn't seem to be as important to higher up the chain (even beyond our agency) as it is to some of us.

As I said before the rescue do what they can to try to take in as many unwanted horses as they can. But from what I see for every one rescue that opens one or even two close down. Ive also investigated rescues that are just down right scary. Well meaning people who quickly get in over their heads and instead of being part of the solution they become part of the problem.

So what is to be done? How do we stop the slaughter pipeline? How do we enforce the laws?

With the supply and demand there are no easy answers.