Thursday, April 30, 2009

Senate Bill (S. 727) to Ban Horse Slaughter Introduced

Senate Bill (S. 727) to Ban Horse Slaughter Introduced

Recently, a bill to ban horse slaughter was introduced in the United States Senate by Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Senator John Ensign (R-NV). The Landrieu-Ensign "Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act" (S. 727) will end the slaughter of American horses here and abroad. In 2002, legislation was first introduced to protect horses from slaughter. Recieving strong bipartisan support, the bill made horse slaughter and associated activities illegal and included both civil and criminal penalties. A subsequent version of the bill passed in the House by a landslide vote in 2007. This 2009 Act would amend Title 18 of the US Code and give law enforcement more tools and resources to ensure all horses are protected from the cruelty of slaughter. The law will be uniform across the US and enforced by professionals trained in upholding federal law.
Some of the horses at the slaughter auctions and then the actual facilities where the slaughter is carried out are ex-carriage horses. The horses you see in Central Park, in Columbus Circle, and maybe even on the West side near Javits Center, are often sold for money at horse auctions from which they are then transported, sometimes for 24 hours without food, water, or a chance to walk outside, in large cramped trailers with all the other horses who have been sentenced to death; they are unloaded at the slaughter house quarters, they wait, then they are, one by one, shoved into a metal confinement and are shot with a bolt gun (like a nail gun but bigger and more powerful) in the head. This is the typical scenario, and I emphasize typical, because I don't know what happens at every single slaughter house. Some may be better than others, and some, may be worse and crueler than the following:
These bolt guns are controlled by one person who does this same job all day and operated by a longer mechanical arm, rendering the device unwieldy and inprecise. The executioners often miss the spot on the horse's head where they are supposed to shoot the nail to render it unconscious. Thus, the horse endures numerous attempts before collapsing. One side of the confinement opens, and the horse is then strung up with a thick rope by one hind leg, attached to a suspended conveyer. The live horse is moved to an area where more men reside most of the day to carry out the job of slicing open each horse's throat. Their job is to slit the jugular, but, certainly they don't always hit the small, precise spot on each individual horse where the center of the jugular is supposed to be. Hopefully the men slit the jugular to hasten to dying process. When the horse seems dead, it is dismembered and chopped for meat. Eventually humans consume the horse.

Not everyone agrees with a BAN on horse slaughter -- a level higher than these previous protection laws. A friend of mine who lives in the LA area supports the ban and posted this information and a link to a website with expanded details to her Facebook page. She recieved some responses that I wanted to share, including my own take.

Author post:

Response 1: Banning horse slaughter is not the answer. Educating the public about horse ownership and lifetime expense, and reopening supervised slaughter facilities is the answer.

Author's Rebuttal: Why not do both? These issues won't be solved on one front alone. They need to be addressed from every angle. There is no one right "answer" as far as this is concerned. What is wrong with banning horse slaughter while we educate the public?

Response 2: We'd need ~2700 new rescue facilities per year to deal with the current number of unwanted horses. We must reopen slaughter facilities until we can get the horse population under control. The cost of hay has been through the roof the past year and many people are allowing their horses to starve because they can't pay for food. Many also can’t afford euthanasia or burial expenses. (usually about $300-400) Small animals can go to a shelter and hopefully be adopted out or meet a peaceful death with barbiturates. This is rarely the case with horses. It just isn't nearly as feasible to open enough shelters for horses as we have for small animals. What you’re saying is tantamount to saying that we should close all small animal shelter before educating the public on spay/neutering and rescue.

Author's Rebuttal 2: Yes, I did read the entire link. Clearly, you don't expect me to read a link and simply accept it as fact? I could send you links all day to the contrary, so it isn't about reading or not reading the link.

CK: Perhaps it is necessary to look at why horses go unwanted. If there are initiatives to provide slaughter houses and those which are back by so-called humane advocates, then people will be more apt to discard the animal rather than plan for long-term care and, if necessary down the road, plan for an alternative to slaughter. In addition, when the when the opportunities to make profit at slaughter houses dwindle, this will also add to a general impetus to direct attention to sanctuaries rather than meat auctions. IT would also lower demand of horses for any purpose. The above will have a trickle-down effect, in a the way of education, as people will begin to view horses, animals in general, as beings to be respected not property to be discarded at a point that any given human declares it to be. The same concept applies to small domestic animals, and the debate is similar to that between people like and organizations like PETA who advocate for euthanization over rehabilitation.In addition, we'd probably need 27,000 new rescue facilities per year to deal with the current number of unwanted cats and dogs, rabbits, other. The reasons they are or go unwanted is at the crux of coming up with solutions and enforcing those solutions, such as spay/neuter, humane edu, and adoption. Shelters, sanctuaries need more resources and attention. The efforts for the above are generating positive results but it is a long-term effort, and simply killing all leftover animals that do not have homes is counterproductive. I’m for prevention, as I believe most people are. It’s just a matter of understanding the concepts that put such sentiments into action and effect the desired results.

Author's Response: CK, you so eloquently made these points that I won't try repeating them. I will also add that slaughtering the leftover horses is also done for financial gain, and this makes it even more wretched (and also distinct from the situation of domestic animals).

If you would like, here is a real -- graphic yet real -- video of the process of horse slaughter: I encourage everyone to please take a chance to view this. Without knowledge of the truth about the way humans treat animals, we cannot mobilize properly to stop it. If you are against cruelty, please watch this video of cruelty and affirm your convictions.

If you agree with the ban, please take a moment contact your Senators and ask them to cosponsor this vital legislation.

For more information please contact AWI at:
Animal Welfare Institute
900 Pennsylvania Ave., SE
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 337-2332

Friday, April 10, 2009

Letter to NY Times, in response to Nicholas Kristof's "Humanity Even for Nonhumans"

Any time an animal rights or welfare article comes out in a prominant publication like the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal...or Forbes (eh, rarely), I will usually find it on one of my friends' Facebook profiles, either as their status or as a Note with a few others' comments below it.

So yesterday I came across this one from the New York Times journalist, Nicholas Kristof: "Humanity Even for Nonhumans". He is well-respected and prolific, and I was very please to see him take up the topic of legislative protection of animals and the general animal rights issues this inevitably brings to the conversation. I took some issue with his interviewing Peter Singer, however, as Singer is not a lawyer, a legislator, or even a law professor. Singer is a philosopher and an ethics and philosophy professor at Princeton. Philosphy is grand, I do believe, but it is limiting as far as using various principals in every day life. When it comes to animal rights, philosphical beliefs that Singer subscribes to, most of which I do as well, come unraveled, however, at a certain point. What is left to do then? I assert then one analyzes law and focuses on the very things that Kristof began his piece with.
And hence...

From: Courtney Kistler <>
Date: Thu, Apr 9, 2009 at 5:36 PM
Subject: Letter, response to Humanity Even for Non-humans

In response to Nicholas Kristof's article today, "Humanity Even for Non-humans":

Thank you, Mr. Kristof, for paying some time and attention to this topic and noting that the rights of animals are indeed of greater importance to more people now than ever.

I thought it odd, however, that, though he referenced Bentham's assertion ‘...can they suffer?’ as principal for himself, Peter Singer said he was “unsure about shellfish”. I would assume he's aware of the practices of commercial fishing and the suffering that other animals, including mammals, endure as consequence.

But then again, this is why Philosophy is impractical and needs Law to bring it to life.

Your piece did not pay attention to the enforcement gap hindering the effectiveness of humane law in America. Because this exists, free-range farm workers may continue inhumane practices, unmonitored. This is very important in our deciding whether or not to eat produce from these places.

While I'm glad you wrote on the topic and cited the increase in protection of animals through legislation, I hope you will write a second piece and get the opinion of a law professor or legislator who knows about Prop 2 and has practiced in humane law. In a way, there is a point where Philosophy stops and Law takes over.

Next op-ed, Cass Sunstein?

Courtney Kistler
Rational Animal
New York, NY
(212) 933-1688 or (419) 261-0223


Numbers and stats supporting argument above re. commercial fishing practices:

Description of the actual fishing practice that continues to kill off marine life including sea mammals and endangered species like all six species of America's sea turtles:
Some factory farm / animal issues to read up on:
Battey-caged chickens:
One of the best resources for like...everything: