Editorial: Horse slaughter offers solution in tough time

Horses are majestic animals, loyal companions, hard workers, even great exercise. All true. But none of those points offer a reason to block the opening of a proposed equine slaughterhouse in Roswell.

Yes, there is national outrage from animal rights activists, even from New Mexico politicians from both major parties, including Republican Gov. Susana Martinez:

"The horse's companionship is a way of life for many people across New Mexico," she declared in a statement reported by thehorse.com, a website devoted to equine health care.

"We rely on them for work and bond with them through their loyalty. Despite the federal government's decision to legalize horse slaughter for human consumption, I believe creating a horse slaughter industry in New Mexico is wrong, and I am strongly opposed."

Relax, governor. No one is asking you to eat a horseburger, or to break the news to Mr. Ed.

But it would be nice if someone could come up with a better solution to deal with the ever-growing number of unwanted horses — tens of thousands by conservative estimates — that are starving on private property or are being kept on federal sanctuaries by the Bureau of Land Management.

The Roswell plan simply gives a logical option for responsible horse owners who, in a tough economy, can no longer afford to care for their pets or even give them to someone who can.

For those who think a ban on U.S. horse slaughterhouses prevents the practice, pull your heads out of the feedbags.

Officials estimate more than 100,000 American horses have been shipped to Mexico for slaughter since the 2006 U.S. government decision pulled funding for Department of Agriculture meat inspectors.

Now those funds have been restored, so the job once more can be done in America. That means employment, reduced shipping (and thus processing) costs to meet a huge worldwide market for horse meat. And most certainly the U.S. plants will enhance the likelihood the horses will be treated more humanely in their final days than they would outside our borders.

U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Nebraska, supported lifting the ban.

"While we have a long way to go, responsible processing represents a vital first step in reversing the unintended consequences to blame for the dismal state of neglected horses and their frustrated caregivers across our country," Smith said in a statement reported by ABC news.

"Reinstating a humane, accountable, and legal management tool is good for horses, good for owners, and is good policy."

Valley Meat Co. owner Rick De Los Santos, who has applied for the Roswell plant's approval, said he's only trying to make a living and provide a much-needed service.

A lot of horse lovers agree with him that equine slaughterhouses are necessary.

  • Said cowboy poet Baxter Black in a column published last year:

"As we horse owners and lovers struggle to find some middle ground in the tragic abandoned horse issue, maybe we need to look 'outside the box.'

"There is no abuse in humane euthanasia and no law, moral or constitutional, that prevents you from eating cherries flambe, wild salmon or an Appaloosa filet served with latigo sauce and chopped reins."

  • Said South Dakota cowgirl blogger Jean Zeller:

"(I) love my horse enough to let him have a purpose in life and death. … I have sent horses to fill a Frenchman's belly. It's much kinder to do that than to have them die in a nasty South Dakota winter; or starve to death because his teeth have fallen out of his head and he can't eat."

Everybody has favorite foods and varying comfort levels for how that food ends up on our tables.

For example, not everybody chooses to eat deer meat, swordfish or even green beans.

Horse, of course, is not for everybody.

But what gives any of us the right to select lunch for someone else?

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