Kentucky inundated with unwanted horses

Reply Sat 24 Mar, 2007 11:22 am
Not being able to sell their meat means that many horses are left to starve.


Legions of unwanted
Kentucky grapples with surplus horses as slaughter for consumption dwindles

Saturday, March 24, 2007
By Jeffrey McMurray

Associated Press

The bidding for the black pony started at $500, then took a nosedive. There were no takers at $300, $200, even $100. With a high bid of just $75, the auctioneer gave the seller the choice of taking the animal off the auction block. But the seller said no.

"I can't feed a horse," the man said. "I can't even feed myself."

Kentucky, the horse capital of the world, famous for its sleek thoroughbreds, is being overrun with thousands of horses no one wants. Some of them are perfectly healthy, but many of them starving, broken-down nags. Other parts of the country are overwhelmed, too.

The reason: growing opposition in the U.S. to the slaughter of horses for human consumption overseas.

Public backlash and state bans or the threat of them have led to the closing of several slaughterhouses that used to take in horses no longer suitable for racing or work. Auction houses are glutted with horses, and many rescue organizations have run out of room.

There have been reports of horses chained up in eastern Kentucky and left for days without food or water. Others have been turned loose in the countryside.

Some people who live near the strip mines in the mountains of impoverished eastern Kentucky say that while horses have long been left to roam free there, the number now may be in the thousands, and they are seeing herds three times bigger than they did just five years ago.

"There's horses over there that's lame, that's blind," said Doug Kidd, who owns 30 horses in Lackey, Ky. "They're taking them over there for a graveyard because they have nowhere to move them."

It is legal in all states for owners to shoot their unwanted horses, and some Web sites offer instructions on doing it with little pain. But some horse owners do not have the stomach for that.

At the same time, it can cost as much as $150 for a veterinarian to put a horse down. And disposing of the carcass can be costly, too. Some counties in Kentucky, relying on a mix of private and public funding, will pick up and dispose of a dead horse for a nominal fee.

The cost is much higher other places, and many places ban the burying of horses altogether because of pollution fears.

Sending horses off to the glue factory is not an option anymore. Adhesives are mostly synthetic formulations today, said Lawrence Sloan, president of the Adhesive and Sealant Council. And because of public opposition, horse meat no longer is turned into dog food, either, said Chris Heyde of the Society for Animal Protective Legislation.

Eventually, anti-slaughter groups insist, the market will sort itself out, and owners will breed their horses less often, meaning fewer unwanted horses. When California imposed its slaughter ban in 1989, they point out, the number of stolen horses dropped while there was no significant change in the number reported abused or neglected.

"Once you remove slaughter, you remove a release valve for irresponsibility," Heyde said. "These are animals. They're not a pair of shoes."

Nelson Francis, who raises gaited horses, a rare, brawny breed found in the Appalachian Mountains, said the prices they command are getting so low, he might have to turn some loose. He houses about 57 of them, double his typical number.

"I can't absorb the price," Francis said. "You try to hang on until the price changes, but it looks like it's not going to change. ... What do I do? I've got good quality horses I can't market because of the has-been horse."

"Kill buyers" used to pay pennies a pound for unwanted horses, then pack them into crowded trucks bound for slaughterhouses that would ship the horse meat to Europe and Asia.

However, public opposition to the eating of horse meat has caused the number of horses slaughtered each year by American companies to drop from more than 300,000 in 1990 to about 90,000 in 2005, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Only one U.S. slaughterhouse -- in Illinois -- still butchers horses for human consumption.

Ohio doesn't have any horse-slaughter facilities, said LeeAnne Mizer, an Ohio Department of Agriculture spokeswoman. The state does have five rendering plants, including one in Columbus.

"What do you do with 90,000 head of horses?" asked Lori Neagle, executive director of the new Kentucky Equine Humane Center in Lexington. "That's something that has to be addressed. It'll be interesting to see if people financially can do the right thing or if they will leave their horses to starve."

Federal law prohibits the use of double-decker trucks for transporting horses to slaughter. Many members of Congress have also been pushing a national ban on the butchering of horses for human consumption.

While California is the only state that has expressly banned horse slaughter, similar measures are under consideration elsewhere, including Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland and New York. Connecticut has made it illegal to sell horse meat in public places, and many states have tightened up the labeling and transportation requirements governing horses bound for slaughter.
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Reply Sat 24 Mar, 2007 11:27 am
Oh, ack! This is terrible. How many little girls want a horse?
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Reply Sat 24 Mar, 2007 11:34 am
Oh, my.
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Walter Hinteler
Reply Sat 24 Mar, 2007 11:39 am
littlek wrote:
Oh, ack! This is terrible. How many little girls want a horse?

Seems there are really too many horses:

Owner to ship 250 horses to slaughter

Owner Blames Malnourished Horses On Hay Shortage
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Reply Sat 24 Mar, 2007 11:16 pm
This is why the National Association of Counties and the American Veterinary Medical Association so vehemently opposed the last Congress's attempt to ban horse slaughter. Obviously, members of those groups know so much less than the idiots who claimed to be doing so much good for the animals. Even though the legislation did not clear the senate last year, the very fact that the House passed it threw the horse market into a tailspin. The last I heard, buyers were offering fifty dollars for thousand-pound horses - five cents a pound! That won't even pay the freight to the auction. These critters will most likely starve, as there is even a movement to prohibit killing a horse by anyone other than a "qualified professonal", whatever the hell that means. Additionally, disposal will overload animal pits at landfills all over the country. Sometimes I wonder if this country is threatened more by terrorists or idiot activists.
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Reply Sat 24 Mar, 2007 11:20 pm
where's today's colonel sanders, i see a huge marketing idea here


they'd need some pretty big buckets for the drumsticks
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Reply Sun 25 Mar, 2007 02:08 am
I wonder how many of these horses are healthy enough to ride and live with?

Here in Portland I met a guy riding a horse through the city streets with
saddlebags, canvas long coat, and a dog with him. He was travelling
by himself around the whole country on vacation, just travelling.
A lot of people bicycle across the country, but why not a horse?

It's a bit rougher than an RV, and takes some honest knowledge and
simple work, but I wonder how much it would really cost to live out
in the U.S., on horseback.

Perhaps with a little marketting, and a vacation prep-camp to teach people
the necessary skills, a small business might be possible. Call it retro.
Or a rite of passage. Or "reality sight-seeing". "Amish Tour Guides".
It would sure whip you into decent shape!

It's one thing to say "Aw, cute pony" but perhaps the real independence
and growth of seeing the genuine USA from the grassy fields ... Some
of these horses could find good use.

The only thing in the way is our selves.
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Reply Sun 25 Mar, 2007 02:22 am
I agree that many of the horses could find good use (ok, I hypothesize this as a schema), and some others need to be buried forthwith. And some may need to become tinned foods for pets in Europe - but that one is illegal, and besides, I'd rather they be cared for up to merciful put downs for serious disabilites. (with standards to that).

I'd prefer that last group, the potential canned food horses, get a home and a burial at the appropriate time.

I can read by the article that my preferences are dream material.

Thinking, isn't it horse foundation time from some of the big money folks, either of the seriously aristocratic on the eastern US seaboard, or from some serious movie producer? Never mind horses being thorouhbreds or wild ponies.. all of them.
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Reply Sun 25 Mar, 2007 05:08 am
Id like to get a mule puppy.
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Walter Hinteler
Reply Sun 25 Mar, 2007 05:47 am
We don't have such difficulties here - horses aren't breeded here for getting slaughtered.

Couldn't get a mule puppy but only a pic of horses, taken just a couple of minutes ago around here :wink:

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Reply Sun 25 Mar, 2007 04:20 pm
I was just watching a program on the Rockies showing the descendants of the Spanish conquistadores mustangs. They have thrived in the wild largely because they can eat the most fibrous foods, food that wouldn't keep even deer alive.

They are hardy, strong and have an easy adaptability to survive in the wild. The sight of them, running free and wild is so stunningly beautiful that I can't understand how anyone would be able to kill them. Of course, a merciful death under painful circumstances is totally understandable and something most of us would do for any of our pets.

The problem for many farmers and ranchers is that they, horses, are expensive, eating more food that other livestock, which is why Dys got rid of his horses when they became more expensive to keep than their worth in helping with herding cattle; but his place was relatively small, not in the wild country where horses are a requirement for tending cattle.

My uncle would always check to make sure the horses he sold weren't going to a slaughter house.
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Reply Sat 31 Mar, 2007 09:59 pm
Is there anyone left on this thread who understands horses at all? Walter, horses are not "breeded" with slaughter in mind. They are bred for various uses, but they eventually become unable to perform such uses due to age or injury. As such, these horses are utterly unsuited for travel, as nearly all of them would be subject to osteoarthritis or other lameness-producing conditions. As far as the mustangs are concerned, they bear little resemblance today to their Spanish ancestors, because Western ranchers spent over a century turning stallions out with those herds to improve their genetics, and then capturing and domesticating the foals. I have worked with a fair number of horses rounded up from BLM lands, and I have found most of them to be too wild and mean for all but the most expert horse handlers, even after months of working with them. Lastly, horses generally do not eat more than other livestock, but their return on investment comes from their ability to work, rather than their intrinsic value as meat-producing livestock. As such, their value after age- or injury-related conditions have reduced their abilities is determined by the slaughter market. Without it, these horses no longer have value, and will in all probability be regarded as such. This is not good for the horses, their owners, or anyone else who cares about animal welfare.
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