EDITOR'S NOTE: An overpopulation of horses and a sluggish horse industry are adding to the issue of whether slaughtering horses is a reasonable alternative to an animal crisis. But several slaughter companies who want to process horse meat to foreign buyers for a profit further complicate the issue. Not only is there strong emotion on both sides of the argument, but the issue also challenges the question of whether government should be held responsible for such a problem and whether our desire for the ethical treatment of such noble animals should outweigh our responsibility to make difficult decisions to ensure and enhance their continued survival.

 

They all agree—lawmakers, federal judges, livestock officials, animal welfare groups, veterinarians, business leaders, ranchers, tribal leaders and more. Something needs to be done, they say, with the hundreds of thousands of domestic and wild horses that are struggling with survival issues every year. Those issues include enough forage and water sources, owner abandonment and lack of grazing on public lands.

Just about everyone also agrees the government, and taxpayers indirectly, should not be held responsible for dealing with the complex issues of the horse industry.

Where the problem, and disagreement, comes in, however, is how to best address the horse industry issue in such a way that is both humane and dignified to the horses and owners without becoming a major financial burden on the government or taxpayers. Should equine be slaughtered at facilities within the United States or not, and if so, how should those facilities be regulated? Furthermore, should the slaughterhouse be allowed to export horse meat to foreign buyers and is it safe for human consumption?

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The issue gets more complicated. If domestic slaughter houses are ruled illegal, should unwanted, abandoned and high risk horses be shipped out of the country to slaughterhouses in Mexico or Canada, and if so, who pays for regulation of those transportation services to guarantee the welfare of the animals in transit?

Many close to the issue are saying these are just a few of the questions that require answers before any acceptable resolution to the horse crisis can be found.