Today I'm going to give you a glimpse into the dark underbelly of the horse world. This decision was prompted when I found this article on the Seattle Times website this morning. This subject is political, and gives some insight into the rule of unintended consequences. Please give the article a read before taking in the rest of this post.
I hesitate to use the term "unwanted", but that is the moniker that has been applied to horses that people can no longer keep, but are unable to find a new home for. The reasons horses fall into this category are are numerous. Some horses are dangerous. I suspect, however, that in the vast majority of cases, people simply can no longer afford to keep them.
Owning a horse is not an inexpensive endeavor. As domesticated animals, they depend on us for nearly all of their needs. They must be fed, watered, and receive regular hoof and veterinary care.
The cost of hay has doubled in the past two years. The price of grain has increased. As discussed in this post, horses require regular hoof care. In this area, a trim with a new set of shoes costs $100, and, on average, is required every 8 weeks. Horses don't have Blue Cross, and veterinary costs are pay as you go. Last fall I paid $200 for four horses to be vaccinated and have their teeth looked at. We are $400 into Ellie's leg injury.
The vast majority of horse owners are regular folk, probably living paycheck to paycheck. Now take that paycheck away due to a lost job. It's not long before they can't afford that bale of hay. They need to sell the horse. But so do many other people. Look at Craigslist. People can't even give good horses away right now.
Make no mistake, I don't like the idea of sending any horse to slaughter. It's a sad end for these noble creatures. But I don't wear rose colored glasses, and I realize that it is a far more humane end than slowly starving to death because the owners cannot afford to feed the horse.
Animal activists promote euthanasia as an alternative. The one quoted in the article states that people can pay for the euthanasia and rendering in installments. Horse puckey. Every large animal vet in this area requires payment at time of service. Period. The same goes with the rendering plant. Our county forbids burying of animals, therefore rendering is the only legal option. If the folks facing this choice can afford the cost of euthanizing and rendering the animal, then it is very likely they could afford to feed the horse, at least a little longer. I know many horse owners who would eat ramen and rice before they would stop feeding their beloved equine friends.
Two years ago, animal activists succeeded in shutting down all horse slaughter plants in the U.S. Currently, horses that are sold into slaughter are now packed into cattle cars and spend two or three days, without food or water, being hauled to Canada or Mexico. Now they want to eliminate even that as an option.
As with many single minded activists, they achieved their goal, but failed to offer any viable alternative. They aren't the ones left to deal with the consequences. Horse rescues are full. They depend upon charitable donations for their continued operation. Not surprisingly, donations to most charities are in the tank right now. Many rescues will tell you, "we can't save them all, so we save the ones that have the best chance."
I don't have the answer to this problem. But eliminating choices does not fix anything.