Recently a video was released that showed the horrific treatment of cattle at a slaughter plant. The video prompted a large scale recall of beef across the nation, with much of the meat having gone to school districts. Anyone who has seen the video can tell you how horrible the treatment of the animals were. They can also tell you about the fact that downer cattle were slaughtered, in violation of the law. It was one of the most disgusting things I have ever seen. I want to make it clear that the following is my, Shelley Sawhook's, personal opinion and may not reflect those of the AHDF membership or Board.
However, I am sure the question in your mind is what does this have to do with horses? Well, there is a connection, but you need to follow my logic and not jump to conclusions. I do eat meat and I don't advocate banning the processing of all meat. I know that the meat packing companies swear that I and others who support a ban on horse slaughter are out to stop ALL meat processing. I do advocate more humane processes and I do believe that ALL animals should be treated humanely and with dignity. I also know there are some folks out there that may see me as a hypocrite and those that say that may be partially right. But, my father used to raise beef cattle and I was raised on meat. (We raised pigs too at one point in time, but that is a long story that ends with me having great respect for pigs.) I do however know the difference between cows and horses and the difference between pets and livestock and that is why I personally don't think that I am a hypocrite and why the slippery slope theory of the meat packers is a flat out lie when it comes to me and most, if not all, of the folks who are working on the horse slaughter issue. But, I am getting off topic, so let's get back to why the cattle at that slaughter plant have something to do with the horses.
The plant were this video was shot was a federally inspected plant. USDA vets were onsite when those cattle were slaughtered. They were there to make sure the law was followed and that the cattle were handled according the Humane Slaughter Act. The USDA did not shut down the plant when these violations occurred. No, the vets and inspectors approved the meat. That is why it was shipped out. The person taking the video turned it over to the HSUS, who released it.** In other words, if not for the release of the video nobody would have known that these things happened all while the USDA was sitting idly by doing nothing. Which begs the question how often does things like this happen when nobody is video taping? It also prompts the question how humane can slaughter be if things like this go on while inspectors and vets are allowing things like this to happen? This is how it ties into the issue of horses. We keep getting told that horse slaughter is a method of "humane euthanasia".
There are several videos that show how horrific the slaughter of horses was/is. Yet, so much has been said by those who are pro-slaughter about how humane the method of slaughter is for horses. The recent video of the cattle slaughter plant was horrific, but no more horrific than the video of horses being slaughtered, so how can horse slaughter EVER be considered humane?
I would also like to point out that death comes not from the bolt gun, but by esanguination (by having their throats cut and bleeding to death). The bolt gun is designed to stun the animal, not to administer death. If properly administered it can cause brain death or permanent brain damage, but not instant death as people are lead to believe. The USDA has a document on their website that talks about animals (primarily horses) who regain conciousness during the slaughter process and what if anything the inspectors did to punish the plants. Usually it was to council the management because it is dangerous to the employees to have the animals revive, to ensure the throats were slit in under 30 seconds after being stunned, but more often than not nothing happened to the plants where this occurred. In other words, the USDA did nothing.
So, what happened at that plant on the day their processes were video taped was nothing new. As far as determining if your meat is as safe as you thought is something each person needs to decide for themselves. However, do NOT assume that this is an isolated case because there is more video out there that shows this happens frequently.*** But, for our purposes I think it proves without a doubt that horse slaughter is NOT a humane method of euthanasia and anyone who says that it is humane is either misled by others or is full of manure.
**There has been some controversy about the timing of the release and the fact that it may have been withheld from the public for some period of time. I believe that the HSUS was doing as instructed when they held the release and there were no ulterior motives behind holding it, but I will let them defend themselves because they have all the facts and can do so better than I can.
***I do quickly want to say there are plants out there that do their best to ensure that cattle are handled humanely, but without the proper oversight that the USDA is supposed to ensure where these plants are and if they are humane at all times depends not on the USDA but on the plant and their training.