I'm probably jumping into the shark tank here, but I just want to be the devils advocate and point out a few things.
It is not beneficial to the American public to federally subsidize horse slaughter plants in the US. It will cost millions of taxpayer dollars to fund inspections for foreign-owned slaughter plants that provide no revenue for Americans and only a handful of low-paying and dangerous jobs that have previously been filled by illegal immigrants and ex-convicts.
Pro-slaughter advocates claim that opening slaughter plants in the US will somehow reduce the number of unwanted, abused and neglected horses, but this is not the case. The overpopulation problem stems from irresponsible breeding practices. Slaughter becomes a secondary market that encourages over breeding. Large scale breeders are known to breed for quantity over quality in the hopes that a handful of their stock will become successful. The excess animals produced that are unable to be sold are shipped off to slaughter for a small profit. More than 70% of American horses going to slaughter are registered Quarter Horses. The USDA documented that more than 92% of horses who go to slaughter are in good condition. It makes sense that the AQHA would support slaughter as a side market for Quarter Horse breeding, because they profit from the registration of these surplus animals. Much of the propaganda you hear advocating in favor of funding and legalizing horse slaughter in the US is driven by those who would benefit from it financially. They are feeding the public partial truths in the hopes that legislation will swing in their favor. It also makes sense that horses in good condition are more likely to go to slaughter. Kill buyers are paid by the pound and healthy horses mean more money.
If you feel like reading more on the topic, see here: Horse Slaughter: Revealing The Truth, Part Five – The Money Trail | Habitat For Horses
The fact of the matter is, the demand for horse meat produced by the US and the numbers US of horses going to slaughter is driven by the demand for horse meat in other countries, not our own needs for disposal of unwanted horses. "Horse neglect and abandonment cannot logically be attributed to the closure of U.S slaughter plants because the number of U.S. horses sent to slaughter has not decreased since domestic slaughter ceased in 2007. Horses are still being sent to slaughter, across our borders in Canada and Mexico. The slaughter option still exists, so any increase in neglect or abandonment can only be attributed to other economic factors. Any downturn in the horse market is clearly related to the economic downturn that began the same year that the last slaughter plant closed and continues today. Historically, all animals—dogs, cats, horses, and even farm animals raised for food—face greater chances of neglect in a poor economy" In short, the number of neglected animals is directly correlated to the economy. The number of horses sold to slaughter has not increased in relation to the increasing number of unwanted horses. This further proves that the market is driven by demand, and not supply. Opening up more slaughter plants will not solve our unwanted horse problem. Educating breeders, discouraging careless over breeding (even in times when the economy is good) and doing what we can to improve our current economic situation will help revive the horse market and reduce number of unwanted horses in the future. The slaughter plant in Illinois was importing horses from Canada for slaughter prior to 2007 so not all horses slaughtered in the US were even our own.
Having the plant locations within US borders is of no benefit either. Large horse population centers are in coastal regions, while slaughter plants are generally located in the mid-west. Unwanted horses from the east and west coasts must still travel long distances before reaching the slaughter house. Property values surrounding horse slaughter plants suffer a decrease and in turn the local economy suffers. Property values plummet for many reasons but pollution is one of them:
"As with Dallas Crown, Beltex had a non-unionized workforce. OSHA records revealed that since the plants' inception in 1977 until its last inspection in 1997, Beltex had committed 29 violations of which 28 were deemed serious. OSHA records show that an ammonia leak occurred in 1996, but no one (fortunately) died or was permanently disabled. In 2000 the facility "accidentally pumped blood into the creek" and "in 2001, they were notified that waste water was flowing into adjacent properties and into the creek."
Of particular note, the Sanitation Group of DeKalb, Illinois, where Cavel International was located, identified the incomparable hazard associated with the discharge from horse slaughter facilities.
"This hazard is uniquely acute for horse slaughter because of the wide range of drugs given to horses that are clearly labeled NOT FOR USE IN HORSES INTENDED FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION."
These noxious drugs are not only present in the meat intended for human consumption overseas but also in the waste water and sludge produced during processing. This runoff has the potential to contaminate down-stream water intakes, including groundwater used for human consumption, and can enter the food chain via sludge distribution on crops."
This brings me to my next point. Unless the horses being sent to slaughter are raised for human consumption they are likely to contain bio-accumulated compounds in their flesh that are detrimental to human health. It is documented that certain drugs deemed safe for horses cause serious illness in humans, including aplastic anemia and cancer. Because these toxins make their way into water supplies and food sources in locations near horse slaughter houses, and the meat unfit for safe, human consumption is then sold for human consumption overseas, I see this as less of an animal welfare issue and more of a human health issue.
Regulation on the meat used for human consumption in European countries is being addressed by their own governments. In December 2014 mandatory origin labeling will begin on all unlabeled meats sold in Europe and further legislation is expected to require any US horse slaughtered for human consumption to have veterinary records documenting all medical treatments, vaccination, and dewormers given throughout the animal's lifetime. If this is implemented, any horse administered any product not safe for use in animals used for human consumption will not be eligible for slaughter. Any horse given Bute or some common dewormers at any point in its lifetime will be included in this. It is expected that the demand for horse meat imported from the US will decline with these new labeling laws in Europe and whatever further action is taken to reduce the amount of tainted meat sold to their public. Asian countries are expected to follow suit within the next few years. This further emphasizes the importance of finding other ways to address our horse overpopulation problem.
I also read that the national average for euthanasia and disposal of a horse carcass via rendering, burial or commercial composting is only $225. This is much lower than the average monthly cost of keeping a horse. It should not be a huge issue for responsible owners looking to dispose of unwanted horses to cough up the money to have their horses humanely euthanized and properly disposed of. Despite this number, there are movements towards other, cheaper methods of euthanazia becoming available. Some veterinarians are already trained to euthanize via single gunshot wound. I have already seen this occurring in Pennsylvania, as I work in a veterinary laboratory that only accepts deceased animals for pathology evaluation. Many of the large animals submitted for testing have been euthanized via gunshot.
One important benefit of a ban on horse slaughter is a decrease in horse theft. "When California banned horse slaughter in 1998, the horse theft rate dropped 34 percent." This makes sense because thieves can make a quick buck stealing a horse and reselling to slaugher. Once the horse is slaughtered evidence of the theft is destroyed. It's a crime that is both lucrative, and easy to get away with.
There are more arguments in addition to these that logically support an opposition to horse slaughter that are not invented by whiny, tear-jerking animal rights organizations. These are economical and human health facts drawn from unbiased studies. I'm sharing this with you so you can see the other side of the horse slaughter argument in a bit of a different light. You can choose to ignore it, disagree with it, or not believe it. I'm not here to argue, just throw something else out there for you all to mull over.