Hold onto your horses! On the abandonment of equines in a withering economy
It’s not just the economy that’s withering. It’s the hay in the fields in the parched Southeast and the fat on the backs of horses who would consume it. It’s also the skyrocketing price of grain and the fuel required to move it. An NPR report this morning treated me to another sad story of increased equine abandonment with these explanations for owners’ rationale.
A veterinary industry periodical also hit this hot button with a description of Mexican slaughterhouse conditions for horses and stats showing how the horses crossing the Rio Grande in their direction are doing so in record numbers. HSUS provides its recap of this problem here.
Ever since horsemeat slaughterhouses where banned stateside, Mexico’s been doing a brisk business in our close-to-the-border castoffs—albeit by means less than acceptable by US standards. It’s disgusting, the practices considered by-the-book in places where animal life and human health aren’t as valuable as they are here.
And what are families with horses to do when their land is being foreclosed on? When they have no money for grain and the last grass in the pasture has been long gone for weeks.
I pay $6 a bushel for Timothy and Alfalfa for my goats. It’s $18 a bale! I’ve all but stopped buying it since there’s still plenty of roughage in the foliage they have at their disposal in my yard. But horses need far more than goats can make do on. I can just imagine the havoc a half-ton grain-swilling pet can wreak on one’s limited finances.
OK, so maybe they shouldn’t have taken on a horse. Ten or twenty years ago it might’ve seemed a reasonable family addition, but now? Because horses can live a very looong time, upbraiding their owners for not having a crystal ball seems an exercise in futility—and maybe even unfairness. Things can happen.
According to the NPR report, the rescue operator they interviewed claimed she gets frequent calls begging her to take in horses. (She already keeps 90.) Apparently they call in tears over their horses’ imminent starvation. So it’s not always that people don’t care. It’s that sometimes they just can’t manage the responsibility anymore. Period.
What would you do? Euthanize your pet, right? If you had no other alternative I bet you would. I’m told that costs at least $500 for most people. It’s not cheap. First the vet then the drugs then the hole in the ground you need to rent a backhoe to dig if you can’t afford the steep haul-away and cremation fees. If you had the $500 you could probably afford to feed her for another few months. So what’s the next alternative?
Some say we should reverse our decision to keep equine slaughterhouses out of the US. Horse vets I know are horrified by the conditions they find animals in—all the time. They’re begging us to reopen the horse processing plants as a way to help end the misery—by giving owners a way out.
The most responsible owners will search far and wide for a solution they may or may not find. The less responsible will elect to neglect their horses out of eyeshot, leaving them to starve and die on their abandoned land. It’s a common scenario playing out more and more as economic conditions for horse owners get tougher and no relief is on the horizon?
Would we accept horsemeat, if only to ship it away for those who would consider it an excellent source of protein? In my eyes it sure beats a trip to a South of the Border slaughterhouse—not to mention starvation.