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September 2001
Vegetarian Advocate

They Slaughter Horses for Human Consumption, Don’t They?
By Jack Rosenberger



Human carnivores often display their most fascinating behavior when they argue against measures to protect nonhuman animals. While vacationing in Cape Cod last month, I picked up a copy of the Boston Herald and came across an editorial, which lambasted a grass-roots effort to outlaw the slaughter of horses for human consumption in Massachusetts.

Titled “Zealots Should Trot Home,” the Boston Herald editorial begins: “Sometimes the things zealots spend their time on is enough to make you weep.

“Case in point: The current effort to get a ban against the slaughter of horses for human consumption on the Massachusetts ballot.

“Now don’t get us wrong, horses are glorious animals, worthy of all the admiration heaped on them. And surely worthy of a better end than being slaughtered for someone’s dinner.”

This said, the editorial proceeds to slam the proposed legislation. The Herald’s reasons are threefold: 1) “There are no slaughterhouses in Massachusetts at which horses are even accepted;” 2) the ballot measure “would not ban the export of horses to other states;” and 3) “Nationally the number of horses slaughtered for human food fell from 315,192 in 1990 to 72,120 in 1998, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”

“So why,” the editorial asks, “would anyone come to Massachusetts to propose a remedy for a problem that does not exist at all here and barely exists even nationally?”

If the ballot passes, the Herald notes, New York-based Equine Advocates, its sponsor, will use the Massachusetts legislation to lobby for a nationwide ban against the slaughter of horses for human consumption.

This isn’t good enough, though, for the Boston Herald. Equine Advocates shouldn’t “clutter up our statewide ballot with this nonsense!” the editorial concludes. “We can only say take your petitions and go home—bother the folks in New York for a change.”

A Consciousness-Raising Effort
Of course, the Herald tries to have it both ways. At the beginning of the editorial, horses are depicted as “glorious animals” and “surely worthy of a better end than being slaughtered for someone’s dinner.” By the end of the editorial, though, Equine Advocates’ efforts to protect the aforementioned “glorious animals” from “being slaughtered for someone’s dinner” is denounced as “clutter” and “nonsense.”

Of course, there’s a lot the editorial doesn’t share with its readers. Three years ago, California, another state in which horses aren’t slaughtered for human consumption, overwhelmingly passed Proposition 6, which outlawed the killing of horses for human consumption. While the Herald brands Equine Advocates and its supporters as “zealots,” their concern for horses is universally respected. A nationwide call-in TV poll in 1995 found that 93 percent of callers demanded “the killing of horses for meat be banned.” Similarly, a 1997 California poll found that 88 percent of respondents opposed horses being killed for their flesh.

One of the implicit goals of the Massachusetts ballot effort is to raise the public’s consciousness about the slaughter of horses for human consumption. Most Americans are unaware that tens of thousands of horses are being slaughtered in the U.S. for human consumption, primarily for export to human carnivores in France and Japan.

“This is a cultural issue,” argues Equine Advocates. “Horses, an integral part of America’s heritage and culture, are favored animals, just like cats and dogs. Americans do not eat horses just as they do not eat cats and dogs.

“Some cultures do eat cats and dogs, but we would be appalled to supply these countries with such a food source, as opposed to humanely euthanizing animals considered to be our beloved pets and companions.”

While all of the Herald’s arguments against the ballot initiative are weak, it’s strange that its opposition is partly based on the fact that “the number of horses slaughtered for human food fell from 315,192 in 1990 to 73,120 in 1998.” One wonders how many horses need to suffer and die before the Herald editorial staff becomes truly concerned. I suspect, though, that a single viewing of the graphic photographs, posted on Equine Advocates’ Web site, of horses being slaughtered would be enough.

Contact: Susan Wagner, president and founder, Equine Advocates, Box 700, Bedford, NY 10506; 845-278-3095; At the Boston Herald: Rachelle Cohen, editorial page editor, One Herald Square, Boston, MA 02106; 617-426-3000;


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