By Suzana Gartner & Alyssa Kelliher
Horses are complex highly social animals that need other horses for companionship. Naturally, horses have rich and varied social lives where they play and groom each other. Domestic horses need room to exercise and run. They need regular veterinary, dental and hoof care. The sad fact is that most domestic horses in the United States do not receive the care they need. Often as horses get older, their vet bills grow. Instead of caring for horses into their old age and giving them a safe place to land, likely after years of breeding, showing, racing or working for their owners, many people in the United States ship them over the border to be slaughtered so they can make a little money off of them. Last year alone approximately 80,000 American horses were trucked over American borders to be slaughtered for human consumption.[i] The ASPCA looked at data from 2012 to 2016 and found that an average of 137,000 American horses were trucked over US borders to Canada and Mexico to be slaughtered.[ii] The term “horse slaughter” refers exclusive to the killing and processing of horses for human consumption.[iii] Horses bound for slaughter, including pregnant mares, foals, the old, blind and ill are transported more than 24 hours at a time in crowded trucks without food, water or rest.[iv] Horses are naturally scared of new or unnatural conditions. While being shipped, the terrified horses injure themselves and other horses around them trying desperately to escape the horrible reality they were forced into. The Safeguard American Food Exports Act of 2019 would stop the practice of shipping horses across US borders for human consumption however it has not yet been passed into law[v]. Although this bill would help protect American horses, when reading the text of the bill, all that is talked about is how equines are treated with drugs unsafe for human consumption and that’s why horse slaughter should end. Not one part of the bill talks about the horses’ well-being or the personal right of a horse to not be slaughtered. The language in this bill highlights the major problems facing horses in our world. It also highlights the problems individuals working towards saving animals face. Horses are not seen as beings capable of feelings and emotions, they should be protected from harm simply because it is inhumane. Horses are often solely seen within the framework of how they can benefit humans or make humans money. Horses are a commodity in our current global climate, not as individual beings. You might as well replace each horse with a dollar sign showing the amount of money they can make for their owners by racing, pulling carts, placing in horse shows or breeding. The hard facts are when these horses can no longer make their owners money and the expenses of caring for them greatly outweighs the money they bring in, they are sold to the highest bidder, which often sentences them to death.
In 2019, groups seeking to ban the Carriage Industry in New York City received a minor victory when Manhattan Judge Arthur Engoron ruled in favor of moving the carriage horse’s “hack line” (or the line where the horses stand waiting to pick up fares) to inside the park. This placement is a more humane way of treating carriage horses because it shifts the hack line location into the shaded entrances of central park and not out on the street within the city traffic. The horses will no longer have to regularly travel through traffic and breathe in car exhaust and cope with the loud noises. This small victory however is in no way enough. The city is not a place for horses. The horse carriage industry has to be completely banned. These horses work at least 9 hours a day and are constantly tied to carriages and not able to carry out their normal instinctual behaviors. When not pulling carriages, the horses spend the rest of their time in cramped small stalls. They have no access to pastures and are not able to run or act like horses should be able to. Mayor de Blasio of New York City has been stating since 2014 that he plans to ban horse-drawn carriages from Central Park and city streets completely, but such a ban has not yet gone into effect[vi]. There are groups, such as the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages, that are working towards a complete ban of the horse drawn carriage industry in New York City. The movement has seen a lot of support lately when a video of a carriage horse suffering on the ground went viral on social media. This shows that there are people who care about the treatment of these majestic animals. You can also sign a petition to support the ban of horse drawn carriages in New York City at https://www.nyclass.org/petition. This petition calls for NYC to ban the carriage horse industry and to finally allow the horses to retire to sanctuaries.
Just as there was an uproar when people saw
the poor carriage horse laying on the NYC street, if people knew the horrors
horses face in modern society and the horrible fate they meet after long
inhumane rides to the slaughter house, I have to believe change would be more
easily effectuated. This is why it’s imperative to start the conversation and
educate people about what is happening. Every person matters and we can all work
towards creating a better world for the animals that inhabit this earth with
[i] ASPCA. Horse Slaughter is Not Euthanasia. https://www.aspca.org/animal-cruelty/horse-slaughter
[ii] ASPCA. Horse Slaughter is Not Euthanasia. https://www.aspca.org/animal-cruelty/horse-slaughter
[iii] ASPCA. Horse Slaughter is Not Euthanasia. https://www.aspca.org/animal-cruelty/horse-slaughter
[iv] ASPCA. Horse Slaughter is Not Euthanasia. https://www.aspca.org/animal-cruelty/horse-slaughter
[v] Congress.Gov. H.R.961-Safeguard American Food Exports Act of 2019. https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/961/text
[vi] CBS News. January 1, 2014. https://www.cbsnews.com/video/de-blasio-vows-to-ban-horse-drawn-carriages-in-nyc/