Reflection: Finding common ground on a taboo topic

The issue of slaughter is both uncomfortable and divisive. Lorraine Jackson makes a plea for genuine communication and respect in our discussions.

From Lorraine:

Horse slaughter is a subject that all of us are probably tired of, all of us hate thinking about, and that horse lovers can’t seem to agree on. Even when all of us have the best intentions for the animals who are our business partners, companions and family, it’s hard not to become entirely enraged by the opinions of the opposition. We live in a world divided: those who don’t want any horse to end up in a U.S. slaughter house, and those who don’t want any horse to end up neglected at home, or transported to Mexican or Canadian slaughter houses. I  think we are all so uncomfortable here because we are so accustomed to the respect and shared nutzo passion from one horse person to another. Who among us wants to look at another horse lover as the enemy?

The ASPCA recently conducted a poll finding that 80% of all Americans are opposed to horse slaughter, a statistic that has reignited the debate, along with the recent passage of a U.S. Congressional bill that reversed previous legislation and returns funding to the inspections of U.S. equine slaughter houses (the lack of funding was what initially stopped U.S. Slaughter in 2008).

The problem is that while most Americans have proclaimed to have no taste for horse meat, many other countries still do. While there is demand, there will be supply, and the closing of slaughter houses statistically has not sufficiently slowed the number of unwanted American horses. Ergo, horses are being shipped out-of-country, and horse rescues are at physical and financial capacity.

The feelings of grief and anger over slaughtering are only worsened by circumstances like the fraud case in Pennsylvania, where a woman allegedly posed as a thoroughbred horse rescue, when she was in fact selling horses to a kill buyer shipping to Canada. Eye-witnesses testify that the defendant, Kelsey Lefever, may in fact have done this to more than 120 different horses. Lefever’s case is still pending, with preliminary hearings to begin at the end of February. And this case is not an isolated incident, with reports of similar cases in California and Florida, most recently. No matter what side of the issue you’re on, this kind of deception and irreconcilable fraud is not what we as a horse community signed up for.

I bring up all of these gritty and unpleasant details again to the good readers of Horse Nation not because I have a dead-set opinion of horse slaughter. Quite the contrary, in fact. Rather, I have a dead-set opinion on the greatness of horsemen. I regard people who spend their day in the muck and cold and the sweltering heat (hard to imagine just now, isn’t it?) and covered in horse hair one of the most accepting and open transcontinental communities of people in the world. I know that when you and I talk about this issue, no one is heartless, no one is stupid. We are all equals in this mass collaborative effort that is Horse Nation, and I hope you’ll take this opportunity to share your voice.

Personally, I’m willing to look for a compromise, and to consider all options to find a solution that we can all be proud of as stewards of the horse race. This is an issue that isn’t going away anytime soon, and over the next several months we will have to talk to each other about it more than we’d like. As a horseman, a colleague, and a self-proclaimed nutzo for all things hooved in nature, I respect your opinion, and I will treat your ideas with the consideration and thought that they deserve. Ultimately, I thank you for considering the horse.

Photos: HN

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