Stop The Needless Slaughtering Of A National Treasure
What do various and diverse luminaries such as Clint Eastwood, Kid Rock, Billy Bob Thornton, Jeff Bridges, Bo Derek, Kinky Friedman, and Willie Nelson share in common besides being celebrated actors and singers? They all strongly and passionately endorse H.R. 857 (The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act). This bill would prohibit the slaughter of horses for human consumption and prohibit the domestic/international transport of live horses for such purposes. Is this just the latest cause celebre for assorted Hollyweird types to rally around and harangue us with their diatribes or does this issue go deeper than that? Is it even an issue that we as a nation should worry ourselves with? Should it even rank in the top 100 of issues our lawmakers should concern themselves with? I say a resounding yes.
The supporters of the bill come from all walks of life and political persuasion - from those who make their living from the equine industry and those who don't. In any event, when I need particular guidance on an issue, I tend to ask: WWWD? (What Would Willie Do?) And since Willie Nelson is one of the supporters for this particular piece of legislation, well I have my answer. As far as that goes, I'm pretty much on board with whatever Willie has in mind. However, I don't want to be on board Willie's bus when he's busted for pot possession. But seriously...why is this legislation needed? Well just imagine some of the most famous horses in American history: race horses Man O' War, Seattle Slew, Seabisquit, Secretariat, and Barbaro; Ulysses Grant's Cincinnati; Robert E. Lee's trusty steed Traveller; Sitting Bull's Blackie; Roy Rogers beloved Trigger; Brown Betty - the horse Paul Revere mounted for his famous ride; and who can forget television's Mr. Ed portrayed by real life gelding Bamboo Harvester. Now imagine all of these icons on dinner plates in France, Japan, Italy, and Belgium which are the biggest consumers of U.S. slaughtered horses. It sorta changes your perspective, doesn't it? And while these celebrated horses weren't slaughtered and eaten, 1986 Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand was. And if the most famous of horses can't be protected, what about the unheralded horses who enrich our lives daily by offering companionship, transport, therapy (visit a kids' camp for the mentally and physically challenged that has an equine program and witness the therapeutic process for yourself), recreation, and working partners for policeman and cowboys alike. Do we immediately ship them off to the slaughterhouse when they are no longer of service to us? I think we owe them better than that. The horse holds a unique position in American life and has been an integral part of our nation's history.
Currently, there are three horse slaughterhouses in this country. Not a great number but according to the USDA they are responsible for the slaughter of over 100,000 horses annually. Two of the slaughterhouses are located in my beloved state of Texas. The other is located in Illinois. All three are foreign owned. Many animal activists voice concerns not only about the slaughtering process itself but also the inhumane conditions these horses suffer before they even reach their bloody end. In September 2006, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 203 to 146 in favor of the bill, but the Senate failed to act before the end of the 109th Congress. Hopefully the bill can be reintroduced at some point this year. Let's make this The Year of the Horse. If you are as passionate as I am about this issue, then call or write your legislators urging them to support this piece of legislation. And this is not a false choice of supporting animals over humans. I think this country is big and rich enough to support both. This legislation doesn't worship the horse, it merely protects it from inhumane treatment.
And what do I say to all my dear friends in France, Italy, Belgium, and Japan who have a strong affinity for horse meat? I say try some good ol' American grade A beef. As a raging carnivore who has sampled many a meaty delicacy in my travels here and there, there's nothing like beef. As the old ad slogan says, "It's what's for dinner". Or my answer might just be as simple as a bumper sticker I used to see around these parts: SAVE A HORSE RIDE A COWBOY. Bon appetit, just don't eat my American horse.