The battle for mindshare on the horse slaughter issue

February 12, 2009

by Alex Brown

Much like many others in the US, I was at a SuperBowl party a couple of weekends ago. It was hosted by a fellow "racetracker" at Oaklawn Park. A great chance to actually meet some people on the backside. One conversation went something like this.

"What do you do?" she asked.

"Gallop for Steve Asmussen," was my reply.

"And what else?" she asked.

"Well, actually, I do a lot of work on the horse slaughter issue."

"Why? So they can turn all those horses out and abandon them in State Parks?" was her response.

And this is what we are up against in the battle for mindshare on the horse slaughter issue. This person is what I classify as Pro-Horse and Pro-Slaughter in the essay I have recently completed on the topic of Horse Slaughter.

In the essay I provide some background on the recent history of the horse slaughter issue and the involvement of Fans of Barbaro. I then provide the context of how things work in Washington.

The main focus of the essay is, however, to take a look at what is wrong with horse slaughter and why it has become so challenging to gain universal support to end the practice. Horse slaughter is inhumane, the horse is not a foodchain animal, and the the horse has had more impact on the development of human civilization than any other animal or technology. Despite this, we have been convinced that without horse slaughter we will be overrun with abandoned and abused horses - a myth perpetuated by the very effective pro-slaughter lobbies. And I address who they are. I also explore the real reasons for horse slaughter; the "slippery slope" argument. The fear that if horse slaughter is ended then other animal slaughter will be next.

I note how successful the pro-slaughter lobbies have been in convincing horsemen we need horse slaughter. And to that end I also discuss the tensions between horsemen and animal welfare groups. Groups who spend considerable energy disrupting our sports, whether horse racing, rodeo, eventing and so forth. This tension helps the pro-slaughter lobbies gain the mindshare of the horsemen on the issue of horse slaughter.

Finally, I put forth some strategies and tactics to get more people involved with the issue of ending horse slaughter. I do believe that horsemen need to embrace the issue of horse slaughter and make an informed decision on whether it is appropriate or not. We can no longer sit on the fence and avoid the issue altogether.

I was unable to convince my new friend at the SuperBowl party as I was more concerned at the time about watching the efforts of a Cardinal's comeback. My hope is, however, that this essay helps gain horsemen's support to end the practice of horse slaughter because I do believe the majority of us, she included, love the animals that provide us our livelihoods.