A leading American animal welfare advocate says he cannot understand why promoters of horse slaughter push on in a tough regulatory and social environment, describing the proposed resurrection of the industry as the dumbest idea since New Coke.
The head of the Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, was commenting as court action loomed in New Mexico on Friday over plans by Roswell-based Valley Meat Company to open a horse abattoir.
Pacelle, writing in his blog, A Humane Nation, said: “There’s just no way to view horse slaughtering as a viable business in the current environment, and its future, from a strictly economic perspective, is bleak as bleak can be.
“Taking a step back from the legal wrangles in the state and federal courts, I am amazed that the people behind horse slaughter continue to proceed with their thoroughly unpopular gambit, given the impossibly difficult regulatory and social environment they find themselves in.
“The only explanation for their perseverance must be that they have some financiers willing to bear the costs in their attempt to march healthy horses on to slaughterhouse floors.
“You don’t find too many people seeking to open up whale processing facilities, or cockfighting arenas, on American soil, because any sane investor knows it’s a fool’s errand.
“There are just too many practical obstacles — legal, political, and social — in the way, even if the proponents had unfailing enthusiasm about the idea of killing whales or fighting roosters.”
Pacelle said backers of proposed slaughter plants in Iowa, Missouri, and New Mexico had learned there was major local opposition to their enterprises.
“They will have to contend with a battery of regulatory challenges, protests, and public criticism if they wish to operate.”
Congress, he added, was likely to shut the door on the industry, at least for the coming year.
“Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have language in their 2014 spending bills that forbids the US Department of Agriculture from spending any money to inspect the plants, and that means the plants won’t be able to operate.”
Congress was expected to act on that legislation by mid-January.
“All along, this prospect has been looming, and it defies easy explanation that these slaughter plant operators would go the expense of setting up plants and hiring staff even as Congress acts to put a stop to it all.”
Pacelle said there was a highly uncertain market for American-produced horse meat.
“The industry has relied on markets overseas, principally in Europe. But demand there has been in decline, and according to Animal People, per capita consumption is more than a pound per year in just four of 28 European Union nations.”
Pacelle continued: “Some big money player is probably backing the horse slaughter plants, and allowing them to make totally irrational business decisions. But it’s an economic dead end.
“One way or another, Americans won’t let these plants operate …
“We have a great entrepreneurial spirit in America, but we also have core values. Horse slaughter just doesn’t make the cut as a legitimate business in our great country.”
Friday’s court hearing centers on a lawsuit filed by New Mexico Attorney General Gary King over Valley Meat Company’s plans, looking at issues that include waste disposal and potential chemical residues in the meat.
Both King and the state’s Republican governor, Susanna Martinez, are on record as opposing the opening of a horse slaughter plant.