Once again, Congress is on its way to blocking the slaughter of horses within U.S. boundaries (this time by blocking funds for inspection of facilities). Next up for our dim bulbs: banning the export of horses that might be slaughtered elsewhere.
We Americans care for horses, we ride horses, and we even put them to work. But we don’t eat horses in the United States. And we shouldn’t be gathering them up and slaughtering them for people to eat in far-off places.
I like horses too. But I’m open-minded enough to recognize this position as … blinkered from other moral considerations.
Here’s the language Senator Landrieu inserted into the bill:
Slaughtering horses is inhumane, disgusting, and unnecessary, and there is no place for it in the United States.
Yes, you got that right: the formal position of the U.S. government is going to be based on disgust. Oooh … the objectivity amazes.
Perhaps this doesn’t bug you. It should.
Owning horses is a financial burden, no matter how beautiful the creatures are. This makes the financial questions an intimate part of the moral calculus. Ignoring that because it’s “just money” is a common excuse, but as noted above this position is morally blinkered.
Exactly what is a horse owner supposed to do with a horse they can no longer afford to feed? Sell it? What if there are no other buyers? Free it? We already cull mustang herds because there isn’t enough forage to sustain them. Donate it? To who? Senator Landrieu?
How about shoot it? Ah … there’s the ticket. A dollar for a bullet, for the gun you hopefully already have. Then what?
I live in ranch country. It is permissible here to bring dead livestock to our landfill. I have seen horses dumped there off the back of trailers. This isn’t quite as antiseptic as having your dog or cat put down at the vet. And, the owner has to both forgo any value that they might have gotten from the horse, and put out their own money and effort. Is it morally realistic to expect everyone to do this?
Now, let me tell you about the local news this week. They found a mare and foal that were malnourished. No one knows who they belong to. No doubt they were abandoned by their owners.
Here’s the thing: the mare and foal had starved to the point where the collapsed onto the ground, and froze to the soil. They were freed, but the mare died yesterday.
This is what happens when you don’t have viable options to recoup some of your investment in a horse.
The problem with ignoring the fact that a horse is an investment is that all investments have salvage value. In the case of a horse, this is what the slaughterhouse will pay for the animal you no longer want. You may not agree with the moral position of someone who does that. But, having taken that position, you must recognize that your moral position has impinged on someone else’s financial decision: in a very real sense you are taking away money that they could use to feed their kids.
The thing is, we’re used to salvage value. This is what we get when we sell a home that we’ve lived in, to some new owner who will also live in it. Can you imagine what our neighborhoods would look like if the government took a moral position that zeroed out the salvage value that homeowners get from a sale? Your neighborhood would look like a war zone.
Abandoned horses were a fairly common thing around here during the financial crisis, and as the story shows, they still occur from time to time. This blinkered, feel-good, decision out of D.C. is going to lead to a lot more cruelty to horses than any reasonably humane abattoir every will. I really think we need to start calling people like Senator Landrieu moral retards until they get this.