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Noem Serves Horseburgers? Rep. Supports Lifting Equine Slaughter Restrictions

Last updated on 2011.07.01

[Hat tip to Barb in Arizona!]

Congresswoman Kristi Noem likes horses. She may also like them with ketchup:

Representative Kristi Noem (R-SD) responded to a recently released Government Accountability Office report on horse welfare and slaughter saying that it confirms the fact that there are significant problems with the current restrictions.

"This report confirms what most ranchers already know. The ending of horse slaughter and processing here in the United States has increased neglect and abandonment and depressed horse prices," said Noem [Rep. Kristi Noem, press release, 2011.06.23].

Evidently, since Congress defunded USDA processing-plant inspections and effectively shut down U.S. horse processing plants in 2007, we've been shipping horses to Mexico. Rep. Noem doesn't like that.

Noem concluded, "While opponents of horse slaughter here in the U.S. claim they are acting in the name of humane horse treatment, their policies are in fact adding to the inhumane treatment of horses. I hope this new GAO report makes slaughter opponents reassess their position" [Noem, 2011.06.23].

Now I have no beef with eating horse. Meat on hoof with big, knowing eyes—what's the difference among horse, cow, and deer? Noem's old Legislative colleague and Democrat Frank Kloucek has regularly supported horse processing plant legislation. My neighbor Gerry Lange (a man full of horse sense) and every other member but one of the State Legislature expressed their approval of horse slaughter in 2010. (Only one nay vote? That's ironic, isn't it, Tom?)

But I'm curious what the general South Dakota sentiment is. Does horse slaughter rile any of my riding readers? Or do horse processing plants simply offer a reasonable opportunity to get maximum value from an agricultural commodity?

Update 2011.07.01 18:15CDT: Economics professor Carolyn M. Betts says the claims made by Noem and the GAO report are unsubstantiated. Says Betts, the number of horse slaughters has remained steady, the GAO report shows no solid evidence of an increase in horse abandonment or neglect, and any demonstrable increase in ill-treatment of horses could be easily attributed to economic distress, not the restrictions Noem decries.


  1. Michael Black 2011.06.30

    Kristi is right about this. I am not a proponent of horse slaughter, but what do you do with an old horse that is worth virtually nothing? You can call the vet to put it down and then dig a hole in the ground and bury it. Show horses are worth good money yet your grade horse may not be worth the cost of hay to feed it for a month. For those of us who love and value horses, the whole issue becomes a problem that is not easily reconciled. In other parts of the world, it is perfectly acceptable to eat horse meat.

  2. Dan 2011.06.30

    Talk to most ranchers in this state and they will tell you that it is a necessary evil. I really wouldn't mind if the meat went to human consumption or animal consumption. The fact Americans can't accept it only shows our cultural ignorance. To me animals are animals and we can't condemn slaughtering one animal while we sit back and slaughter and feast on another.

  3. Troy Jones 2011.06.30

    Good question Cory. And one in which there should be no "political" divide between conservatives and liberals.

    Here is my thoughts. Horses in most people's minds (outside ranchers who use horses in their operations) see horses more from a pet perspective (ala dog, cat) than food source (ala milk cows, beef cattle, hogs). This causes them to have a visceral reaction to them being slaughtered and possibly being in the food supply.

    The reality is all horses "value" is when they are able to work. Revenue as food is at best incidental. The bigger factor is horses are expensive. My ratio might be off but in my head the cost of keeping a horse is 4x a cow (factoring in better fencing, vet bill, and mostly food).

    Unfortunately, this high cost must be considered by a rancher when a horse is no longer useful. Again, my number might be off but the annual all-in-cost of a horse is over $1,000 a year (maybe much more). In the old days, a rancher had three choices:

    1) Let the horse range until it died a natural death. My grandfather and uncles who love their animals struggled with this as they saw the horse's health decline in health knowing death would likely be very labored and difficult. Knowing the horse had served them well both as a work animal and friend they spent hours riding in the evening made the reality of their death difficult.

    2) Put them down themselves and either throwing them "in the hole" where they put calves and pigs that died or calling the rendering plant was no easier.

    3) Call the "horse guy" or deliver them to be slaughtered was similar emotionally to what we all experience when our pet dog needed to be put to sleep. For my uncle's (grandfather chose to allow them to stay until they died a natural death), they saw this as the most humane.

    My gut is the broad legislative and rancher support for allowing horse slaughter is they directly and intimately understand the greater humaneness of giving the horse this option vs. the others is better.

    P.S. Except for those cultures where horse meat is either a delicacy or staple, I don't think horse meat gets into our traditional food chain but is instead used for dog food.

  4. Curtis Loesch 2011.06.30

    I know relatively little about horses and ranching but Troy's comment on this issue makes sense to me. Well put.

  5. Douglas Wiken 2011.06.30

    Now if there was just a market for surplus cats.

  6. Guy 2011.06.30

    The emotional attachment is even more questionable when it comes to the mountain lion. Some people are still angry because we allow a hunting season in the Black Hills. Well, I use to live there and I believe human safety and welfare trump the protection of the mountain lion, but, for some reason, especially your "Sierra Club" types still vehemently oppose the hunt of the so-called "sacred" mountain lion. Whatever, we have to keep mountain lion numbers in check to prevent a child or small person from being attacked by them which has happened in other states, especially California.

  7. Monty 2011.06.30

    The operative phrase is "depressed horse prices".

    Horses are expensive to own. But no one is forced in to horse ownership. Kloucek and others want to help horse owners recover some of there costs by fostering sales for slaughter, and in the case of his goofy "slaughter plant start-up bill" , recover those costs at taxpayer expense.

    Creating a market for a product, in this case for horse meat, doesn't lead to less inputs for the production of that product, in this case, horses. It leads to more. More horses doesn't means less inhumane treatment of horses. It just means more horses.

    I'm sure there are those who would like to see dog meat processed in South Dakota and shipped to Korea, which makes as much economic sense as shipping horse meat to China, Mexico, Russia, Italy, and Kazakhstan, the countries where consumption is still popular.

    Horse slaughter plants in the US shut down for a reason. Communities don't want to host them. Would you want to live in the horse slaughter capitol of the US? The last US plants were under Belgian ownership - but those same owers didn't operate plants within Belgium because community standards were against operation of slaughter plants in their country.

    And horse meat often contains chemicals that are harmful humans and well as anmals to consume. The USDA doesn't have enough money to protect our food supply now.

    Here's a link to comments from Paula Bacon, who served as Mayor of Kaufman, Texas, home to a horse slaughter plant.

  8. mike 2011.06.30

    If Noem is doing this for Humane reasons then she should also consider looking into the way cattle are raised in feedlots, turkeys in Huron etc.

    There are a lot of animals that need her help.

  9. mike 2011.06.30

    Monty hit the nail on the head.

  10. Troy Jones 2011.06.30

    Monty, the very vast preponderance of horses aren't raised or owned to be slaughtered for food. They are raised and owned as work animals, expensive to own, and must be able to do their work to be affordable to keep (only the rich can afford to keep old Nelly around).

    And the little incremental revenue for sending an old horse to be slaughtered maybe covers a few months of owning them.

    You are right on one point. Ranchers aren't forced to own horses. But for 15-20 years (horses regularly live in excess of 20 years) they are valued work animals and loyal companions when being ridden by the rancher.

    Whether we allow them to be slaughtered or not, the incremental change in the number of horses or the length of their lives will be miniscule as they are usually healthy and ridden up to their last year or so. But, since you are opposed to their slaughter, which do you prefer the rancher do with his old horse?

    1) Allow it to painfully detiorate until one day it lays down and laboriously dies with neither food, water, and hard breathing (I watched a horse die when I was 12 or 13 and my uncle's had left town to a bull sale and I was left to feed and watch the livestock)?

    2) Have the rancher shoot his old friend?

    3) Call the vet and have him administer essentially the same "cocktail" given to people on death row (because the cocktail is so lethal and regulated, the Vet has to special order and certify its use making it expensive and sometimes not available in time for the horse to avoid the laborious death described above)?

    P.S. In 2006 (before slaughter was effectively ceased because of regulatory change), 105,000 horses were slaughtered in the US.

    In the US, there are rougly 5.5 million horses. Assuming an average life of 18 years, about 300,000 horses die a year.

    In other words, the question is it it better for 300,000 horses to die in the pasture or shot by the owner or 200,000? My guess is few call the vet, at least among ranchers.

  11. larry kurtz 2011.06.30

    Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) - 06/07/11: "There are really two issues when it comes to horse slaughter: the private domestic market for horse meat and federal management of wild horses."

    Ranchers around here drag deceased horses out into the woods where they are easier feed for critters than livestock are. This ploy by redstaters like Noem to free public land for grazing by antibiotic-infused industrial grazing interests, nothing more.

  12. Susan Wismer 2011.06.30

    The discussion thus far has primarily touched upon ranchers and “rich people.” I think that ignores a substantial number of animal abuse cases that this horse slaughter ban has created. There are several horse owners who are just horse lovers, and they are able to support their hobby by finding a small acreage to house their horses. Then, as my story goes, they lose their overtime, or life gets too busy, or the kids get sick, or a divorce happens, or the horses get old: i.e. life happens. Then the expensive pet suffers: hay and veterinary care and boarding just don’t fit in the family budget anymore. What’s a horse lover to do? The local salebarn won’t even take the horse off your hands, because some federal law changed. These horse lovers weren’t raised on a farm and have no concept that shooting the pet to put it out of its misery is the adult thing to do. Joe average horse owner needs a market readily available to him to purchase his old nag, or the old nag will freeze or starve to death or cause a highway fatality when it's hit at night on the highway as it wanders desperately looking for something to eat, because Joe doesn't get around to doing anything else with it. That market is not available because of what the animal-lovers have done to the horse market by closing slaughter facilities by virtue of the federal law change removing funding for horse slaughter inspection. That does need to be corrected, and the fact we have people even here in common sense South Dakota, and not just on the nutty coasts, that don't get that is discouraging.

  13. Lauri 2011.06.30

    Horse owner here, horsecrazy since I could walk. I am in favor of horse slaughter. without it, we are seeing more abuse and neglect, especially in the current economy. The stories are documented of people just turning their domestic horses loose when they can't afford their care, or leaving them at the sale barn when they don't sell. you will find that most people involved in the horse industry are in favor of it.

  14. chris 2011.07.12

    Both sides are fighting a lossing battle. Why you ask? Money the pro and anti slaughter side are donating millions of dollars to campains fund. So why would they rule on this anytime soon?

  15. Darci Hortness 2011.07.22

    here is what horse slaughter looked like when it was in the USA. this is how the horses were treated before the slaughtering began. people like Noem and Kloucek say this is humane. Only a monster would think this is humane. It is obvious that the commenters here have no idea what is going on, or they hope others don't. It's about the breeding, ok? it's about people thinking they have a business going when they sell a foal for $5 or $500 when it costs more than $1000 to care properly for a mare. The problem has always been and will always be about this. The stupid breeding. not the good, responsible breeding. The stupid breeding. go to these links, look at these photos, and while you are looking, remember that all of these photos were taken in US horse slaughterhouses before they closed. These photos were released by USDA in a FOIA request. the original released document includes more than 900 pages!!!!!!!!! these are just a few of the photos. If you want to learn the truth once and for all, why we do not want horse slaughter in the USA, look at these photos. You will see mares and foals. yes, that's right. foals in the slaughterhouse. you will see healthy fat horses of all colors. beautiful horses. horses that someone caused to be born and then did not get trained. Horses that were bred and born for no reason. beautiful horses. and then, when their breeder realized his stupidity, he took them to the dump. and somewhere along the way they got their eyes gauged out or their feet broken off their legs or trampled to death in a truck or some other "humane" event. Because horse slaughter is humane. So says Noem and Kloucek. here are the links to the photos. If you want to know the truth. Here is is.

  16. mike 2011.07.24

    Well I can't support Horse slaughter. I'm having a hard time supporting any slaughter.

    We need to be very careful where we buy our meat so we can ensure the animals had a good life.

Comments are closed.