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Protect Nevada’s Western Heritage
by John Smith
Jan 16, 2011 | 1094 views | 6 6 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I have concluded it’s a good thing Sue Wallis isn’t a welfare department director or superintendent of public schools.

Wallis is a Wyoming rancher, state legislator and the vice president of a group called United Horsemen.

Wallis and her group were among the sponsors of the recent Summit of the Horse event at the South Point Casino in Las Vegas. “United Horsemen” and “Summit of the Horse” have proud, high-minded rings to them, don’t they?

United Horsemen exists in large part to work to lift the ban on the practice of horse slaughter in the United States. The summit provided a forum mostly for advocates of the practice to express their deep concerns about conservation and the preservation of the wild species through effective management. That is, by rounding up the beasts, killing them and butchering them so the meat can be sold to countries where horsemeat waters mouths instead of turns stomachs.

Federal spoilsports have made it unprofitable to keep horse slaughterhouses open in the United States, and they’ve also banned the export of domestic horses for meat to Canada and Mexico.

Public opinion has turned against the horse killers, too. A 2009 Public Opinion Strategies poll found 69 percent of American voters opposed horse slaughter for human consumption. Unless Congress is unexpectedly overtaken by delegates from France, Mexico, Japan and China — nations where you can still find Seabiscuit on restaurant menus — it’s difficult to imagine the American ban being lifted any time soon.

But that doesn’t stop folks like Willis from dreaming of the day when wild horses are reduced to steaks, roasts and ground round, and ranchers have made a tidy profit.

Taking the folks with United Horsemen at their word, that they are interested in seeing healthy wild horse populations instead of, as their critics suspect, no wild horses at all, for a moment I thought Wallis and her friends might be onto something.

If wild horses have overpopulated, kill them and eat them. But why stop there?

If this is, as they claim, more about politics and public perception than the best interests of the species, why not continue the theme? Surely there are other critters in our midst whose existence is hard to justify.

Stray dogs, for one. Millions are in animal shelters across the land.

And don’t forget cats. They breed prolifically. When they turn feral, they’re bad for the environment.

The solution is simple. Round them up and slaughter them. Hey, we’ve all heard of people in distant lands eating Spot and Fido. I’m sure there are examples of humans dining on Puff and Garfield, too. It’s just a matter of politics and perception, right?

Moving to the next level is difficult, but, well, you can’t deny that there are an awful lot of Americans out of work these days. Call it a modest proposal, if you will. With the economy in recession, there are a lot of folks who, it could be argued, have outlived their usefulness to society.

And then there are the elderly. Are they proliferating, or what? Everyone talks about fixing Social Security and Medicare, but nobody seems willing to do anything about it. Well, now’s your chance. Perhaps someone will create a high-minded group called “United Seniors” and work toward a solution.

At the risk of sounding soft on this issue, I think the day of horse slaughter in America is over. Other countries have many practices and culinary traditions we don’t share.

Wild horses aren’t simply pests or nuisances. They’re somewhat federally protected animals. They’re majestic symbols and part of our Western heritage. And if that description is too poetic for you, remember ranchers use the same romantic imagery whenever it suits their political purposes.

The horses should be protected through management, private and public, not by bringing back the glue factory.

John L. Smith writes a weekly column on rural Nevada. He also writes a daily column for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Contact him at 702-383-0295 or at Read his blog at
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January 25, 2011
Well said Mr. Smith, and Thank You for saying it. One correction, more US horses are being slaughtered in Canada and Mexico now than in the US when we had 3 operating horse slaughterhouses here. Exporting for slaughter has not been banned but the Senate did not vote on the federal bill, like the House did, or it would've been. Blame it on the chairs of the committees these bills are sent to before they go to the House and Senate. That's where the hold up ALWAYS is.

I was hoping there was a website address link I could post here but since I don't have one I'll just post this White Paper covering the solutions that should've been the topics discussed at the recent Slaughter Summit in Vegas, had those so-called "United Horsemen" cared anything about America's horses other than killing them and feeding their adulterated meat to foreigners -


(Please share with every horse person you know!)

December, 2010

By Allen Warren – Horse Harbor Foundation, Inc.

Poulsbo, Washington

IN COLLABORATION WITH THE FOLLOWING LEADING EQUINE RESCUE SANCTUARY OPERATORS FROM ACROSS THE UNITED STATES: Jerry Finch, Habitat for Horses, Texas; Hilary Wood, Front Range Equine Rescue, Colorado; Grace Belcuore, California Equine Retirement Foundation, California; Teresa Paradis, Live & Let Live Farm, New Hampshire; Katie Merwick, Second Chance Ranch, Washington, and Melanie Higdon, Hidden Springs Equine Rescue, Florida.


According to its proponents, if the slaughter of America's displaced horses in Canada and Mexico were to be halted tomorrow, there would be approximately 100,000 needing to be dealt with each year by alternative means which they claim do not exist today.

Those that would continue the practice of disposing of these companion animals, never bred or raised to be part of the food chain, and that totals only about 1% of the total U.S. population of horses each year, argue that equine slaughter for human consumption abroad is the only economical way to handle what they call the "unwanted" horse problem.

The purpose of this paper is to prove that not only does an alternative already exist, but that it can be quickly expanded to accommodate America's not unwanted but displaced horses if the commercial equine industry will stop using slaughter as a dumping ground for its byproduct and participate in providing for the true welfare of the animals upon which its businesses are based.

Elimination of horse slaughter would also remove the present incentive for bad equine husbandry and therefore reduce the number of displaced horses in itself by the simple laws of supply and demand, and also serve to improve the quality of all breeds.

That total of 100,000 horses sounds overwhelming until broken down by the number in the pipeline at any one point in time, and that is the factor that makes the alternative viable.

One hundred thousand horses annually translates to 8,333 per month. Divide this number by the 48 contiguous states these horses are found in and the average is only 174 per month per state. Broken down even further into the weekly cycle of livestock auctions and the number of horses that actually must be dealt with at any one point in time is on average only about 40 per week in each state.

The ultimate solution for homeless horses is to reduce this number dramatically through more responsible breeding practices, a massive public education effort to make both current and potential owners aware of their lifelong responsibility to companion animals that can live 30 years and other measures. However, a viable interim alternative for re-homing displaced horses does exist today if the commercial equine industry and the horse rescue sanctuary community join forces instead of battling over this issue.

It is indeed a sad state of affairs that all over the country equine rescuers are being forced to bid against kill buyers to save horses, using financial resources that could better be used for expanding and caring for those in their sanctuaries and foster home networks. These are supported almost entirely by charity with virtually no help from the $102 billion a year industry from which the problem stems.

Proponents of equine slaughter claim that the nation's horse rescue sanctuary resource is inadequate to handle displaced and neglected horses and many are even trying to revive equine slaughter in the United States based on this premise.

The fact is that leading equine rescue sanctuary operators across the country have developed innovative new programs since the recession began in 2008 to save more horses than ever displaced by the economy. This places them in a unique position today to immediately play a major role in re-homing and caring for the country’s displaced horse population at this time, thus eliminating the perceived need for equine slaughter while long term measures are implemented to reduce the numbers needing re-homing in the future.

Another myth being perpetuated at the moment by those who do or would profit from equine slaughter is that the nation's equine sanctuary resource is at capacity due to the current economy and therefore there is no place for homeless horses to go other than slaughter. The simple fact is that rescue sanctuaries are and always have been at capacity. When a space opens up either to adoption or loss of a horse due to natural death or euthanasia brought about for medical reasons, another immediately takes it place. That is the way they have always operated.

Programs such as in-place rescue, in which dedicated but financially challenged horse owners are provided direct aid to keep their animals in safe homes, have prevented thousands from being neglected or displaced already and these efforts are being expanded. The innovative Oregon Hay Bank program, created and operated by horse rescuers, has kept 800 horses in their current homes since January 2009 in that state alone.

A recent survey by the National Equine Resource Network revealed that about 20 per cent of all rescue sanctuaries responding have similar feeding programs in place in their areas of operation across the country, effectively doubling and tripling their actual resident capacity since every horse that doesn't need to be rescued provides a space for one that does.

Further, the population of horses in sanctuaries is in constant flux, with openings occurring on a regular basis. A recent study by the University of California Davis indicates that four out every five horses that are taken in by rescue sanctuaries are then adopted out to new private owners, creating a constant stream of openings for more needing re-homing.

A national pilot program, funded by a private donor, is already in place this winter in which 1,000 horses are targeted for in-place rescue with aid to qualified owners ranging from hay and feed, farrier and vet services and even facility repair when safety or containment are a factor. A total of $200,000 has been provided to selected rescue sanctuaries around the country for this equine crisis intervention program, and that translates to an investment of only $200 per horse on average to keep these horses in their current homes and out of the displaced population.

All America's horse rescue community needs to provide a viable alternative to slaughter is the financial support of the equine industry itself, and a simple way to provide this is to add a long-term care and re-homing surcharge to the fee for every horse being registered in the country each year.

The various U.S. breed registries add approximately 500,000 horses to their rolls each year, and a surcharge of $25 (Which could be viewed as a one-time long-term care insurance premium for these animals) would provide $12,500,000 annually toward making sure they never suffer the horrors of the slaughter house. And this would cost the registries nothing because the cost is passed along to the end consumer, the horse owner.

Since all breed registries have in their mission statements that they are dedicated to the welfare of their horses, this is a much more moral and ethical way to honor those commitments and would unquestionably resonate well with their ultimate constituency, individual horse owners themselves. If the funds being used for lobbying by the major breed organizations today to keep slaughter are redirected to re-homing and long term care when necessary instead, it would add millions more to this effort.


The following programs are not theoretical, but have already been developed and implemented by the country's equine rescue community, and if expanded by funding from the industry, can eliminate the perceived need to send our horses off to slaughter for human consumption abroad in a relatively short period of time.

1. The creation of state and regional managed reserves to hold large numbers of horses safely until they can be absorbed back into the system. HSUS has already established two of these as a model and the cost for quartering and properly caring for each horse is miniscule compared to those on smaller sanctuaries. These can be established and operated by existing rescue organizations in each state working cooperatively and sharing the facility. Since much of America's farm and ranch land lies fallow at this time and many states have provisions for taking those dedicated to animal sanctuaries off the tax rolls, land owners will have the incentive to donate the use of these on long-term lease arrangements, thus minimizing the cost of establishing them.

2. Selected expansion of existing sanctuary capacity for rescues that establish business plans allowing them to accommodate and care for additional horses in their operations if more facility space is provided. Already many leading sanctuary operators around the country have expanded their rescue herds to deal with the crisis caused by the economy, and many more could if provided with the necessary funds to do so. Simply stated, if sanctuaries are at capacity, make them larger so they can accept more horses.

3. Expand existing and develop new sponsored foster home networks in which rescued horses are placed and supported with private individuals who have the facility and desire to keep horses, but are financially unable to. Interestingly, the economy has created more candidates for this than ever before as owners have had to give up their own horses, but still have the facility to provide a home for those owned by nonprofit sanctuaries. The largest pure equine sanctuary in the country today has the majority of its rescued horses placed in foster homes in three states and many others have these on a smaller scale, so the experience and expertise for helping other sanctuary operators develop them quickly is already in place. The cost for keeping a horse in a foster home is a fraction of that for one quartered on a sanctuary itself since there is no fixed overhead expense.

4. Expand the concept of in-place rescue to keep more horses with dedicated and committed owners in their current homes with temporary financial or feeding assistance. Currently there is a nationwide pilot program in place, privately funded, in which a small number of selected nonprofit sanctuaries provide local horse owners who qualify with financial assistance for feeding, minor vet procedures, farrier work and other equine needs if they agree to a sustainability plan to keep their horses. This is considered a hand up, not a hand out and the goal of this program is to keep 1,000 horses in their current homes this winter. The investment to do this average only $200 per horse and this program can be rapidly expanded nationwide since the mechanics are already in place. Still another established program is emergency feeding assistance efforts being carried out throughout the country. The Oregon Hay Bank was mentioned earlier and there are many smaller ones operated by rescue sanctuaries themselves. With funding from the equine industry these efforts can be expanded immediately and directly benefit its end consumer, the private horse owner.

5. The creation of state and regional training centers and networks, in which younger, healthier horses, which represent most of those going to slaughter today, can receive the training they need to lead productive lives and therefore be much more eligible for adoption to new homes. This can be based on the existing T.R.O.T.T. program for off-the-track Thoroughbreds which has been successfully implemented in California and the various mustang training competitions designed to make wild horses more adoptable. Again, there is nothing to invent in a program such as this, there are models already in place. Although some rescue sanctuary operators have the ability to train the younger, healthier horses being saved today, having this availability for those who do not would make many more of the horses in their herds adoptable, thus creating openings for more displaced horses. Also placing rescued horses in centers or with private trainers in these networks would provide temporary quartering for them, further alleviating the strain on the sanctuaries themselves.

6. A relatively new development in equine rescue, a growing network of sanctuary operators who work together to place horses they cannot accept themselves, has saved literally thousands of horses in the past two years. An informal regional group of only 11 in the Pacific Northwest has been able to place over 400 by posting horses needing new homes and sharing information. The establishment this year of the National Equine Resource Network provides a vehicle for not only creating and formalizing a national placement network, but also can be a resource for effectively distributing funding from the industry as envisioned in this paper. Currently there are two individuals who post horses daily needing re-homing that are listed directly or on various websites, and their records more than anything else belie the claim that only unwanted horses go to slaughter. The owners posting the vast majority of these horses have found themselves unable to keep them due to unemployment and other reasons created by the economy and are desperate to find them new homes to avoid slaughter for their beloved animals.


There is an almost immediate and viable alternative to the continued slaughter of America's displaced and homeless horses. It will require the country's commercial equine industry and horse rescue sanctuary operators to join forces, with rescuers taking on the task of implementing the programs described above and others, and the industry accepting financial responsibility for its byproduct. It's first and foremost about the welfare of the horses. There can be no debate that the plan offered here is much more humane than slaughter in terms of their welfare. Public sentiment is overwhelmingly against equine slaughter. Every true horseman, no matter what their position on the issue today, would like to see it end. In one way or another, it will either through legislation banning it or economic conditions such as the new regulations imposed on horse meat in Europe decimating the market. Now is the perfect time to act proactively and find a solution that works for all concerned, especially for our horses.

January 24, 2011
On Wallis and her questionable career.
January 24, 2011
Americans do not eat horses

The constant whining of the pro slaughter on "what are we going to do with all these horses"... is truly a shameful and most evavise detour maneuver to avoid putting some solution-oriented efforts into this instead of the usual tap-into-what-can-we-exploit-next approach of the ag industry. All those promoting horse slaughter are oblivious of the truth, the horrors and huge shortcomings in any quality standards - as there are none. Oh no, they just love to make the ones who expose their profit driven agendas look foolish because we jeopardize their propaganda. Starving horses ? Yes that is cruel. In a society that is regulated up the yingyang that ought to be addressed by implementing tougher consequences and preventive measures.

We don't let our kids starve... if we did, we would pay a price, or not ? New bills are introduced too often by those who want to shield their perilous intentions and mislead the public with their whining stories of "unwanted" and overflow horses... These horses are only at risk, because this society needs to be told what is right or wrong in their responsibilities. Always quick to brag, how great and smart Americans are... yet when it comes to animal welfare and respect, many remain in the stone age, and resemble the archaic mindset of cave people. Keep breeding happily ever after, right ? Promote the easy dumping grounds for cheap disposal which slaughter is, right ? Increase the numbers of at risk horses, so a buck can be made, right ? And oh yeah, go after rescues now with legal action... to be punished when in fact those who create this painful mess should be !!! Get them in their wallets. Money talks, but it must be done the other way around, to implement new measures to teach responsibility, so the animals don't have to pay the price with their death, such as dogs/cats/horses do every day, because people who promote breeding and slaughter are delusional and grossly egotistic.

1. Race track tax to be applied for animal retirement, sanctuary and for rescuing. Would apply to trotters, too.

2. Breeder registration with local or state offices that would give "x" number of breeding licenses and allow "x" number of horses to be bred.

3. Setting up a system of standards and governance for what stallion and what mare make breeder quality animals.

4. Tax on breeders for licensing on a sliding scale for number of horses bred.

5. Central registration in state for horses available for purchase on a web site.

January 24, 2011
This country is out of control with breeding. Not just horses, but dogs/cats who pay the ultimate price for an ignorant society at best. Regulate this excess breeding, increase registration fees and rethink the throw-away approach. The public health threat of adulterated meat is another significant component that is dismissed. Educate we must. Horse slaughter can't be implemented humane. Solutions were presented to Dr. Grandin before the summit, she put then on the table there. Yet in those is no profit –driving the pro-slaughter minds to exploit and continue the irresponsible, cheap dumping grounds of slaughter and looking the other way, an American trademark. SOLUTIONS

Stop over-breeding, irresponsible breeding, (introduce incentives for quality over quantity breeding); License stallion owners; even a “nominal” fee might help deter irresponsible breeding practices; Increase brand inspection fees and use funds for low cost gelding and end of life (humane euthanasia via a licensed vet) programs; Strengthen cruelty statutes and ensure enforcement; Connect animal control officers with qualified rescues for impound/seizure assistance so there is no excuse to not remove abused horses;

Develop horse related businesses to take in former slaughter bound horses (therapeutic riding centers, riding academies, guest ranches, trail riding organizations, equine assisted therapy programs, wounded warrior military programs, youth camps, etc.);

Develop quality intern/apprenticeship programs; Support/develop more programs like CO. Front Range Equine Rescue’s “Stop the Backyard Breeder” and “Trails End” programs;

Improve tracking of stolen horses and prosecute offenders;

Educate on responsible horse care; Provide hay banks, Educate on re-homing of horses (safe advertising, networking); Develop businesses which offer burial/cremation services;

Educate on injury prevention and rehab services to improve a horse’s chance to return to work, even modified; Develop prison/community service programs to help with re-training of horses.

Know that humans are the problem, not the horses!

January 24, 2011
The highly questionable endeavor of Sue Wallis to reinstate the selling of tainted, drug administered flesh of horses is nothing short from a scandal. The public health hazard it poses is grossly ignored by Wallis and I cannot see how Dr. Grandin would associate herself with this. An obscure "humane" aspect of slaughter may be one thing that is widely argued amongst people, thus Wallis resorts to using that very argument to benefit her agenda. Many believe there is no humane feature to slaughter (as is evidently known and has been documented). Dr. Grandin's work on behalf of thousands of cattle is an entirely different subject; the proposed slaughter vision of Wallis does not deserve Dr. Grandin's attention as the whole idea is based on half truths and misinformation. Americans do not endorse the slaughter of their pets and the obvious health hazard of bute and other traces of drugs administered to horses and the prohibition of horse flesh to the processing into petfood make it clear that the suggestion of slaughtering horses is an absurd pretense instigated by other incentives than humanity or an overflow of neglect. There is no hard data to support Wallis' claims - but there is plenty of evidence that neglect and abandonment have significantly DECREASED since slaughterhouses closed.

Dr. Grandin knows of other alternatives to help horses, of which there are many. These ideas are assisting horse owners and their horses, offering solutions other than lining the pocketbook of a state legislator who lacks responsibility, ethics and integrity in public office.

Some of the solutions presented to Dr. Grandin are :

Now that could also be implemented in other states.

"Trail's End" is another program created by Front Range Equine Horse Rescue in Colorado, which offers plenty of results.

Then there is Colorado Horsecare Foodbank. They have helped folks in California, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Illinois.

It is one more solution that will go nationwide - if pursued with serious devotion. And it is much more appealing and conscientious than the illicit promoting of horse slaughter such as Wallis does, when she in fact has nothing but monetary exploitation in mind. The growing/selling of flowers for CO. HorseCare Foodbank has helped many horse owners struggling due to the economy here in my equine state to keep their horses. It allows horse lovers to participate in a meaningful solution that creates assistance and support, brings people together and mostly: prevents the very fate that these horses never should have to face in this country. We do not eat our pets, and to most horse people, their horses are their pets. This organization now holds yearly fundraiser banquets, sells flowers to hundreds of people in Denver each year, who enjoy buying them from us instead of the Home Depot or Walmart.... and it creates positive CHANGE for the horses, not the industry mogul promoters aka Sue Wallis.

The energy Wallis spends on selling her fairy tales of kindness and "aid" are nothing but a callous intent to deceive horse folks. The fact is that Wallis' conceited slaughter dreams must be exposed as a fraudulent attempt for self-gain and a grotesque ignorance of the risks and obvious health threats to the public. We horse advocates protest the constant fabricated myths of Wallis and the proposal of any tainted meat to anyone is not an option. Tapping into whichever potential source, such as BLM mustangs, rescues or unsuspecting private horse folks is the work of a fanatic, whose outrageous claims and abuse of her position as state legislator must be replaced with effective measures - implementing true and moral solutions to the horse world in America - in which the perilous slaughter of horses has no place.

January 21, 2011
Good points John. There were a ton of far fetched perceptions touted at the summit. It's no surprise they failed to point out

the new EU regulations effecting import of horse meat for human consumption. The drugs given performance horses, companion horses and, yes, wild horses when removed from the range are unhealthy for human consumption. Yet, they want to send it overseas to feed the hungry. Real humanitarians, aren't they?

If breeders are drowning in the extra expense of euthanizing horses that turned out to be the wrong color, conformation or temperment or were simply deemed not to be "useful", perhaps they should stop the practice of over breeding.

Their platform is based on lining their pockets - nothing more.
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