Horse Slaughter in the United States Thesis

Pages: 10 (2991 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Animals

Horse Slaughter


Introduction to the Range of Moral Perspective:

Human beings have hunted animals for food since the dawn of earliest civilization and have been raising them in captivity for work and for slaughter since the first evidence of recorded human history, such as that preserved in prehistoric cave art that has survived to this today. On one hand, humans have evolved as hunters in exactly the same manner as other animal predators, in which case, it is difficult to make the argument that the slaughter of certain animal species for human consumption is morally permissible while human consumption of other animal species is morally reprehensible.

Likewise, moral beliefs about specific animal species are substantially dependent on social culture, which differ substantially from one another with respect for animals, especially with regard to which animal species are respected or revered and which are considered perfectly appropriate for consumption as food. For the sake of logical consistency, the objection to the slaughter of horses in the United States must account for its comparative indifference to the slaughter of cows, pigs, fowl, and fish, in addition to the use of animal products, in general, for clothing and myriad other purposes.

On the other hand, both contemporary U.S. federal law and the laws of most

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American states recognize the fundamental distinction between humane housing and slaughter and inhumane treatment, even with respect to animal species whose slaughter for human consumption is specifically licensed and regulated by state and federal law. If the law prohibits certain farming and slaughter practices by virtue of moral concern for the suffering of animals, it is difficult to argue that the protection of horses against unnecessary cruelty is not as important as the same kind of basic protection for other species.

TOPIC: Thesis on Horse Slaughter in the United States Assignment

Any valid moral distinction of the duty of care owed by human beings to different species must be predicated on logical criteria justifying our differential moral concern. In that regard, suggestions that relative intelligence, for one example, should dictate our degree of moral concern, but it is not at all clear why the comparative unintelligence of a Blue Fin Tuna justifies allowing it to thrash around desperately while suffocating slowly or why the comparative unintelligence of sharks justifies pulling them out of the water, slicing off their fins for soup, and then dropping the animal back into the sea with no means of swimming so that that they sink and suffocate on the sea floor.

In fact, it is distinctly possible that there is no logical justification for differentiating our degree of moral concern for the suffering of different species.

However, it may very well be possible to establish a set of objective principles and a corresponding set of criteria defining minimal moral duties of care with respect to all animals used by human beings, whether for consumption, manual labor, or experimentation for the benefit of human life.

The U.S. Slaughter Industry and Horses:

According to recent changes in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations, a substantial majority of domestic horse processing plants ceased operations by 2006 with the remaining three domestic plants closing in 2007, due in large part, to the successful lobbying efforts of animal rights groups to outlaw inhumane housing, transportation, and slaughter of horses for consumption. After legal prohibitions in California and Texas on the processing of horses for human food and raw materials, the number of horses slaughtered and processed in Mexico immediately quadrupled, mostly as a direct result of U.S. horses shipped by truck to Mexico for commercial processing outside of U.S. The Canadian horse processing industry expanded similarly to accommodate horses shipped from northern and western American states (Jenkins 2008).

Furthermore, the closing of American horse processing plants has resulted in dramatically increasing numbers of horses maintained under inhumane conditions and often allowed to starve to death very gradually because they have exceeded their useful lives and their owners can no longer afford even their minimal upkeep. Naturally, the current economic conditions and the upcoming recession have only exacerbated the problem. The American Horse Council (AHC) estimates that there are more than 9 million horses in the U.S. with their average cost of annual upkeep approaching $2,500 (Schonholtz 2007). (USDA 2007 in Schonholtz 2007)

The irony is that the animal rights policy successes may have done more to cause additional inhumane treatment of U.S. horses than to decrease it (Schonholtz 2007).

Instead of being shipped to slaughter in American horse processing plants, approximately

100,000 U.S. horses are now being trucked annually over distances of 700 miles or more, with even less regard for their comfort or well-being at any phase from transportation to slaughter. Previously, USDA regulations had established minimal standards that were being ignored on a wide-scale basis documented by various animal rights activists. Their dedicated efforts to raise awareness of the issue eventually succeeded in the passage of laws that finally prohibited the processing of horses in the U.S. (Jenkins 2008).

Unfortunately, the conditions in which U.S. horses are now shipped, housed, and slaughtered is now, in effect, completely unregulated, since U.S. laws have absolutely no bearing on commercial affairs in Mexico or Canada. In fact, the legal transport of horses out of the country imposes at least two specific additional hardships on the animals that they would never have had to endure previously. First, to comply with laws regulating international export of livestock, the horses must all be subjected to specific blood tests and to the additional delay necessary for compliance, during which time they are housed in barely humane conditions (Schonholtz 2007).

Then, instead of being slaughtered locally with at least some regulations designed to maintain humane operations, they are locked into trucks without feed or protection from the elements, let alone the slightest concern for their respective breed, gender, or compatibility for side-by-side transport. The trips provide no opportunity for rest, and by most accounts, significantly increase the amount of fear, trauma, and physical discomfort for the horses.

In between their arrival in foreign processing plants and their slaughter, they are housed in dismal conditions and fed and watered only as necessary to keep them alive temporarily. The conditions of their actual slaughter are unnecessarily horrific, with workers herding the frightened horses by any means of their convenience, bordering on sadistic indifference to suffering by any standard of objective moral concern. Typically, they are prodded with sharp sticks or electric prongs and beaten about the head and face to keep them moving along. In many instances, the closed-bolt gun mechanism used to kill the horses quickly by a shot to the head does not do so in a single shot and the animals must be shot repeatedly after struggling back to their feet in a dazed stupor (Schonholtz 2007).

The Moral Imperative of Humane Treatment of Animals:

Regardless of the difficulty of establishing precise administrative criteria for determining exactly which animals should be entitled to our ethical concern and legal protection and why, objective moral principles strongly suggest that much of human exploitation of other animal species is tremendously insensitive. It is difficult for anybody who has spent much time around domesticated animals to doubt that they experience physical pain and traumatic fear in the same way that we do. This, in fact, was the fundamental basis for establishing humane laws and societies dedicated to the protection of animal welfare in the first place (Tripp 2003).

The belief that animals should not be subjected to pain and trauma unnecessarily does not, in and of itself, mean that all use and consumption of animals is immoral or unethical. Eating meat is undoubtedly part of our evolutionary design and many of the same animal species that we hunt for human consumption are, themselves, predators of other prey species. Similarly, predation among other animal species in nature is every bit as cruel as the worst slaughter house.

For millennia, birds of prey pluck small mammals and reptiles from the ground and simply begin ripping them apart with their sharp beaks while holding the suffering animal firmly in their talons. Bears reach into streams with their paws and catch salmon with a single swipe of their claws to disembowel salmon before casually tossing them away to die a writhing bloody mess. Lions often subdue prey and kill it by suffocating it, but particularly when faced with more powerful large prey may take quarter of an hour or more to kill it as the pride simply begins eating eat from the hind quarters until it bleeds to death.

In the U.S., we prohibit many forms of hunting and slaughter of animals used for consumption and we also establish standards of humane treatment of animals in other respects, simply because we recognize that our ability to comprehend the concept of physical suffering in general and totally unnecessary physical suffering in particular generates a moral obligation on our part (HSUS 2007; IARL 2008). On the other hand, we are naturally designed to eat meat and according to… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Horse Slaughter in the United States.  (2008, December 17).  Retrieved October 17, 2021, from

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"Horse Slaughter in the United States."  17 December 2008.  Web.  17 October 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Horse Slaughter in the United States."  December 17, 2008.  Accessed October 17, 2021.