When I was 8 years old, I begged my daddy for a pony. As a 13-year-old, I spent countless hours cleaning tack and shoveling stalls in order to ride a horse for an hour on the weekend.
My parents sent me to riding camp because I was so besotted with horses, and when I came home from camp my dad opened all the windows in the car, saying he had never smelled so much horse in one place in his life.
I never got my pony, but I cherish the memories of those that I rode.
I had other animals in my life. I loved my dogs and cats. One thing made me cry – the cruelty and harm delivered to animals by people who were supposed to be caregivers. These animals live with us and rely on us. Some people are poor and can’t deliver the care, some are old and don’t have the energy – and some are just evil.
Our society has a duty to these animals – all of them. We know that we cannot provide homes for the huge numbers of unwanted dogs and cats, and we humanely euthanize them. We try to find homes, and New Mexico people try to help, but it’s impossible to provide for all of them.
Then there are horses.
Irresponsible breeding has led to an overpopulation here, too. When the Great Recession occurred, many horse owners found themselves without enough money to provide food, shelter and vet care. The stories in the paper are appalling: animals left to starve, left without water, injured and unable to graze.
There must be a humane way to end the suffering of these animals.
Loading thin and sick horses on a truck for long rides to Mexico or Canada, where they are slaughtered in ways beyond our control, is the way we do it now. Who knows what sort of slaughter conditions exist in Mexico?
A woman named Temple Grandin at Colorado State University devised a humane slaughter method that leads cattle up the ramp to the slaughter room without fear, without panic. The deaths of animals that we then eat are managed humanely.
Different cultures eat different things. The French eat snails. In Bolivia, hamsters are a feast food. In many places, dogs are eaten. Different cultures have different sensibilities and eat different kinds of meat. Many cultures love horse meat.
We must stop making this a knee-jerk cultural reaction. We must consider the problems and the solutions that are offered.
There are too many horses without homes, and these are treated cruelly. There are too many wild horses in numbers that destroy the land.
All of these horses deserve the best and kindest alternatives that we can offer. If caring homes can’t be found, then a humane and well-run slaughterhouse, or euthanizing site, is the perfect alternative to the cruelty of starvation, illness and injury.
A well-run, inspected slaughterhouse will bring jobs and help an area that is currently with too little industry.
Everything dies: trees, birds, bees, plants, animals – and even you and me. If the meat of an animal, obtained in a carefully controlled and caring manner, provides work for some and food for many, there is no reason not to do it.