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Jamee P.

Bell

Equine welfare in the United States

Jamee Phenis Bell


For the American Society of Animal Science

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Jamee P. Bell
EQUI NE WELFARE IN THE UNITED STATES

At the 94th National Block and Bridle Conference, I had the privilege of attending Dr. Thomas Lenz
keynote on the unwanted horse and equine welfare which inspired my interest in researching this
issue.
Ever so melodic Home on the Range tunes to Old Glory blowing elegantly and stampeding wild
horses. Horse imagery embodies the American spirit of freedom and tenacity which is beautiful
and empowering, yet destructive. From old westerns and wildly entertaining horses like Secretariat
and American Pharaoh, to the aid in westward expansion and railroad development, the feelings
that have been established about horses have undoubtedly affected the way in which the American
public view and value equine. Ramifications of misperceptions and ideas of what are in the best
interest of the horse by those who do not have a background in agriculture or Animal Science can
result in undesirable policy or policy that has a very narrow scope. While the horse who has a sound
home and responsible owners has security, the horse of negligent owners, the unwanted horse, is
not afforded the same and is directly affected by this legislation.
There are many reasons that a horse may become unwanted. Often times a horse is geriatric or has
become sick and the horse owner cannot continue to provide their horse with proper care. The
state of the economy also is a contributing factor as it may become difficult for horse owners to
afford their horses. This leaves owners with options, but they must be educated to what their
options are in order to make the best decision for them and their horse. Coalitions like the

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Jamee P. Bell
Unwanted Horse serve as a resource to educate horse owners but they also recognize that there
are not sufficient resources to accommodate this growing population of unwanted horses. These
options include rescue or adoption, retirement, euthanasia, slaughter, and horse shipment. The
drawback of adoption and rescue are insufficient capacity to board incoming horses and in some
cases, the inability to re-home. Euthanasia is a practical solution but offers the question of what is
to be done with the remains or by-product. The Safeguard American Food Exports Act or SAFE Act
was passed into law prohibiting the sale or transport of equine and equine parts in interstate or
foreign commerce for human consumption. The transportation of equine for this purpose has
since increased, however, as a result of the ban of horse slaughter. Legal slaughter within United
States, however, provides a solution. As there is zero tolerance for phenylbutazone, there is no
market for equine for human consumption. That being said, horse meat is still an option for animal
consumption. By allowing slaughter practices in the United States for this purpose, we eliminate
the risk of inhumane, unregulated, slaughter practices abroad. This offers a solution while still
retaining ethical suitability while creating economical benefits. If the United States were to commit
to slaughtering equine for human consumption, herbal alternatives for horses intended for human
consumption would be an appropriate substitute. This would not require a ban on phenylbutazone
because not all horses would be raised specifically for human consumption. It will, though, create a
sound opportunity for that particular market like zoos and feed producing companies.

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