Economics of Horse Slaughter Bill Overlooked
by Jack M. Haefling
Many folks from TN have asked questions as to the importance of trying to defeat  H.R.503 [Horse Slaughter Prevention Act]. H.R. 503 prohibits the transportation of horses destined for slaughterhouses if the horses will be processed into human food. Where the bill may be viewed on an emotional basis as well intended for the protection of horses, many of us with a love and understanding of horses believe unintended negative consequences will follow enactment of the bill, both for horses and for taxpayers. As tempting as it may be to view this issue emotionally, please take a few moments to consider with us the potential detriments to the long-term welfare of many horses as well as the certain loss of hard-earned dollars needlessly taken from our taxpayers’ pockets.
 Congressman John Sweeney (R-NY20), sponsor of the bill, acknowledges that 90,000 horses are slaughtered each year for export as food, these with an export value of at least $26 million according to the Animal Welfare Council, Inc. of Colorado Springs, Colorado. If, instead, owners are compelled to maintain these horses until their lives end otherwise the issues mount significantly. The American Quarter Horse Association and the American Association of Equine Practioners estimates a retirement life possibly as high as eleven years per horse at an average cost nationwide of $2,340 per year. If the average retirement life is as little as 5 years as others estimate, in 5 years there will be a level pool of at least 450,000 unwanted and useless horses each year which unwilling owners will be compelled to care for. For 450,000 horses times $2,340 per year for each horse, assets of at least $1.053 billion per year will be diverted needlessly to the care of these horses. Forced care at substantial forced expense for these unwanted horses likely will create resentment toward the horses from their unwilling caretakers, many of whom will probably feel that a right of ownership of private property has been unjustly abridged, no matter how slightly. An attitude of frustration will quite naturally lead to neglect, abuse and eventually even abandonment of useless horses in many cases. If unwanted horses are neglected, abused or abandoned by their owners, many will become financial burdens on city and county governments under local law, bringing needless and unproductive expense to taxpayers for rescue, boarding and disposal.
 Yes, there is an animal welfare problem here, but it is not solved by the overreaction found in H.R. 503. The most obvious remedy to the problem lies in the strict and uniform enforcement, and improvement if necessary, of existing federal laws governing the transportation of horses to slaughterhouses and the application of humane methods of slaughter once there.  H.R. 503 does not address either of these areas.  These areas can and should be addressed more directly by means other than H.R. 503 with its unintended negative consequences. The humane treatment and long term welfare of horses, which, after all, are agricultural animals, are more likely to be served by working through existing regulatory channels rather than enacting new law to place new burdens of costly, unproductive and unwilling end of life horse care on our taxpayers.
 Since H.R. 503 does not address any funding for the bill, the American Quarter Horse Association has calculated, using Congressman Sweeny’s own data that implementation of the bill would cost each congressional district in the U.S. approximately $507,000 each year. From that figure one can easily see why the National Association of County Officials is adamantly against the bill. Most American counties are having budget problems and are left each year wondering how funds will be appropriated for snow removal, animal control or even a new bridge.
 Congressman Sweeny states that 90,000 horses per year go to slaughter. If horse slaughter is banned in the U.S. nearly 2,700 horse rescue farms would be needed to meet the needs of 90,000 unwanted horses just in the first year. For each year thereafter that horses are not slaughtered another 2,700 horse rescue farm would be needed, Given the life expectancy for a rescued horse is 5-8 years that would mean the U.S. would need another 13,500–17,600 horse rescue farms…or at a minimum of 352 rescue farms per state. How would they be funded? We can’t even control our problems with the feral cat population, wild dogs or deer. What laws would oversee the operation of these facilities?
 Currently most states have no mandatory code of standards addressing these operations and the quality of care that is attempting to be administered. Most horse rescue operations receive their revenues from donations and grants and they themselves often fall on hard times for lack of money. It is interesting to note that New Zealand has one of the most comprehensive set of standards for equine welfare in the world and is based on science, not emotion.
It is reassuring to note that the Horse Welfare Coalition is comprised of over 250 agricultural organizations such as the American Farm Bureau Federation, Animal Ag Alliance, National Beef Cattlemen’s Association, National Pork Producers, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, American Association of Equine Practioners, American Quarter Horse Association and the U.S. Animal Health Association to name a few. The Horse Welfare Coalition organizations have memberships in the millions.
For a common sense approach to understand the importance of defeating the Horse Slaughter Prevention Act you may go to
All but two TN congressmen voted to defeat H.R. 503. Thumbs down to Congressmen Tanner (D-TN 3rd District) and Wamp (R-TN 8th District) for not understanding the importance of saving your tax dollars and voting to foolishly spend them on another unfunded federal mandate.
Mr. Haefling is active in the national equine community where he is involved with the following organizations: American Farm Bureau Federation Equine Committee, active member and delegate from Indiana; Indiana Farm Bureau Equine Committee, chairman; Indiana Horse Council, past president and current director of the IHC Strategic Plan Task Force; American Horse Council State Horse Councils Committee, marketing chair; TWHBEA Indiana director and member of the 2006 executive committee.