Thursday, July 22, 2010

Addressing Specific Misconceptions #1 - Horses are not "reared" for human consumption in Australia

I discovered this article today on the subject of the legalisation of horse meat for human consumption in Australia.

The use of "rearing" in this article is incredibly misleading to those who are unfamiliar with how the industry works.

Domesticated horses that are slaughtered for export markets are NOT reared for this purpose. These horses end up at the abattoirs because there are simply not enough homes out there for them. The majority of these horses are bred for racing, with tens of thousands of thoroughbreds and standardbreds discarded to slaughter each year.

Horse slaughter is an industry that is the direct result of excessive overbreeding.

Anyone attempting to make money by "rearing" horses for human consumption would soon find it to be an incredibly unprofitable venture.

The costs of rearing a horse for even the first two years of its life, plus the upkeep of the mare while she 's carrying the foal for 11 months, are more than the money you would get for it as meat, even if only the basic needs of survival are met. In the incredibly unlikely event of the sale price being more than the cost of rearing the horse, the tiny profit margin would not be worth the effort involved.

Selling horses to slaughter is only profitable when people pick up unwanted horses very cheaply, or for free, and sell them very quickly so they do not have to pay for much upkeep. Abattoirs pay for horses by weight, and one of the reasons there is an export market at all is that the meat is cheap.

Quality horses can easily fetch thousands of dollars, and will always be worth much more sold for purposes other than slaughter. Anyone involved in breeding horses who is not aiming to produce quality is "doing it wrong".

The horses slaughtered for Vince Garreffa in Western Australia were definitely not "reared" for slaughter. Or at least they shouldn't have been, seeing as the sale of horse meat for human consumption was illegal until a week ago. The breeder/s of these horses have clearly failed in their attempts to breed saleable prospects for a more profitable horse buying market.

The second misconception raised by this article is that people have suddenly decided to have a problem with horse slaughter because it is legal to sell horse meat in WA... As if the export industry has been given the thumbs up by everyone in Australia, merely by the fact that it exists.

I assert that this is an artificial impression due to the issue only just having made it to the mainstream media. There are people out there who have been working hard to raise awareness of many horse welfare issues for many years. The fact that they have not been on the radar of journos can be compared to other animal welfare issues, which rarely make it into the media.

How many average Aussies had given thought to the goings on at pig farms until sow stalls were brought to their attention? How long after battery cages became widely known about, did it take for free range eggs to become popular, or even available for purchase?

It is only when people are given information about what is going on that they are in any position to have an opinion on it. Any industry that relies on unpleasant things happening to animals is not going to go out of their way to publicise their activities, and politicians are not going to legislate to improve matters for the animals involved until the wider public is aware of the situation and start to show that they are displeased with it.

The wider issues of horse welfare are now a little closer to being "on the radar" since horse meat went on sale in WA, but until journalists themselves become a little more aware of the reality of the situation, it looks like we're going to see more frustrating articles such as this one.

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