Hard Times for a Western Icon
By MYERS REECE | Flathead Beacon | 02-10-10
Elmo, MT –- A perfect storm has risen over horse country.
Prices are plummeting in an oversaturated equine market, people are neglecting or abandoning their horses at a higher rate and more ranchers are trading in four legs for four wheels. Hay prices are through the roof and the economy is hurting. And in Montana, a final frontier of the American West, there is no consensus on what to do.
Some horse folks are waiting to see if the economy turns around. Others believe it’s time to bring back horse slaughterhouses – the last one in the United States closed in 2007. Their critics say no way. Many just don’t know what the answer is.
The difficulties touch everybody in the horse industry, from breeders and trainers to ranchers and casual riders, and everybody in between. Horses still carry a grand mystique, but they are expensive, and when there’s too many of them, tough decisions have to be made.
According to a study published for the American Horse Council, there were 9.2 million horses in the United States in 2005, used for work, racing, show or as pets. But many people are finding it increasingly hard to fork out thousands of dollars each year to maintain a horse when it’s hard enough to feed their family.
“We can’t just sit here and afford to throw $140-a-ton hay at them,” said Sharon Guenzler, a fifth-generation rancher in Ronan. “They have to generate some kind of income to make them worth having.”
Spoken like a breeder.
Slaughterhouse ….sounds like a great idea except they have very poor track records from an environment standpoint. On top of everything else, they are certainly NOT humane in the transportation or disposal of these majestic animals. This is all about money, not what is best for the horses or our community. I don’t want our sewage system clogged up with horse entrails and I don’t want to be any where NEAR a slaughterhouse.
There has to be a better solution.
The author of this article has been grossly misinformed. American horses are being bought every day for slaughter. ANY dip in price has to do with bad economy, foreclosures, and overbreeding. Did you know that Mexico and Canada both have processing plants right over the border? Check the USDA export numbers for 2009 for “meat” horses, if you don’t believe me…. just as many are going to the butcher now as before. And within the US there are still pet/zoo horse processing plants operating just as before.