The flesh of “unwanted horses” is acknowledged to be toxic when consumed by humans. And who among the politicians, equine practitioners, and veterinarians lobbying to prevent a ban on the slaughter of American horses — in the name of equine welfare — would wish to be responsible for the deleterious impact for human welfare associated with promoting the slaughter of toxic horses?
Well might we all ask this question, again and again, until we get the answer. The U.S. Congress should ask itself this question and pass pending federal legislation banning horse slaughter and export for slaughter.
In an excellent article by Caroline Betts for Horsetalk, she raises more food for thought than this, looking at the pro-slaughter movement with a keen, analytical eye from an economic standpoint. This is good, because at the end of the day, horse slaughter for human consumption exists, and has only existed, for one reason — to make money.
The economic reality of scarce and toxic horses
I was not surprised that Dr Tom Lenz, past president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, readily credited the organisation for coining the phrase “Unwanted Horse” in his article “The Unwanted Horse in the United States – International Implications”.
It is a coup d’etat of language choice for those American equine practitioners lobbying hardest to maintain a US export market for horsemeat.
Dr Lenz manages to equate “unwanted” with “slaughtered for human consumption” and with “should be slaughtered for human consumption, but aren’t, because we need additional slaughter plants on American soil”.
Slaughter advocates might consider it nothing short of a stroke of genius.
The phrase “unwanted horse” may well play a role in much of the mass confusion in the debate on horse slaughter among the American general public, horse-owners and horse welfare advocates alike.
Horses slaughtered are neither privately nor socially “unwanted”, for they command a positive price both at auction and at the slaughter plant gate – and I suspect that if they did not, we would not be having this debate at all.
As any Economics 101 student can tell you, positive prices signal not “unwanted-ness”, but scarcity.
There is no question – and what drives fear into the most vehement supporters and even some opponents of horse slaughter – that a universal ban on the slaughter of American horses will eliminate a source of demand for horses in the lower end of the market, as slaughter plant buyers and associated dealers exit.
This shift down in demand – in the efficient second price auction markets that are by far the largest source of horses to slaughter – will unambiguously reduce equilibrium prices, thereby increasing private ownership of auction-intermediated horses, and reducing private supply to those markets.