I just finished reading Stover Harger's article on horse slaughter ('Law opens gate to US horse slaughter,' Dec. 7). I am a lifelong horseman and have made equine welfare a top priority in my role as Senior Oregon Director for The Humane Society of the United States. Because of the amount of time and energy I have spent on the horse slaughter issue, I am always glad to talk to the media and provide any information they might need.
While Mr. Harger's article made some good points, he omitted the food safety question, which many believe to be as important as the animal welfare question. Because they are not raised for food, American horses are given a long list of medications and substances which are toxic to people when consumed. For that reason, the European Union has required any country that exports horse meat to the EU to enact a plan to ensure these substances do not enter the European food supply.
The most common of these substances is phenylbutazone, or 'bute' as it is commonly called, which is the most common pain reliever and anti-inflammatory given to horses by US horse owners.
Under EU rules, any horse who has ever received a dose of bute during its lifetime may never be slaughtered for human consumption. Mexico and Canada have enacted rules to address these regulations, but it is unknown whether the USDA will do the same, and whether those rules would essentially eliminate the European market - which is the primary market for the meat of American horses.
In addition, many are questioning, for a host of reasons, the economic viability of domestic horse slaughter. It's one thing to say horse slaughter is now legal; quite another to turn it into a thriving economic enterprise.
- Scott Beckstead, Senior Oregon Director, Humane Society of the United States
Editor's note: For additional reading on this topic, please see Mr. Beckstead's guest opinion on this page. DS.