Love horses but let them starve

Of all the demonstrations of Americans’ political hypocrisy, what we’ve done about the slaughter of horses is right up there.

We can thank our governor for a recent example, though she is hardly alone.

Like other public figures, Governor Susana Martinez shed crocodile tears a few years ago during the controversy over the possible opening of a horse slaughterhouse in Roswell. That controversy helped spark a change in federal policy that effectively banned horse slaughter in the United States.

This year, she pocket vetoed a simple bill that would have saved a few horses. A pocket veto means she simply ignored the bill until the deadline passed.

The bill, HB 390, said when the state livestock board has custody of a stray horse, licensed rescue organizations should get a chance to buy the horse at a modest fee before the horse is offered at auction. This would allow the rescue to get the horse at a low price rather than having to bid against other unknown buyers, possibly including “killer buyers” who would take the horse to Mexico and sell it for slaughter. The bill passed both houses handily.

Sometimes, as explained by Debbie Coburn of Four Corners Equine Rescue, the killer buyer wins the bid; to save the horse, the rescue buys it from the killer buyer at a much higher price. The rescues all operate on a shoestring with limited resources, so this limits their ability to save more horses.

A legislative analysis said the impact of the bill might be reduced income to the livestock board, since auctions generate money to the board. Was that her excuse?

However, horses saved by rescues are a tiny drop in the bucket compared to the massive numbers of homeless underfed horses.

New Mexico has nine equine rescues, all private except a small one for inmates at the Springer Correctional Center. While their work is admirable, collectively they save only a few hundred horses each year.

Meanwhile, in Mexico, slaughter and the sale of horsemeat is a thriving business.  Several estimates agree that about 120,000 U.S. horses a year are slaughtered.

Travel writer Tara A. Spears writes from Mexico that worldwide, 4.7 million horses are slaughtered each year (not all from United States) and exported to countries where horsemeat is a gourmet food and brings more than twice as much money as beef.  With a bitter tone, she writes, “It’s a classic case of if you don’t want to get your hands dirty, hire the Mexicans to do it.”

Readers may remember that during the controversy over the Roswell slaughterhouse, Gov. Bill Richardson and movie star Robert Redford teamed up to support outlawing horse slaughter in the United States. I checked recently with the staffs of Richardson and Redford to find out what they have done since then to promote the welfare of wild and abandoned horses. I got polite replies but no answers. In other words, nothing.

Meanwhile, wild horses continue to sicken and die of hunger and thirst while overgrazing and damaging the land. A 2013 news report by KOAT estimated between 60,000 and 75,000 feral horses just on the Navajo nation. When a roundup up was done in 2013, many of the horses were visibly sick and underfed.

I have found no information to indicate that any of that has changed. Coburn agrees:  it hasn’t.

If you’d like to do a little something for horses, you can donate to a rescue. And if you have a refund on next year’s state income taxes you can contribute a portion of it to the state’s Horse Shelter Rescue Fund.  The money goes through the livestock board to the licensed horse shelters.  You check a box on the PIT D form.  It’s one of 13 options for donating a portion of your tax refund.  Last year this fund provided about $30,000 to the rescues — helpful but paltry.

Triple Spaced Again, © New Mexico News Services 2017

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