With the idea of horse slaughter returning to Missouri, some see it as a solution to the problem of the unwanted horse, while others find it a market opportunity.
Americans love their horses, although many have never touched or been in the presence of a horse. For most, the closest they get is through viewing a television program or commercial. However, those viewers still want a voice in how the animal is treated, raised and disposed of.
However, horse lover Chris Cumpton of Bates County says that the average American just does not understand her industry. She points out that there are horses that are injured, bad tempered or just plain sick. She says that horse slaughter is actually a humane way of dealing with these animals.
"They just don't have anywhere to go," she says.
Her son, Colton, echoes her concerns. An avid competitor in the horse arena, this 17-year-old already has his mind made up on the horse slaughter issue.
"Without horse slaughter there is a lot of horses suffering," he says. "They are sick or lame and there is nothing you can do for them. I think it is more inhumane to leave them suffer than to have a place to humanely slaughter them."
With the reintroduction of horse slaughter in Missouri, there would be a solution to this problem.
Then there are those in the equine industry that view horse slaughter as an opportunity.
According to Tom Lenz a 30-year career veterinarian and chair of the American Horse Council's Unwanted Horse Coalition, 10 years ago there was a surge in the consumption of horse meat. It all came about when the bovine spongiform encephalitis (BSE) outbreak occurred in cattle in Europe. And a year later Foot & Mouth Disease spread to epidemic levels in Great Britain.
Those wanting meat in their diet turned to the horse.
Lenz explains that individuals have always eaten horse meat, especially those in Europe. Roughly 5 million horses are eaten every year around the world. And at one time America was exporting roughly 18,000 tons of horse meat annually to other countries for human consumption. It was considered a viable business in the equine industry.
But that all shut down with the 2007 ban on horse slaughtering facilities. However, Lenz points out that the marketing possibilities for horse owners are there with the reintroduction of horse slaughtering in the U.S.
In addition, he says that opening up plants will bring back the horse markets. He found that in 2008, the average Quarter Horse through a sale barn was bringing $6,800 and the average ranch horse was worth $3,000.
Today, prices for mares and geldings are in the $250 range and yearlings area as low as $25.
Lenz says that opening up horse slaughter in the U.S. can offer more markets, whether international or domestic, for the equine industry.