Utah’s ranches and ranges are riddled with too many worthless horses, according to some Utah lawmakers. That has them considering whether slaughterhouses would help solve what has become a “soft market in hard economic times,” according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
On Wednesday, members of the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Interim Committee requested research about the extent of the horse problem and the role slaughterhouses could play.
The issue was raised by Rep. Jacob Anderegg, R-Lehi, who said the state is facing the reality of a growing number of starving horses, high hay prices and lack of financially viable options for strapped horse owners who might be forced to pay up to $600 apiece to put a horse down and have it buried. He said his primary goal is to "restore the market."
"I’ve been vilified for being inhumane even for suggesting this," he said.
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It is already legal in Utah to slaughter horses for pet food, said State Veterinarian Bruce King. He agreed that the possibility of slaughterhouses in Utah warrants an in-depth study even though it is “difficult to stomach,” especially for Salt Lake City residents.
"Eating Mr. Ed doesn’t appeal to a lot of people, or even feeding Mr. Ed to Fido," he said, reports the Salt Lake Tribune.
The Humane Society of Utah issued a statement Wednesday to denounce any legislative effort to expand state law to allow horses to be slaughtered for human consumption, presumably for export overseas. Executive Director Gene Baierschmidt affirmed they will be prepared to oppose any such measures brought before Utah lawmakers.
"America’s horses are an iconic symbol of the West and our heritage," he said. In the statement, he described horse meat as often "toxic and unfit for human consumption" and called commercial slaughterhouses "inhumane" and "financial drains upon the communities in which they are located."
Horse meat slaughterhouses were banned during the Bush administration, but on November 18, 2011, the ban was lifted by President Barack Obama when he signed the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2012.
After the agriculture-spending bill was signed, the USDA said it was again ready to conduct inspections should anyone plan to open a horse-slaughter plant in the United States. It just announced that it might soon issue “grants of inspection” for plants in Missouri and Iowa.
An estimated 130,000 U.S. horses are shipped annually to slaughter in Canada and Mexico, according to Reuters.