Horse slaughter, sale of meat would be prohibited under proposed New Jersey bill
Plymouth Rock is a 19-year-old black Percheron and he is lucky to be alive.
The horse was set to be auctioned off to slaughter when Carol Kirshenbaum, animal lover and founder of Quack' Corner, a group that helps rescue stray animals, found him.
His leg was fractured and his back was injured from his years as a carriage horse.
In his sorry state, Kirshenbaum saved him from possibly being sold for horse meat and, seven years later, he’s still going strong.
“He’s actually one of my riding horses,” Kirshenbaum said.
She describes him as majestic.
A bill in the state legislature looks to prohibit the slaughter of horses and sale of horse flesh for human consumption.
Sponsored by Assemblyman Ronald Dancer (R, 12) and Assemblyman Gilbert Wilson (D, 5), the bill would make it illegal to slaughter a horse and sell it for human consumption. Violators would be fined.
Congress created a federal ban on horse meat consumption in 2006; however, that ban was lifted in the fall of 2011.
Currently, there is a federal bill called the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act in the works to once again ban horse meat. Until then, Dancer hopes that New Jersey can pass a state law against it and serve as an example to other states.
“We don’t need to be taking horses from the stable to the table,” Dancer said.
There is already a law regarding dog meat for human consumption in the state. The current plan is to also insert horses into the law.
“I think it’s very important right now for states to be proactive,” Dancer said.
New Jersey, which named the horse as its state animal, has a great affinity and history with the animal, says Dancer.
“I understand over in Europe that’s a different culture but I’m trying to do everything I can to not take horses from the pasture to the plate here in New Jersey,” he said.
Violators of the proposed law can receive civil fines between $500-$1,000 for each horse slaughtered or carcass sold for human consumption.
Although Americans are not known to eat horse meat, many cultures across history have enjoyed its taste.
“People have eaten horse meat for years,” said Robert Mickel, a Hunterdon County agriculture and livestock agent with Rutgers University. “You go to Europe and it's still a major item on menus.”
With horse meat consumption less prevalent in the United States, the meat was mostly processed and sent to markets in Europe and Canada.
According to Mickel, many people have been ditching horses in recent years because they’ve been unable to afford to keep a horse. Without having the option of auctioning off the horse, they've turned the animals loose on open plains and ruining fields of wheat and small grains.
While there are options for older horses, owners sometimes choose to release them in the wild instead of spending the money to take care of them. An option to harvest horses for consumption, Mickel said, would help this problem.
“I understand the pros and cons [to the ban],” Mickel said.
Having once sampled horse meat, he describes it as being much leaner and sweeter than beef. Depending on the breed of horse, the texture of the meat could vary.
“The mindset or our concept of horses is different from our traditional production livestock,” Mickel said.
“I think a domestic pet like that, there is certainly a more emotional aspect that’s defined,” he said.
Mickel also mentions that those advocating the harvesting of horse meat for human consumption still want to do it humanely and correctly, in the same vein as other aspects of the livestock community.
“It’s a very controversial and thought-provoking issue and I think every state has the opportunity to decide what is best for them,” he said.
Kirshenbaum herself, founder of Quack’s Corner, has been to horse auctions in New Holland, Pa. to try and outbid those looking to slaughter the horses.
According to her, the conditions of the horses at the auction are anything but humane. Horses that aren’t sold are sometimes abandoned at the sale, she said.
“The United States was built on the back of horses and oxen and other beasts of burden,” she said, urging the humane treatment of the animal.
“A horse in our society has companion value. I mean, they’re companion animals to most people. It’s like sending your dog to slaughter. It’s very offensive.”
Ever since she was a teenager she would go to the auctions and try to bid on at least one horse.
“So many good horses end up going to slaughter,” she said. “There’s just not enough people to want them.”
After saving the horse she would try and find a home for it. Lately, however, she has not been able to head up to the auction. She can afford to take care of the horses she has but is unable to afford any more.
Nevertheless, she does understand the problems with having a large population of unwanted horses.
“If you reactivate the slaughterhouses, even with other animals, not even horses, do it humanely,” she said.
The bill goes to a vote in Trenton on Thursday.