Interesting study about horse slaughter decline

Here is a link to an interesting study of the number of horses slaughtered in the US, Canada and Mexico from 2006 through 2009, produced by the Equine Welfare Alliance:  http://www.equinewelfarealliance.org/uploads/Horse_Slaughter_Trends_2006-2009.pdf

The study concludes that worldwide demand for horse meat — at least US horse meat — is declining, and that slaughter of horses exported from the US is declining in both Canada and Mexico since 2008.  The study proposes that the worldwide economic downturn has decreased the demand for horse meat, and that decreased demand has counteracted what might otherwise be increased supply of slaughter horses due to the economic downturn in the U.S.    The survey also implies that reversing the closure of slaughterhouses in the U.S. would not be economically viable given the decreased demand for horse meat. 

Interesting…  A few thoughts about it:  The references are to USDA statistics.  I haven’t yet verified it, but I believe USDA stats only track horses going directly to slaughterhouses once they cross the border, and don’t include counts of horses that go to a feedlot before proceeding to slaughter.  Not sure if that has any bearing on the stats from 2006-2009, although it might have some bearing on future stats, given the new EU and Canadian requirements for health history on horses bound for slaughter.   

Given the new EU regulations about quality of horse meat imported to the EU for human consumption, I wonder if any businesses will find horse slaughter worth the investment and start-up costs, even if legislation is passed to allow it to resume in the US?  If horses are routinely tested for drugs and owners provide complete and honest health records (two BIG If’s), many sport horses will not be suitable candidates for slaughter.  Given the close scrutiny that will most likely be given to new slaughter operations in light of public opinion and sensitivity to inhumane methods, new horse slaughter facilities are unlikely to be able to cut corners — which means more expense.

I’m also curious about whether demand for all horse meat has declined, or is the decline in demand primarily for US horse meat because of concerns about toxic chemicals used on American horses that should not be entering the food chain?  If it’s true that there’s little demand for the product (wouldn’t that be nice?), the market will take care of a significant part of the problem.   The slaughter business has always been profit-driven.  If there’s not enough profit in it, perhaps it won’t happen here.

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