Ag Secretary Says We Need “Better Solution” than Slaughter for American Horses

Jake Swetlow, shown here, benefits from therapeutic horseback riding lessons provided by a program in Clifton, VA.Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told reporters in March that “Congress should come up with a better solution for handling unwanted horses than slaughtering the animals for meat for human consumption.” Vilsack, a former governor of Iowa, noted that in his home state horses work with inmates in prisons, and that this helps prisoners acquire job skills for when they rejoin society.

AWI has long advocated this kind of alternative to slaughter, along with many others such as riding school and therapeutic riding programs. In 2009, AWI screened a documentary called Homestretch on Capitol Hill, highlighting the very successful Second Chances program of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF), involving prisoners and rescued horses. The Indiana Department of Corrections says the program “helps end needless abuse and
slaughter of retired race horses.”

When prisoners care for and work with the horses, recidivist rates drop dramatically. Out of 73 prisoners from a Second Chances program at a correctional center in Ocala, Florida, only two were known to have been re-incarcerated (compared to a 52 percent re-incarceration rate for the general population, according to Bureau of Justice statistics).

The revival of horse slaughter on U.S. soil—as called for by some in Congress—and the continued practice of sending our horses over the border to die in Canadian and Mexican slaughterhouses promotes cruelty and waste, as illustrated in the story on page 6. Following Secretary Vilsack’s advice would mean a brighter future for horses, and for society, as well.