Pat Houde, a longtime horse buyer from Elm Creek, said he believes the liability for equine carcasses that are condemned for meat use should rest with the original seller whose name is on the declaration.
“I’m not liable. The person I buy it off is liable,” he said. “If I buy it off of you with your declaration papers on it and send it off to the plant, I’m not responsible.”
Houde said in his view European animal rights groups whose ultimate goal is a total, global ban on horse slaughter are behind the new law, and the CFIA was just trying to keep up with “politics” there.
“The horse business is finished. There’s not many horses left anyway. Nobody’s keeping any horses, they’re worth nothing – just like cattle,” he said.
“In five years, you might not see a horse around. If there’s one, you’d have to pay a fortune for it.”
The last slaughterhouse on U. S. soil – in Illinois – was closed in 2007. Reports of unwanted horses being abandoned on public lands have skyrocketed, especially as the battered economy south of the border leaves many casual horse owners without the means to care for their animals.
Houde said the volume of horses destined for slaughter flowing up from south of the border has dropped too. Owning horses will soon be an option only for the wealthy, he said.
With no meat market left in the U. S., the bottom has fallen out of horse values. Before the ban, when the meat price was 75 cents/lb., a good saddle horse was worth $2,000. Now, even the best might bring only $900.
“Nobody can raise a horse for $900. Years ago, I sold some of my good bulldogging horses that got crippled on me and I got $1,000 apiece for them. Now I couldn’t get $150 for them,” said Houde.
He advocated a “pony tax” on all horses that would go to feed unwanted, abandoned animals until they die of natural causes, if the public really wants slaughter removed as an option.
“What do you do with a horse? I’ve had some horses that won me thousands of dollars in the rodeo. When he was done, I put him on the truck,” said Houde.
“I’m a businessman. When I buy a horse, I own (it); he don’t own me. I’ve seen a lot of horses where the horse owns the person.”
The latest statistics show that Canada has about one million horses and more than 200,000 owners. In 2008, some 111,000 horses were processed, the majority of which went through a slaughter facility in Fort Macleod, Alta. [email protected]