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Idaho lawmaker wants U.S. horse slaughterhouses

BOISE, Idaho (AP)--A southeastern Idaho lawmaker wants horse slaughterhouses operating again in the United States to deal with the glut of unwanted horses resulting from the faltering economy that has led to cases of neglect and abandonment.

Rep. Thomas Loertscher, R-Iona, has drafted a nonbinding request to Congress backing a return of slaughterhouses so there is a market for horses people can no longer afford to feed.

"It's not a pleasant subject," he told the Idaho Statesman. "There are people that are really feeling the economic pinch right now. They're just having a hard time knowing what to do with these horses."

There is no federal law banning the slaughter of horses for food, but opposition to the killing of horses for that purpose shut down that industry in the U.S.

The last domestic slaughterhouse closed in 2007, and American horses are now being sent to slaughter in Canada and Mexico. But most people can't afford to ship their horses outside the U.S. due to low market values for horses and high transportation costs.

Still, the number of American horses being slaughtered across North America remains the same despite the closure of domestic plants, said officials with the Humane Society of the United States.

In 2006, about 104,000 horses were slaughtered in the U.S.

"The horse is an American icon, and it is a betrayal of our responsibility to these animals to treat them like cheap commodities and send them across our borders for slaughter," said Wayne Pacelle, the president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, in a statement by Americans Against Horse Slaughter.

But Sen. Les Bock, D-Boise, said a better way to deal with unwanted horses needs to be found rather than abandoning them or letting them starve.

"While I don't know anybody who would feel really great about putting down horses or slaughtering horses, it is not humane to starve them," Bock said. "We need the ability to remove those excess horses from the horse population. It's a big mistake to shut down these horse slaughterhouse plants."

Bock said his family recently had to euthanize a horse, with the remains sent to a rendering plant.

"That was a real traumatic experience," he said.

More than 100,000 excess horses are produced nationwide each year, said Jeff Rosenthal, executive director of the Idaho Humane Society.

"Too many horses are being bred for which there is no use and no homes," Rosenthal said. "People breed horses without a thought, without thinking of the actual market. Only the very, very best have any market whatsoever. All the rest of them are the ones that end up without a place to live."

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