Nodding your head doesn't help
By Trent Loos
My hat is off today to the state of Oklahoma for legalizing the process of harvesting horses. With this law, signed into effect on March 29, it means that only three states have laws against the process and they include California, Texas and Illinois. I hope no one who supports this measure takes lightly what individuals within the state had to endure to make it happen. The governor’s office received an unprecedented numbers of phone calls against the measure.
Rep. Skye McNiel, sponsor of the bill, reported received a number of death threats as the process unfolded. How ironic is it that people protesting the death of a horse make threats on the life of a human?
To really make things interesting, while Oklahoma was in the heat of discussion about harvesting horses, a video surfaced from New Mexico that really ratchets up the emotions and garners national media attention.
Let me remind that you that it was in February when I last told you about the lawsuit Valley Meats of Roswell, N.M., had filed against the USDA for failure to do their job. Valley Meats, for a full year now, has complied with all necessary requirements to begin processing unwanted horses in an effort to meet the world demand. However, the USDA has not provided an inspector simply because they say, “they don’t want to.”
In February I suggested that all agricultural commodity groups need to intervene in the case, and today a grand total of six have partnered with Valley Meats. To be honest, this is exactly why we are in the position we are in because so many give lip service to doing the right thing but very few actually have the guts to take the lead and get involved.
Fortunately, leaders like McNiel in Oklahoma did not sit back and wait for anyone else to take the lead. They simply held steady and made progress for the best interest of the horse.
It was 2007 when the states of Illinois and Texas shut down the final three functional horse harvesting facilities. At that time we harvested 110,000 horses annually. In 2012, the USDA reported that we exported 167,000 horses to Canada and Mexico with an average trailer ride of 33 hours. You tell me which scenario is best for the horse? Do we really want to do what is best for the horse?
Now to address the video I mentioned earlier. If you spend much time on the Internet at all, you probably saw the 50-second video with Tim Sappington taking his pistol off his hip and dropping his horse dead with a single shot. There is not one thing wrong with how he performed this task humanely and without suffering for the animal. However, it was what he said as he did it that will get him the bottom of the class award in the “How to win friends and influence people” competition.
Media outlets are now reporting that an employee of Valley Meats released a horrific video of a horse being shot. They also mention that Sappington is an employee of Valley Meats. If it matters, which I don’t personally think it does, Sappington has been a contract employee of Valley Meats as a maintenance man, not on the floor of the processing unit. As the release of the video received national attention, Valley Meats released Sappington as an employee for failure to show proper respect to people, not horses.
It continues to perplex me to no end that people will sit in their easy chair every single night and watch the senseless killing of human beings on television and not give it a second thought. Yet the harvest of a horse that will ultimately improve human lives through nutrition repulses them. Everyone knows the welfare of the horse has declined dramatically since the laws were enacted in Texas and Illinois in 2007 but the truth of the matter is that still too many of us just don’t do enough about it. Instead we let the vocal minority rule the day.
If you agree with me, don’t sit there nodding your head. Find out how and where you can do something today to makes a difference.
Editor’s note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.FacesOfAg.com, or email Trent at firstname.lastname@example.org.