Written by: Heather Clemenceau
Can you ever kill animals to save them? That seems to be the premise lately, with both black rhinos and now the juvenile reticulated giraffe from the Copenhagen Zoo, Marius, suddenly being deemed worth more dead than alive. Just as with horse slaughter, there are a lot of excuses bandied about as to why both animals must die. But internet commenters have punched through all of the rationalizations and arguments made by both the Safari Club and the Copenhagen Zoo. Animal advocates know all too well that when commercialization of animals takes over, ethics become clouded.
The powers that be at Copenhagen Zoo saw no alternative but to wield the axe down on the giraffe, since it has been claimed that he was genetically unsuitable for further breeding in the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria program. Animals in EAZA programs are allowed to breed whether they are needed or not, and the “surplus” animals are usually killed and used as a food source for carnivores. Accredited American and Canadian zoos tend to breed only when they know where the animal is going, but EAZA zoos believe in breeding as a sort of “self actualization” for animals, since many of their wild behaviours cannot be acted upon in a zoo enviro. EAZA zoos have got that “puppymill” mentality when it comes to reproducing animals which for the most part, are not even endangered.
An average of only 13% of species kept in European zoos are classified as “globally threatened” and on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species, which makes you wonder why the zoo is breeding reticulated giraffes in the first place, since they aren’t endangered, while several other sub-species are on the critical list. And the young giraffe could only ever be a surplus animal in the program since his “dead-end” genetics would have been anticipated before he was even born. So, Marius’ killing was little more than a canned hunt in the name of animal science. Consistent with the concept of a canned hunt, we saw that the zoo director and veterinarian were really heartless, and saw their charge as nothing more than a collection of organs to be cut open and put on display.
Both the giraffe killing and the proposed Safari Club rhino hunt in Namibia are predicated on the belief that the killing of these animals differs little from what happens to giraffes and rhinos in the wild on a daily basis. A
“natural” life—to use the words of English philosopher Thomas Hobbes is fraught with “continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” I just don’t see how it’s possible to kill an animal for a donation that may not be wholly used towards conservation anyway. It sends the message that trophy hunting — and that’s what this is — is humane and justifiable if it’s offset by some charitable act.
Killing animals who are “surplus” isn’t mercy killing, it’s premeditated killing. Every species must have a purpose to survive – and wild animals all have a purpose. But does a draft horse have the responsibility of being 1,200 lbs of meat for a chef? The notorious Ken-L-Ration plant slaughtered massive numbers of draft horses and other breeds, almost insatiably. It canned horse meat for dog food and just about drained the west dry of horses. In this British Pathé video from 1948, up to 80% of all post-war era horses were slaughtered for meat. Like current day kill buyers, “agents” scoured the country horse fairs, snatching up horses for meat, squeezing out farmers who also wanted to purchase horses for farm work.
I copied the post below from United Horsemen’s Facebook page. It’s a post imploring people to keep rare breeds of horses alive by breeding without a market and slaughtering whatever can’t be sold. Notice how important it is to the author that her “name will be on the pedigrees of some of those horses as the breeder from the past,” even if the majority of horses she produces are slaughtered for food.
“I have noticed MANY riding type horse breeders recently announcing the discontinuation and sell-out of their breeding stock, and am deeply saddened by it. Forgive me for another”draft-horse experience” rant, but I hope some will try to hold on a little longer from exiting…to stop breeding devastates ANY breed-and the antis really dont give a crap about that….
ALL belgian drafts, irregardless of the country they are in, descend from this horse. EVERYONE of his foals were in HIGH demand at that time-to think of sending ANY sound one to slaughter would have been unthinkable. At that time, the value of draft horses completely outpaced other types of horses, even that of race horses. It was almost a frenzy-they were extremely valuable.
There is NO use for draft horses now a days-tractors and trucks completely replaced them. There is no demand for them-as I wrote before, the number of horses in this breed has
dwindled to far less than 1000 foals per year-and that was 12 years ago. (I am still awaiting current numbers) They are bred by people who are desparately trying to save the breed, and most of these people are in no way wealthy. This horse is dead now, but over half his weanling foals were sold to slaughter, and as yearlings, even more ended up as a delicious steak dinner-not because people bred for meat-but because they know that to stop breeding would be the death to this breed, and just maybe the foal might be exceptional enough to carry on the breed. The money received from the sale of the foal for meat enabled them to afford to breed again and once again hope for an exceptional foal.
Just like draft horse breeders faced in the 1950s, the light horse breeders are facing now. Should they let the breed and important bloodlines be flushed away because they personally didnt like the idea of having to sell foals for meat and/or didnt like others to “gossip” and unfairly degrade someone as a breeder because they sold foals for meat?? You light horse breeders need to think about where you stand…are your HORSES and bloodlines more important, or are the rants of a few “holier-than-thou-art” anti-slaughter trashheaps more important. Forgive me for bringing up the election once again, but it doesnt look like the economy is improving or will be soon. Due to many issues, food animal production is slowing and therefore values will increase, and I highly suspect horse slaughter prices will also increase as breeders cut back.
With the reopening of domestic slaughter soon, any foal of mine that I dont sell privately and send to a sale will have a medication-free paper signed just as my cattle do, and I will have a minimum bid for the registration/pedigree transfer. The value of my foal will be that of the buyer, and if the foal ends up as dinner, it is just part of life. And I will reinvest that money into my breed again….hopefully, in the year 2100, Belgian Heavy Drafts will still be around, and my name will be on the pedigrees of some of those horses as the breeder from the past. And this will be due to doing what I had to to ensure the survival of the breed and a few of the bloodlines within it-embracing the meat market. We draft horse breeders had to face reality-aside from Armaggedon happening, there is little use for horses and it is harder for people to afford them…The light horse industry is now facing this-and the breeders must now decide the fate of their treasured breed..I hope you all think very deeply about this…
The last few years have devastated the breed even more-the cost of everything in Europe is MUCH higher than here-on top of a world-wide depressed economy. The one thing that
breeders can count on there is that they will get a base price for their foals which covers the breeding and a SMALL income-that encourages them to breed, hoping for higher
quality foals, but confident they have a market for ALL foals, irregardless of quality (of course, higher quality foals sell for more for breeding/use which of course they would prefer) Having NO slaughter would mean not being able to have a base market and price to sell foals-and would bring nearly ALL breeding to a screeching halt-which would immediately devastate the breeds. We who raise drafts have been use to this for years, but now it is caught up to the saddle breeds-and many breeders are having a hard time accepting this. I have a VERY BIG PROBLEM with people just saying “dont breed”. That is NOT the problem-the problem is our base market has been stripped from us by people who dont even breed or raise horses and dont care about our breeds. WE NEED SLAUGHTER BACK FOR THE SAKE OF KEEPING MANY BREEDS FROM BECOMING “EXTINCT”!!”
I do agree that it’s important to try to save breeds like this, but they should not be “maintained” by slaughter. Can we please neuter the people who believe the only way to save animals is to eat them? I’m sick of reading that anthropocentrically arrogant and insensitively heartless logic. Slaughtering 80% of horses, especially at the expense of people who wanted to buy them for their own use, is something approaching extermination, not conservation or maintenance of a breed. Industrialization has meant that draft horses are no longer heavily in demand, while other breeds became endangered or even extinct. But why breed something for which there is no market? Do reputable businesses produce a product first and then figure out how to market and sell it afterwards? No – they have business plans which they regularly evaluate and modify for market conditions. The constant breeding and culling has to stop. All the rationalization for killing surplus animals destroys humanity and declares it absurd. It would be far better to promote draft breeds for sustainable logging operations and breed them responsibly for those occupations than constantly shout into a gale, blaming others for the decline in your horse market. Or if you can’t sell your horses, just stop breeding.
Flashpoint incidents like the killing of Marius and the auction to kill a black rhino are clear signs that the information gap is closing on all sorts of cruelty to animals in the world, and that public opinion will eventually signal the end of complacency and superficial rationalization. It’s our hearts that make us humane, not our minds.