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Therapy Animals: Companions or Consumption?

Therapy Animals: Companions or Consumption?This guest article from YourTango was written by Faith Deeter

On November 18, 2011, it became legal to slaughter American horses for human consumption in the United States. What?! Americans don’t eat horses. We ride them, groom them, love them, use them in therapy, and make movies about them. Imagine sitting through two hours of War Horse, only to watch “Joey” get slaughtered after his brave and heroic service. Unthinkable? Think again.

During a closed-door-session, a few members of Congress slipped language into an appropriations spending bill which reversed a five-year ban on horsemeat inspections. With the pressure of a government shutdown looming, and despite his 2008 campaign promise to ban horse slaughter and the export of horses for slaughtering, President Obama signed it. There was no media coverage until ten days later.

How could this happen?

People proposing to slaughter horses, usually those who stand to profit in some way, suggest that horses will be neglected or starved if they are not slaughtered instead. They say that slaughtering, the details of which I will be kind enough to spare you, is the humane thing to do. In my opinion, there is nothing humane about slaughtering any animal. (That’s why I became a vegetarian) Slaughter is not humane euthanasia.

This same rationale could be used to slaughter our stray, neglected, or homeless dogs and cats and ship their meat to foreign countries so that someone, somewhere, could profit while breeding goes unchecked. We don’t eat dogs and cats and in America, we put people in prison who harm them. We protect our companion animals…or do we? Sadly, Congress has just betrayed one of our nation’s longest-standing providers, protectors, and companions. We still owe a lot to the horse.

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Besides winning races and herding cows, horses provide remarkable therapy to people. From veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress, to people afflicted with Down Syndrome and Cerebral Palsy, the therapeutic benefits of working with horses are proven. As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I have provided Equine-Assisted Therapy for over ten years and my therapy horses Lustre, Fifo, Una, Duncan, Maggie, Fancy, and Sky have helped depressed people feel better, autistic children to communicate, people with attention deficit improve their focus, at-risk teens to learn confidence and trust. The list goes on.

War Horse “Joeys” have existed, and still exist, with a variety of names—from Secretariat to Sea Biscuit, from Casper, Magic, and Remmer, to Silver, Trigger, and Mr. Ed. Imagining that any of these horses, including mine, could somehow get displaced from their owner, change hands, and end up in the kill chutes is not just upsetting, it’s horrifying.

Thousands of Americans have already signed a petition calling on the President to sign the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act of 2011. If you want to see horses protected, you can sign a petition here. You can call your Congressman or Congresswoman today and ask for their support on the Horse Slaughter Prevention Act of 2011. Ask your Representatives to Co-Sponsor House Bill HR 2966 and your Senators to Co-Sponsor Senate bill no. S.1176. Their phone numbers can be found right here.

Horses have pulled our plows, provided transportation, fought for us, and died for us. If you’re still not sure that horses have earned the right to a humane and compassionate ending to their lives, please go and see War Horse. Would we slaughter our seeing-eye dogs or police dogs? By the way, horses work for the Sheriff’s Department and Search and Rescue, too. When does enough get to be enough?

Want to learn more?

Check out our own equine therapy blog, Equine Therapy: Straight from the Horse’s Mouth by Claire Dorotik, LMFT.

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Therapy Animals: Companions or Consumption?

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APA Reference
Experts, Y. (2018). Therapy Animals: Companions or Consumption?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 1, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 20 Jan 2012)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.