Rendering Horses versus Slaughtering Horses
States regulate the disposal of animal carcasses. There are many options including burial, composting, incineration, rendering and bio-digestion. The cost of these methods range from $75 and $2000. According to the Unwanted Horse Coalition, the cost of euthanasia and carcass disposal is $385 per horse. Rendering is one of the less expensive options, ranging between $75 and $250 per horse.
The United States has an estimated 300 rendering plants that process more than 54 million pounds of animal materials (bones, blood, hides, offal, feathers, road kill, spoiled grocery meat, restaurant grease, and euthanized dogs/cats/horses) annually. The process produces a variety of products including tallow, lard, animal feed, protein meal, cosmetics, and mechanical lubricants. Rendering is environmentally friendly and available in all 50 states in the U.S.
Rendering facilities throughout the U.S. offer varied services including pick-up services for animal carcasses and onsite euthanasia. Yet, not all rendering plants accept horses because of the additional cost and restrictions of processing large animals. I actually called the rendering plant in Massachusetts when my pony died. They said they would be happy to take a horse carcass, however their machine only could manage 80 pound chunks. While a scene from Animal House popped up in my mind, I opted to pay some guy “Bud” from Maine $450 to remove the deceased (aged) pony.
The other issue is that many rendering plants do not accept horses treated with Sodium Phenobarbital as it limits their use for animal feeds. Many rendering plant will actually euthanize your horse with a single bullet for a small expense. When I learned about this service, I was horrified. I spoke to my veterinarian who said a properly aimed bullet to the head is the most humane way to euthanize a horse. This was confusing to me because I thought euthanasia was a drug induced permanent sleep. It was explained that the term ‘euthanasia’ was a pain-free transition from this life to the next…which could be accomplished with a properly placed bullet. Hmmm. Again – I am spending WAY too much time talking about killing things….
It is estimated that passing legislation that eliminated horse slaughter increased the rendering of horses by less than 10%. Rendering facilities have the potential to manage the increased volume of animals in a cost effective, environmentally friendly and humane way.
At the annual rendering conference, it was explained that “renderers are innovative, competitive and willing to adapt to changes in both regulations and the market. Customer expectations, consumer demand, and economic considerations will dictate product specifications and prices.” In a free market, if there is a financial opportunity for renderers to accept and process horses, they will make the necessary capital investments in order to process larger animals. Which means, perhaps I won’t have to drop off 80 pound chunks of my pony at the rendering plant in Massachusetts.
You may wonder how I can possibly make light of dead horses and rendering? It is because I have been rescuing horse for many years and have seen the most horrific circumstance that lead me to believe that a dead horse is a peaceful horse. Sometimes, rescue means helping a horse transition over the ‘Rainbow Bridge’ peacefully and painlessly.
There have been many occurrences in which I have actually purchased horses to humanely euthanize them. Most recently, it was a 22 year old gelding that first was a Standardbred racehorse, then an Amish buggy horse. He was trotted on hard roads for so many years that when he was dropped off at auction, he hobbled into the ring with long feet and swollen fetlocks. He sold to a killbuyer. We bought him back and had him euthanized the same day. Between the purchase price, veterinarian and the removal, that single act of kindness ran us over $450.
Having the option of a rendering plant would allow rescuers and owners to make euthanasia an affordable option.