USDA Policies Based on Farm Bills & IRS Rulings Promote Slaughter

by Joanne Byrnes (Tucson, AZ)

If you want to stop the over-production of, and consequent "culling" or "harvesting" of horses by means of slaughter, you MUST address the INCENTIVES for breeders and investors to focus on production that uses a 3-5 year cycle.

USDA grants, loans, insurance, disaster assistance, etc. all quite understandably favor livestock producers in the same way they treat plant crop farmers. This means that horse breeders have numerous incentives to treat horses like cattle, sheep, hogs and poultry, and to get rid of unsold stock within a finite period of time to meet profit-motive tests.

The same is true for tax credits, deductions, depreciation, and passive/active income rules of the I.R.S. concerning horses. Notice that most special temporary deductions are for racehorse breeders who have suffered losses due to diseases that swept through the farms, but not for horse trainers, riding stables, carriage operators, or equine-assisted therapy centers devastated by natural disasters or economic slumps.

The numbers tell it all: 60,000 Thoroughbreds foaled annually, and 30,000 under the age of 5 sent to slaughter annually. Facts are hard to argue with. Similar ratios are provable for Quarter Horses and Arabians, the two next most bred and most slaughtered horse breeds in the U.S.A.

Here’s the simple cure for slaughter that would work within a couple of years: implement a FLAT TAX.

All the incentives to breed horses just to kill them would disappear. The "extras" necessary to ensure a viable crop would be just a few, and they could easily be absorbed by the normal market for green horses to be trained as "speculative" investments by horse trainers and rescues.

2 thoughts on “USDA Policies Based on Farm Bills & IRS Rulings Promote Slaughter”

  1. Thanks for posting this piece. It hits on some excellent points.

    Well, as a retired CPA I’m not a flat tax shipper, if that means no small business owner could deduct any of their legitimate expenses, like advertising, postage stamps and rent. Depreciation isn’t evil per se – it’s a way to not pay tax on what you already spent for the future, like next month’s rent. Plenty of folks do right by their horses after the depreciation is over, and still others would not be humane even in a flat tax world.

    With fast depreciation on horses, the “crack” of another quick write off can become a necessity.

    There are too many incentives now to over-breed horses for a fast return. The tax code is just one of them. State incentives. 2 year old racing. A hidden incetive – how cheap it is to get in the game in the US. In Hong Kong China, a substantial check is due from the owner AND their Jockey Club before the horse can register to race.

    That’s where I would start, funding retirement along the career track of the horse.

    Horses naturally can live 25-45 years. Waiting till after their career shifts the responsibility away from those who made money of the horse, to the rescues. That’s not working. We need long term solutions. If we invested a % of each transaction – from stallion cover or AI for QH’s plus each step along the way, registration fees, takeout at races, and put it in a well managed, audited fund for retirement and retraining, along with making it illegal to slaughter, breed numbers would go down, especially at the bottom end where a lot of the suffering is. Breeders would work for their own self interests by adjusting their ouput to reflect the real cost of bringing a horse into the world. And with less over supply, values of good horses should go up – that’s how markets work. Whew, finally.

    We’re seeing resistance to reform of ending slaughter, so we’ll likely see resistance to funding the responsibility of choosing to breed a horse. We’ve seen how breed and dump at slaughter is financially addictive. Besides, in some horse circles there is not much taboo against slaughter even though the US people as a whole consistently poll against it.

    Right now, some horses are bred like hot house flowers, not for their 25-45 year natural life span. Because the real cost to the community is not in the registration fee, the breed market has not figured out on its own – or doesn’t care – that it’s producing too many horses for the demand. Right now, rescues and philanthropists have to jump when they get the call – pick up my horse by tomorrow or he goes to slaughter. That needs to stop; it’s a ridiculously manipulative and greedy cop-out, almost a hostage situation. Expanding the social taboo against slaughter, and posting names and photos on the web might help, but we really need to pass the slaughter ban so we can all take a collective breath.

    The new EU drug regulations and a US slaughter ban should change things at the bottom end real fast, and that will be good for horses in the long run. There will be a lot of gnashing of teeth and typical victim talk, but we’re used to that by now.

    I like the idea of expanding the social taboo against horse slaughter by getting the USDA/FOIA photos at Beltex in all the right hands.

    I hope we get past the pro-slaughter rhetoric to real solutions soon. Thanks again for your piece.

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