I was recently speaking with Equine Welfare Alliance (EWA) president John Holland. He was telling me about a new report they had coming out which looked at rates of equine abuse and neglect across the US since 2000. The research examined equine abuse statistics from Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Maine and Oregon.
Historical records of the number of cases of equine abuse and neglect from these states was correlated with three potential causes; the rate of equine slaughter (or lack of it), unemployment and the cost of hay.
Surprisingly, the researchers found that the rate of abuse has been in decline in four of the six states since 2008. Five of the six states had shown a spike in abuse and neglect around 2008 and two have shown a significant increase in the past two years.
The dominant factor the analysis produced in every state was the price of hay with second most important correlation being the rate of slaughter, but the analysis found more slaughter consistently correlated with more abuse and neglect.
“Correlation is not proof of causation,” explained Holland, “but it certainly contradicts the theory that slaughter decreases neglect by culling “unwanted horses.”
Having spoken with John, it became clear that as usual the (buying of politicians) power of the farming and agri industries lay behind the high price of hay thanks to the long standing subsidy for ethanol in gasoline and tariffs on sugar cane. However, in 2011 Congress ended these subsidies and tariffs and EWA hopes this will put a downward pressure on hay prices in coming years.
I say “as usual” above because who is ultimately behind the round ups of wild horses….?