A Good Week for Horses

CBS News legal analyst Andrew Cohen owns and races horses.There will be no Triple Crown winner in thoroughbred racing this year, again, thanks to a great stretch drive by Curlin in last Saturday's Preakness Stakes. The big colt blew past Street Sense, the winner of the Kentucky Derby, right at the wire, to the delight of his patrons but to the dismay of racing fans everywhere who are rooting for that one magical horse to take the sport where it hasn't been in a generation.

That's the bad news in the horse world. The good news is that it has been a remarkable week for opponents of the barbaric practice of horse slaughter in this country. From Texas, where two slaughter plants were forced to remain closed, to Illinois, where Governor Rod Blagojevich signed into law a measure making it illegal in that state to slaughter horses for human consumption. The new statute in Illinois effectively shuts down the third and last plant in the country that dedicated its operations to killing our horses to sell as food for humans in other countries.

Neither the United States Supreme Court, which turned down an appeal by the Texas slaughterers, nor the Texas legislature, which tabled a bill that might have allowed the plants to re-open, was willing to ride to the rescue of a practice that seems out of a different time and certainly out of place for a nation founded, for the most part, on horse back. And even from Congress the recent news is good. The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act was voted out of committee in the Senate—last term it passed in the House of Representatives—and should actually become the law of the land before the current legislative session ends in 2009.

Advocates of the plants have said for years that abandoning the practice would lead to a cruel surplus of horses, which in turn would lead to abuse and neglect. But nothing in the Illinois law, or the Texas law, or the federal measure, would preclude an individual owner from having the right to put down his or her horse for any reason (or, really, for no reason at all). And those few hundreds bucks per horse that the slaughterers were paying for stock? Well, maybe the fact that this blood money won't be available any more will actually create a disincentive for horse breeders to breed more horses than they need. California, for example, banned horse slaughter for human consumption years ago and the sky has not fallen on the Golden State.

It is about time that lawmakers and judges and lobbyists coalesced around the cause of stopping our horses from being brutally killed and then sold as meat to foreign consumers. What people were doing to those horses in those plants—what our government in our name was allowing those people to do- was beneath us as a nation. Hyperbole? Maybe. But did you see the Preakness preview on Saturday about the legacy that the great Barbaro has had on horse rescue efforts in this country? It was proof enough for me that there are more people who care about horses than there are those who don't.

So a bad week for Street Sense, and a bad week for Triple Crown enthusiasts, turns into a great week for other horses everywhere. That's a perfectly sound trade-off if you ask me. And I bet that even Street Sense's connections would have to agree.