"The old gray mare, she ain't what she used to be, many long years ago."
As fond as people are of horses, sometimes folks forget these beasts don't live forever. Something's got to be done with old Nellie and other has-been horses when their useful lives are over.
A trip to an American slaughterhouse no longer is in the picture.
Opponents of slaughtering horses for human consumption overseas won a victory in federal court that shut down America's last horse slaughterhouse in DeKalb. They also stand poised to pass a bill in the Illinois House to ban horse slaughtering when the meat will be eaten by people.
Such actions, these do-gooders believe, will save horses from a fate they don't deserve. The truth is, sick, unfit, aging, injured and otherwise unwanted horses are being doomed to neglect and starvation. Meanwhile, horse owners are unfairly burdened because they no longer have the option of being paid money by a slaughterhouse for an unwanted horse.
What's an owner to do?
Well, they could call the veterinarian to euthanize the horse. This will cost as much as $150, according to a story by The Associated Press. Then the owner is stuck with a carcass, the disposal of which will cost even more.
Owners might try to bury the carcass in the pasture. It's a big job to dig a hole that deep, and there may be local ordinances or state laws that ban such burials due to pollution concerns.
The once common practice of sending Old Dobbin to the glue factory is no longer an option. Glue these days is made of synthetic materials.
The dog food processing plant is no longer an option, either. Horse meat can't be turned into dog food due to public opposition.
Caught between society's increasing political correctness and the rising cost of upkeep, some horse owners in Kentucky sadly quit caring for their horses or even have abandoned them in the mountainous strip mine region - sort of like dumping a cat or dog along a lonely country road.
The resulting glut of horses has sent market prices down, so owners of healthy animals can't get as high a price as they once did.
All this because some people can't stomach putting horses through the same slaughtering process that they think nothing of subjecting other animals to, such as cattle, hogs and sheep.
So, are there any other options for disposing of an unwanted horse? Well, it's legal for owners to shoot their horses. Unless the job's done right, however, the animal could suffer even more than at the slaughterhouse.
The AP reports slaughterhouses in Canada may be willing to take over where American slaughterhouses left off, so they'll make the money while workers in DeKalb lose their jobs.
What a country.