It must have sounded like a good idea at the time: rats were destroying sugar cane crops in the Caribbean Islands and in 1872 someone decided to introduce a foreign predator, the small Indian Mongoose, to kill the pests. Problem was, mongooses (not “mongeese,” according to my Oxford English Dictionary) do most of their hunting during the day and the rats were most active in the sugar cane fields at night. Instead of staying up late to take care of the rats, the mongooses found it easier to kill chickens and snakes instead. (The latter, ironically, were already doing their part to keep the rats in check.) Today mongooses cause millions of dollars of damage in the Caribbean and are a major source for rabies and leptospirosis.
The point of all this is that sometimes the solution, no matter how well-intended, turns out to be worse than the problem.
A few days ago, the Government Accounting Office released a long-awaited report, Horse Welfare: Action Needed to Address Unintended Consequences from Cessation of Slaughter. Two years in the making, the 60-plus-page report manages to have something for people who favor the reintroduction of horse slaughter in the United States, something for people who do not, and probably nothing that will make anyone on either side of the fence entirely happy.
For me, the most telling parts of the report are the numbersÑthe horses slaughtered in the United States before the last processing plants in Illinois and Texas were closed in 2007 and the horses shipped across the borders to Mexico and Canada for slaughter since then. According to the GAO, horse slaughter in the U.S. peaked in 1990