Keep the issue alive!

August 5, 2004
Sports Views
Anne Russek
Special to The Augusta Free Press

The many letters to The Augusta Free Press concerning the slaughter of American horses for human consumption abroad is indicative of the support this bill enjoys from the American public, and in particular, the support of Virginians.

I have been aware of Bob Goodlatte's opposition to this bill for more than two years. From the beginning, Goodlatte showed a complete lack of understanding of the language of the bill. For example, in December of 2002, Goodlatte sent me a letter stating that horses intended for slaughter are already protected under the The Animal Welfare Act. After obtaining a copy of the bill, I was shocked to read on the very first page a declaration that horses intended for slaughter are specifically excluded from this bill.

How, I asked, could the head of the House Agriculture Committee be so misinformed? Giving him the benefit of the doubt that he was being represented by an incompetent staffer, I wrote back to the congressman supplying him with the facts. I received no response.

In April of 2004, Mr. Goodlatte stated on the public airwaves that he was opposed to HR 857 because it would hurt pet-food companies. Once again, Goodlatte showed his ignorance of the subject. Major pet-food companies in the U.S. have not used horse meat in their products for almost 10 years.

Further opposition to the bill was presented by Mr. Goodlatte when he aligned himself with the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Quarter Horse Association. Both of these groups stated that horse neglect and abuse would increase if horse slaughter was banned. Further research on my part indicated that there were no stastistics of any type in any government division to support this hypothetical.

These groups also proposed that the disposal of horse carcasses would tip the environmental balance of the United States. I then contacted support Michael Scott of EPA in Washington, D.C., who told me he knew nothing of the bill, and that the AVMA had never contacted his office.

The AVMA also opposed the HR 857 because the bill would not allow for electrocution of horses if it were passed. Shocked that the AVMA would even advocate such a horrific method of death for a horse, I discovered that nowhere in the veterinary field, not even in research, is electrocution still used. Rather, this was a method used many years ago that has become obsolete in the wake of newer euthanasia methods.

I could only conclude that the AVMA and the AQHA were opposing this bill for reasons they needed to keep secret. My suspicions were validated when I discovered that the AQHA was opposing the bill in Washington without the knowledge of their 250,000 members. To this day, these members have never been polled concerning their support or opposition to the American Horse Slaughter Protection Act.

Congressman Goodlatte obviously shares the same attitude of arrogant leadership when it comes to his constituents. In spite of bipartisian majority support in the House of Representatives, in spite of the support of seven out of 11 Virginia representatives, in spite of the support of the largest breed organization in Virginia, the Virginia Thoroughbred Association, and in spite of the public-opinion polls that show overwhelming support for this bill, Bob Goodlatte maintains that he alone knows what is best for American horses.

Mr. Goodlatte may never change his personal position on this bill, but by what defintion of fairness does he arrogantly and defiantly refuse to allow this bill onto the House floor for a vote? At a June 28 town meeting, Mr. Goodlatte told a standing-room-only crowd that since no member of his committee had asked for a hearing on HR 857, his hands were tied. What he intentionally failed to mention, was that it would be inappropriate for a member of his committee to ask for hearings, because none of them had introduced the bill in the first place. That distinction belongs to Congressman John Sweeney of New York, who has asked for hearings and been denied them by Bob Goodlatte.

On July 5 at the Bridgewater town meeting, Bob Goodlatte admitted that the bill asks for no federal funding to care for the horses that would no longer be slaughtered, even though this is an excuse for opposition he offers at every unchallenged opportunity. I cannot follow Mr. Goodlatte around the state of Virginia exposing him for the liar he is regarding HR857. I can only appeal to the readers of this paper to please contact

Goodlatte's office with your declarations of support for the bill, and to echo that support to senators Allen and Warner. Just because one Republican congressman is capitulating to the special-interest money of the slaughter industry does not mean that the Senate arm of our government cannot make amends for his disturbing behavior.

Anne Russek resides in Natural Bridge. 

The views expressed by op-ed writers do not necessarily reflect those of management of The Augusta Free Press. 

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(Published 08-05-04/Sports)