Bloodhorse Magazine Opinion

A Humane End
Date Posted: 2/24/04 10:41:21 AM
Last Updated: 2/24/04 10:46:19 AM

By Priscilla Clark -- In reviewing the position paper the American Association of Equine Practitioners sent to members of Congress regarding HR 857, The American Horse Slaughter Protection Act, stating that horse slaughter was "a necessary aspect of the equine industry," I would ask that the organization's members consider the following:

In 2003, the news of the untimely death of Ferdinand in a Japanese slaughterhouse shook the racing world to its very core. Cries of outrage are still being heard wherever horse lovers express their views, and the terror and suffering Ferdinand undoubtedly endured in a slaughterhouse sparked profound soul searching throughout the racing community. Like Exceller before him, Ferdinand's manner of death has contributed tremendously to the growing political momentum to protect all American horses from such a fate. This could be accomplished with the passage of HR 857.

If the AAEP believes the slaughter of horses is humane you may ask why the manner in which Ferdinand was put to death was so appalling to the racing world. The answer is quite simple; the American public understands implicitly that humane euthanasia means death by lethal injection and not being bludgeoned into unconsciousness by a captive bolt in a slaughterhouse.

The American public is not the least confused about the consequences of administering these two very different means of rendering death. They understand that the horse, a highly intelligent animal, dies fighting for his life in the slaughterhouse instead of peacefully passing by tranquilizers administered in a stress-free environment. How the American Association of Equine Practitioners, you who are entrusted by the American public to protect the welfare of horses, could fail to make this distinction and equate death in a slaughterhouse with humane euthanasia, is nothing short of remarkable.

It is clear that the overwhelming majority of Americans, whenever they have an opportunity to express their preferences, choose euthanasia by lethal injection as the only acceptable means of death for the animal that has partnered with them to build this country. No opinion poll has ever shown evidence to the contrary. Horses are raised solely for recreational and aesthetic value in the United States, and to tolerate the butchering of American horses for consumption in foreign countries is a betrayal of our American values.

I find the apology for horse slaughter put forth in the AAEP position paper specious in declaring that funding is not available for placing all of the unwanted or confiscated horses with rescue groups. No one could responsibly suggest that all aged, unwanted, or infirm horses should be cared for in sanctuaries or should become charges of public money. The benefit of HR 857 is not that all horses should be cared for ad infinitum, but that their manner of death should be swift and merciful.

It has been empirically demonstrated that in California, where the transportation of horses for slaughter has been outlawed since 1998, that no loads of horses have been confiscated and placed into protective custody. Should the remaining slaughter facilities in Texas be closed, the costly vaccinations, Coggins test, and health certification legally required to move horses over national boundaries would effectively remove the marginal profits to be made by smuggling horses into Canada or Mexico.

The specter raised by the AAEP of thousands of neglected horses draining public funds simply exceeds credulity. Slaughter statistics have dropped from 360,000 annually in the late 1980s to well below 50,000 today; all registry's foal crops have remained relatively constant, and humane complaints nationally have not risen.

By opposing HR 857 the AAEP has demonstrated it is grossly out of touch with the demographics of horse ownership as well as the ethics and belief systems of its clientele and the American public. Please uphold the faith entrusted in your organization and come to the table to work with responsible horse owners to truly protect the welfare of the American horse by ending slaughter in our nation.

PRISCILLA CLARK is the president of Tranquility Farm, a California locale for retired and adoptable Thoroughbreds.