Position on H.R. 857
Date Posted: 5/18/2004
Last Updated: 5/18/2004
By Dr. Tom R.
Lenz -- Federal
legislation to ban the slaughter of horses in the United States
for human consumption has become an emotional issue on which some
groups within the equine industry can't see eye to eye. Everyone
is entitled to his or her opinion, but that opinion must be based
on fact, not emotion or supposition. Here are the facts regarding
the American Association of Equine Practitioners' position on H.R.
857, the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act.
The AAEP is not
pro-slaughter. We believe that slaughter is not the best option
for solving the problem of unwanted horses, which is truly the
heart of this issue. However, the reality is that because of owner
neglect or failed expectations, approximately 50,000 horses are
euthanized annually at U.S. facilities. Based on figures from the
U.S. Department of Agriculture, an additional 30,000 are
transported to Canada for processing with an unknown number of
horses going to Mexico.
The bill pays little
attention to equine welfare and does not provide the
infrastructure or funding provisions to care for these 80,000
unwanted horses. And this is 80,000 in one year alone. The fact is
these horses are at increased risk for neglect and abandonment by
owners who no longer care about their fate or cannot afford to
give them adequate care.
The AAEP's primary
mission is protecting the health and welfare of the horse. Many of
our members donate their professional services in support of
rescue and retirement facilities and dedicate their careers to
ensuring humane treatment of the horse. We know that simply
passing a law to prevent a horse's euthanasia at a federally
inspected processing plant will not make the problem go away.
Regarding the assertion
by supporters of the bill that euthanasia by captive bolt is
inhumane, AAEP members visited a processing facility in Texas to
witness first-hand the treatment of the horses. Federal
veterinarians were overseeing the process and each of us in
attendance unanimously agreed the horses were treated with dignity
and euthanized humanely. The horses were not "stunned"
or "bludgeoned" as some ill-informed commentaries have
stated, but were rendered instantly brain dead by a penetrating
captive bolt. Independent inspections of slaughter plants by a
number of experts, including Dr. Temple Grandin of Colorado State
University, have verified that the animals are handled and
Besides H.R. 857's
failure to provide the infrastructure and funding for the care of
unwanted horses, the AAEP is concerned the bill does not provide
an enforcement plan to ensure horses are not shipped to foreign
processing plants. Longer hauls to plants that are not regulated
by the USDA are not in the best interest of the horse.
California's ban on the shipment and sale of horses to slaughter
is often cited as the model for this type of legislation. Because
there were no funds allocated for enforcement or rescue, no
arrests have been made since the law took effect and many involved
in the California horse industry state that horses continue to be
shipped out of California to processing plants.
The AAEP does not stand
alone on H.R. 857. The American Quarter Horse Association, which
is the largest breed registry in the world, does not support the
bill. The American Veterinary Medical Association shares our same
concerns. Other groups that have formally opposed H.R. 857 are the
Utah Department of Agriculture, the New York State Horse Council,
and the Horsemen's Council of Illinois, just to name a few.
Because less than 10% of
the horses going to slaughter are Thoroughbreds, this is not
solely a Thoroughbred issue. It is a horse industry issue
affecting all breeds and disciplines. Unsuccessful racehorses can
be absorbed into the hunter-jumper or pleasure horse markets, but
what about the geriatric ranch horse or permanently unsound
packhorse? Just as the AAEP has worked in concert with
Thoroughbred organizations on the issues of medication and the
integrity of the sport, we must put emotion aside and work
together to solve this problem. However, regarding H.R. 857, we
simply do not believe the legislation, as currently written, is in
the best interest of the horse. Until an infrastructure to provide
adequate federal funding for retirement/adoption facilities as
well as enforcement provisions are included in the legislation, we
cannot support it. b
Dr. Tom R. Lenz is a
private practitioner and immediate past president of the AAEP.