Lexington, Ky.-In the wake of a reintroduced
bill in Congress to ban horse slaughter in the United States,
the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) has
reiterated, via a position statement, that the organization is
Instead, in an official statement released in
the fall, AAEP discloses, "We are pro-welfare of the
horse" and says it recognizes horse slaughter is an
important welfare issue for the entire equine industry.
Dr. Tom Lenz, outgoing AAEP president, says AAEP
is not "proactively opposing" the bill. "Our
approach is to educate the horse owner and the legislature and
try to protect the health and welfare of the horse."
Dr. Tom Lenz
Lenz adds, "Honestly the people who
propose these bills and support them don't honestly understand
the issue. They tend to look at this as an emotional issue –
these are horses, our companions and we're sending them off to
Or, the sheer numbers alarm them: approximately
55,000 horses are slaughtered annually in the U.S., according to
AAEP statistics. Yet such horses are taken to a processing
facility because they are either no longer serviceable, are
infirm, dangerous or their owners are no longer able to care for
them, according to AAEP.
That said, AAEP's statement acknowledges:
"Our association believes slaughter is not the most
desirable option for addressing the problem of unwanted horses.
However, if a horse owner is not able or willing to provide
humane care, the AAEP believes that euthanasia at a processing
facility is a humane alternative to a life of suffering,
inadequate care and possibly abandonment."
In light of AAEP's position, in November, shortly
after the equine group released the statement, Blue Horse
Charities, a nonprofit group dedicated to protecting horses from
slaughter, engaged in some finger-pointing targeting AAEP and
other horse-related industry groups. In an accusatory letter
distributed to the racing industry, Blue Horse Charities claims
the groups organized to stall passage of the bill.
To the contrary, contends Lenz. Although AAEP
has not responded to Blue Horse's allegations officially, with
the exception of AAEP's executive director's personal letter to
the group, the association reiterates it "would endorse the
bill if they made some provisions for caring for unwanted horses
and if they made some provisions to stop transport of
Specific to the bill, H.R. 857, referred to as
the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, AAEP says it would
consider supporting passage if specific revisions were made:
- Funding of care for unwanted horses. As the
bill stands, it does not address financial support for
unwanted horses voluntarily given up by their owners. AAEP
expresses concern that horse rescue and retirement groups
will not have adequate resources without federal funding.
"The bill says the fed funds may be
appropriated if horses are confiscated," Lenz says.
"But we don't think that's adequate-'maybe.' We definitely
have to have some funds allocated to that."
- Development of a specific enforcement plan
to stop illegal transporters. Because slaughter plants exist
in Mexico and Canada, AAEP contends that if humane slaughter
is banned in the U.S., then it is imperative that U.S.
authorities aggressively enforce the law to prevent a black
market of horses transported out of the country. Currently
the bill does not include a specific plan detailing which
agencies would oversee this component.
The concern to AAEP is that if the bill
passes, many more horses will be shipped to Canada and to Mexico
for slaughter, along with the thousands already being exported.
Last year, the USDA reported 30,000 horses were exported to
Canada for slaughter. Lenz suspects that number likely would
double at least, if slaughter plants were to close. Lenz says no
one "has a clue" how many horses are transported to
Equally worrisome to Lenz and AAEP is the bill's
view on euthanasia. "They're making a judgment on what's an
acceptable humane form of euthanasia."
For instance, he says AAEP supports use of
captive bolt euthanasia. "I've been to the slaughter plant
in Texas and it is extremely humane. Proponents of the bill are
misleading people in describing the procedure.
"This is an issue that has to be based on
scientific fact. Our goal is to be the voice of reason, because
the proponents tend to push this on an emotional level," he