March 25, 2003 Public Hearing – Texas House Agriculture & Livestock Committee
Excerpt from testimony of Dr. Steve Hicks, Bradford, Texas

Dr. Steve Hicks: The American Quarterhorse Association…uh…in their statement in their position paper….with regard…this is not regarding this issue….this bill that we are talking about today.  Their statement was regarding the bill that came before the Congress last year.

Chairman Hardcastle:  asked Dr. Hicks to be brief.  

Hicks:  I apologize.  Let me give you a list of the organizations that are for allowing this option of horse slaughter plants to stay in existence.  The American Association of Equine Practitioners which is the largest equine veterinary organization in the world.  Their position is they are for this.  We have letters from several veterinary schools.  Oklahoma State University, California Veterinary School at Davis, Texas A&M University stating that in their opinion that these plants….without these plants the potential of abuse for these unwanted horses is much greater than what these horses face at the plants. 

One very important item I think Rep. Brown brought out was from Edward’s Life Sciences, and this was a revelation to me, as a matter of fact.  Edward’s Life Sciences is one of the several corporations using the equine pericardia or heart sac for the manufacture of specific life saving products, including the pericardial patches Ms. Brown alluded to…this is in human medicine.  We have another…I was going to give you a list of the associations that are for…to add to what Ms. Brown said,  Texas Veterinary Medical Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association…uh… in discussing this yesterday, which they are making the recommendation from the Welfare Committee to the Board that the statement of the American Equine Practitioners Association is for allowing this to be their position also.  The Texas Veterinary Medical Association also has this position, and they may have someone here to speak to that.  We have the….Ms. Mary Beth Juler (sp?) who is the… heads up for Texas the Responsible Pet Owners Alliance …is for allowing these, and they rescue horses.  And her statement is there’s no way these horse rescue groups could handle the large number of unwanted horses should the plants be closed.  Texas Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association has the position that they do the inspections for stolen horses, and without these plants a lot of these stolen horses would not be found.  Texas Animal Health Commission checks for equine diseases at these plants.  Equine infections anemia, which is a horse disease that has no vaccination and no treatment, and they give us, the veterinary community, heads up on where these diseases are…how prevalent they are.  Texas Sheriff’s Association…uh…course they are involved with recovering stolen horses also.  From Dr. Stull, who is in the cooperative extension, University of California Veterinary Medicine , did the research on a lot of the transport, and her position is that..uh..”I urge you to consider the many factors that would be impacted by the closure of the equine processing facilities in Texas .  These impacts include safeguarding human and horse health throughout the United States .”  

Comm. Member Sid Miller:  Chairman.  Dr. Hicks, I’m just sitting here wondering if we closed all of the horse slaughter plants in Texas .. or if we just do not allow that meat to be exported to Europe .  The thought crossed my mind…I’m a horse owner and I’m also a cattle feeder, and in the feed yards I see cattle come in from the Hawaiian Islands that have been shipped on these cargo ships.  They have a lot of respiratory problems and … very unhealthy…and a large death loss in those cattle that arrive.  What about..uh… if we do not allow this meat to be shipped, certainly nothing would preclude these horses from being shipped live on those cargo ships to Europe .  These same type of inhumane…  

Hicks:  Or transported across the border to Mexico .  I talked with an individual, a veterinarian that had seen these horses… some horses being transported across.  He told me of the time that these horses spent just in the hot sun waiting for somebody to come sign a ticket so they could travel on … on down the road.  And course there’s a lot of… you have to pay for somebody to get this signed, and you have to pay for somebody to get that signed.  His opinion was, Dr. Volares (sp?) in Brownsville, as a matter of fact, who does a lot of horse importing/exporting, said that it was his opinion there would be a lot more problems and inhumanness with these animals… and to answer your question directly, yes, anytime you transport horses without water, without food for extended periods of time you run that risk.  

Miller:  There’s a lot of… I guess… ammonia built up in those closed containers, and they have a lot of respiratory problems.  

Hicks:  They found… the researchers found that when the trucks that hauled the horses had straw and hay in them for the footing and everything that they had a higher buildup of ammonia than if they did not.