Advocates of Horse Slaughter All Wrong

By on October 5, 2007 with 0 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

Carol Leifer, Wayne Pacelle and Lori Wolf with Michael Vick's notes
© The HSUS
Presenting Michael Vick’s talking points to
Carol Leifer (left) and Lori Wolf (right).

I just met with Carol Leifer and Lori Wolf at their Los Angeles home to present them with a framed copy of the notes Michael Vick used when he apologized to the American people for his reprehensible acts of animal cruelty. If you remember, The HSUS got a hold of the notes and put them up for auction on eBay, and Lori and Carol, a Hollywood producer, generously bid more than $10,000 for the notes in order to support our anti-dogfighting activities. They are dedicated and tremendous people, and they remind me of the unceasing generosity of HSUS members and their deep concern for animals.

Last night, I spent time with a larger group of animal advocates in Los Angeles. We had a high-energy meeting as part of our week-long tour of California to launch the statewide ballot initiative to ban veal and gestation crates and battery cages—the inhumane intensive confinement methods that have become widely used in modern animal agriculture. Of the crowd assembled, there were about 50 people who committed to collect more than 1,000 signatures each. If you live in California and want to help qualify this ballot measure for the November 2008 ballot, please contact us right away, and we’ll provide the guidelines and materials you’ll need to get started. We need 650,000 signatures by the end of February.

While I’ve been working with our California staff the past few days, other HSUS staff have continued to press hard for the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (S. 311 and H.R. 503)—to ban horse slaughter for human consumption in the United States and to ban the export of live horses for slaughter to foreign nations, including Canada and Mexico.

Yesterday in Congress, Nancy Perry, HSUS vice president for government affairs; Keith Dane, HSUS director of equine protection; and Kathy Milani, HSUS vice president for investigations and video, released the results of a months-long investigation in Mexico showing terrible cruelty to horses by the slaughter industry. They were joined by some of our top horse protection advocates in Congress—Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Reps. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).

Trailer of horses bound for Mexico slaughter plant
© The HSUS
This truck of horses bound for slaughter sat
in triple-digit heat for two and a half hours.

The HSUS and the members of Congress called on opponents of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act to rethink their position—urging them to take a fresh look at the issue in light of the state bans against slaughter that have shuttered the industry in the United States. The fact is, there’s no likely prospect that the plants will reopen in the United States. And unless we ban live exports, horses will continue to be shipped to Mexico and suffer a grim fate.

Yesterday, after we issued the call for groups opposing H.R. 503 and S. 311 to honestly examine their position, the American Veterinary Medical Association—which has provided the moral cover for the slaughter industry—lashed out at The HSUS.

"The reality is, the HSUS has done nothing to address the real issue here, and, in fact, by seeking to ban horse slaughter, they have made things significantly worse," said Dr. Mark Lutschaunig of the AVMA ."If they really wanted to do something productive to improve the welfare of horses, they would address the issue of unwanted horses in the United States."

"The AVMA does not support horse slaughter," Dr. Lutschaunig continued. "Ideally, we would have the infrastructure in this country to adequately feed and care for all horses. But the sad reality is that we have a number of horses that, for whatever reason, are unwanted. Transporting them under USDA supervision to USDA-regulated facilities where they are humanely euthanized is a much better option than neglect, starvation, or an inhumane death in Mexico."

The AVMA has it all wrong, and is sidestepping the issue. First, you better believe that The HSUS is working on the unwanted horse issue—which is wildly overblown by the advocates of horse slaughter. We work with sanctuaries and rescue groups throughout the country, and we have 700 horses and other equines on our Black Beauty Ranch. We are also looking to start a major new horse rescue facility in the West.

Injured horse bound for slaughter
© The HSUS
This horse was injured during a more than 600-mile trip to Mexico.

But there’s no single fix to the the problem of unwanted horses, just like there is no single fix to the pet overpopulation problem. The problems will be mitigated with a blend of policy solutions, rescue and sanctuary work, and a large dose of personal responsibility.

The AVMA must recognize the reality of the current situation. The U.S. slaughter plants won’t reopen, since the public is disgusted by their conduct. We have to deal with the industry’s funneling of horses into Mexico, and the grossly inhumane treatment of the animals.

Does the AVMA have so little confidence in horse owners to think that they will start abusing and starving horses if they cannot send horses to slaughter? Handling horses in such a way would violate anti-cruelty laws, and people who do so can be prosecuted. Whatever happened to the ethic of personal responsibility? Do we want people who would violate anti-cruelty statutes driving public policy?

The USDA’s own data show most horses sent to slaughter are perfectly healthy. The horses are opportunistically collected by killer buyers who often misrepresent their intentions.

Vets take an oath to help animals. The oath is violated when they oppose public policies to halt the inhumane slaughter of horses in Mexico.


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