From the Industry’s Mouth

By on January 11, 2008 with 0 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

The horse slaughter industry and its allies, including the American Veterinary Medical Association, seem to predicate their policy stance opposing a ban on horse slaughter for human consumption on bare conjecture. Their argument: if slaughter plants aren’t allowed to acquire and kill American horses, peel their skin off, and cut up their bodies for export to Belgium and Japan for human consumption, then American horse owners will starve and abandon their horses as an alternative. It’s a dim, pessimistic view of American horse owners, and something of a backhanded acceptance of this unscrupulous, unethical, and illegal behavior.

Today’s New York Times ran a story about some of these dynamics, and it was a generally balanced treatment of both sides’ positions (far more objective than the lopsided piece that ran in The Wall Street Journal this week).

I was quoted in the Times‘ story and said that the shutdown of the horse slaughter plants in the United States last year, which The Humane Society of the United States helped to engineer, was a first step in our plans to ban all horse slaughter in North America, and certainly a first step toward a ban on slaughtering American horses here in the United States or in Canada or Mexico.

Sorrel horse at slaughter plant in Mexico
© The HSUS
Our investigative footage amplifies the need
for a ban on horse export for slaughter.

We’ve always feared the grossly inhumane slaughter of horses in Mexico, and it has been The HSUS that has long advocated for a cessation of live exports to Mexico and Canada. It has also been our investigators who have delivered gut-wrenching images of Mexican-style slaughter to the American public and to lawmakers in Congress. We’ve delivered those images to document what really goes on (again, no conjecture here—just the facts) and to help pass federal legislation to ban the export of live American horses to other countries for slaughter.

There are a number of groups standing in the way of the legislation. Some are predictable opponents of animal protection in the livestock sector. They claim they just don’t want any precedent in the law to ban the slaughter of any species, especially one used for food (even if the consumption is entirely for foreign markets).

But the most influential group standing in the way, for the purposes of this policy debate, is the AVMA—a group that takes the animal protection position on some important issues of the day (e.g., animal fighting and the use of dangerous wild animals for the pet trade), but against animal protection on others (e.g., selling random source dogs and cats to research and confining veal calves or breeding sows in tiny crates that do not even allow them to move). The problem lies with the AVMA’s fealty to animal-use industries. The group seldom deviates from the opinions of veterinarians who work for the very industries that we are working to reform. If there are no vets working for the industry (e.g., animal fighting and imported dogs from foreign puppy mills), then it can take a more principled and objective stance, and it often does so to great effect.

The result, in the case of horse slaughter, is tragic. The AVMA is giving a pass to the killer buyers and transporters in the United States who are shipping horses to Mexico because it opposes, on principle, the federal American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, H.R. 503 and S. 311. That Act does codify a ban on horse slaughter in the United States, but now that provision has no practical effect—because key states have themselves already outlawed slaughter. The only practical effect of the federal legislation is to ban live exports of horses to Canada and Mexico—a practice the AVMA should condemn not only because of the grueling and harsh transport to slaughter, but also because the slaughter methods put to use in Mexico are not sanctioned by the AVMA. (We documented that in some Mexican slaughter plants horses are stabbed in the spine as a crude method of slaughter.)

That stand and other outdated positions of AVMA have compelled The HSUS to take more aggressive action on the broader issue of the role of veterinarians in public policy debates in this country. More on that first thing next week. And in the meanwhile, keep contacting your U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senator in favor of H.R. 503 and S. 311. The horses desperately need our voice. Others have failed them.

Companion Animals

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