Sunday, October 11, 2009

Big Thanks to Linda Jean: Dispelling the Myths

For the Love of Horses

by Linda Jean

I've always admired the beauty and strength of horses and long ago realized our own human survival has been dependent on horses throughout the history of our species. Horses have no doubt increased our quality of life by providing our ancestors with transportation, labor and even food. Even in less developed countries it is not unusual to see a horse pulling a plow in a field.

Therefore, when I read the following article in my local paper that the Nebraksa state legislature is discussing the need for a horse slaughterhouse, the hairs on my neck began to rise. Currently, slaughterhouses for horses are illegal when used for human consumption. Although Americans don't eat horses, they are a popular food stuff in Europe and Japan. The last US horse slaughterhouse closed down a few years ago, so now many horses are being "shipped" to Canada and Mexico for slaughter. In this article there is a claim made that more horses are neglected and abandoned because of a lack of slaughterhouses in our country. The facts counter this argument as a letter to the editor that I wrote states. Here is the original article (published October 3) and my comments that were published on October 10 of this year:

Lawmakers hear of need for horse disposal

LINCOLN— State lawmakers were told Friday of the growing need for low- cost disposal of unwanted horses in Nebraska, given federal and state restric- tions against horse slaughter. Debby Brehm, director of the American Quarter Horse Association’s Nebraska chapter, said more horses face abandonment or neglect now that slaughter is less of an option. “Slaughter is not pretty, but it does provide a humane, economical way to euthanize a horse,” she told the Legislature’s Agriculture Committee during a hearing on the issue. Brehm said neither she nor her group support slaughter, but they recognize that horse owners need more options for unwanted or ailing horses, particu- larly in the current economic climate. She said it can cost $1,900 to feed, water and shelter a horse for one year — not including veterinary care. The nation’s last three horse slaugh- terhouses closed in 2007. Some states — but not Nebraska — have banned the slaughter of horses. Congress, which is considering a federal ban on horse slaughter and transporta- tion of horses to slaughterhouses, has eliminated funding for inspections of horses to be used for human consump- tion. Horses are exported to Mexico and Canada for slaughter. A record 78,000 horses were sent out of the country in 2007, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics. Much of the meat is exported to countries in Europe and Asia for human consumption. Critics say slaughtering is inhumane. Don Wesley of the Humane Society of the United States said Friday that he sees a need for disposal services, but that slaughter should not be an option. He didn’t present alternatives. But supporters of the practice say that without slaughterhouses, more older or otherwise marginalized horses are neg- lected or abandoned. Ross Garwood of the Nebraska Farm Bureau said he supports horse slaugh- ter to help supply horse meat overseas. He said he would like to see a slaugh- terhouse built on tribal land, which would be exempt from federal inspec- tions. Several cases of horse neglect have come up in Nebraska over the past sev- eral months, including one involving more than 200 horses at a ranch south of Alliance. Scores of horses and burros were found ill and emaciated in April; about 74 horses and burros were found dead. The owner of 3-Strikes Ranch faces a January trial on 149 felony counts of cruel neglect of an animal. Gretna veterinarian Larry Henning said Friday that he’s been asked to corral abandoned horses that have made their way into traffic. “Death is not inhumane,” he said, tes- tifying on behalf of the Nebraska Veterinary Medical Association. “Starvation and neglect are, and that’s what we’re starting to see.” State Sen. Russ Karpisek of Wilber said legislation will be introduced in January that would allow authorities to act faster in confiscating neglected horses. A legislative study of horse slaughter alternatives has been proposed by state Sen. Cap Dierks of Ewing, who owns several horses. He said Friday that without slaughter- houses, the only option for an owner of an unwanted or ailing horse is to “dig a hole and cover it up.”

My Letter:

Dear Editor,

A recent article in the Tribune titled “Lawmakers hear of need for horse disposal” left out some pertinent and factual information about horse slaughtering. It mentioned in the article that Don Wesley of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) who opposes horse slaughter, presented no other alternatives to the problem of over population of sick, injured or abandoned horses. I cannot speak for Mr. Wesley, but I was surprised by that statement because on the Humane Society’s website there is a thorough and factual discussion of alternative and viable options to horse slaughter (Google: "HSUS horse slaughter myths").

For example, horse sanctuaries and rescues, contraception and as a last result, lethal injection, are more humane options to horse slaughtering. The HSUS states that there are over 400 sanctuaries and rescue operations in the US that participate in helping to care for unwanted horses.

The Tribune article suggests that a ban on slaughtering horses causes more horses to be neglected and abandoned. This is a myth and there is no evidence to support it. California has had a horse slaughter ban for over 10 years and there has been no increase in neglect and abandoned horses. There has been, however, a 34% decrease in the number of horse thefts.

In the case of the 300 neglected horses in Alliance, there is no evidence the horses were neglected because of a ban on slaughtering. Generally speaking, horses are neglected because of a lack of responsibility on behalf of the owners due to a variety of reasons including economic hardships, lack of education about caring for horses, drought and even the price of hay. People who own horses have a legal responsibility to take care of them and there are state laws prohibiting abuse and neglect of horses. As the HSUS states, “horse abandonment and abuse is a sad reality whether or not slaughter is an available option—there is no causal connection between the two issues.”

It is also a myth that slaughter is a humane way to put down a horse since the website has videos from undercover investigations showing horses who are still alive as their throats are slit and they are dismembered. According to surveys on public opinion, an overwhelming majority of Americans (69%) support bans on horse slaughter.

The article stated that a proposal for a legislative study of horse slaughter alternatives has been recommended. It is important that our state lawmakers separate fact from fiction regarding horse slaughter and educate themselves on the effective alternatives available.

For more information about the cruelties of horse slaughtering read the House Judiciary Subcommittee's animal cruelty testimony at:
Posted by Linda Jean at 5:56 PM

Be sure to thank Linda Jean for her wonderful advocacy and encourage her to go on exposing the Myths...

Click on title above to go to her blog;

Thursday, October 1, 2009

AQHA Official Celebrates Pending Slaughter of Quarter Horses

AQHA Official Celebrates Pending Slaughter of Quarter Horses

CHICAGO, (EWA) – In the aftermath of Montana Governor Schweitzer’s non-action, HB 418, a bill that bars Montana’s citizens from taking court action against the building of a horse slaughter plant, became law. This action has left many Montana legislators and citizens shocked that their state might soon be known as the new “home of horse slaughter”. Montana has enacted a probably unconstitutional statute that denies due process under the United States Constitution.

Horse slaughter will tarnish the “Big Sky” brand and everything it stands for from cattle to tourism. History has shown that such plants bring nothing but pollution and controversy. Montana law makers failed to ask themselves why Texas and Illinois, and now Saskatchewan Canada, have rid themselves of the industry. Who is to gain?

The Equine Welfare Alliance has obtained a document that answers this question. The mass e-mail was from Stan Weaver, president of the Montana Quarter Horse Association (MQHA) and is titled “HB 418 Final Comments – Success!!!!. Rejoicing in the news that Montana may be home to a horse killing plant, the MQHA president boasts that the MQHA was the driving force behind the passage of the law.

Weaver praises members for pushing the legislation while bragging about the haste with which it was put together. Weaver describes how the MQHA and the bill’s sponsor, Representative Ed Butcher, had come up with the idea for the bill just weeks before it was introduced. After that introduction, the bill was ridiculed widely as the “Montana Butcher Bill.”

Indeed, this is cause to rejoice for the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), the organization leading the effort to continue the slaughter of American horses for foreign firm’s profit. This magnificent breed, touted as the most versatile of all horses, is being sent to slaughter in record numbers. In fact, half of all horses sent to slaughter each year are American Quarter Horses.

Meanwhile, the AQHA continues to promote indiscriminate breeding.

Weaver is apparently so enamored at the prospect of a slaughter plant to butcher Montana’s Quarter Horses that he ponders writing a book that will contain all the emails and letters in support of horse killing.

Last year, when other businesses were reducing production, AQHA management and its member breeders continued their mad quest to grow revenues by registering 140,000 new foals, an increase of 5,000 more horses over 2007.

In his speech before the 2008 annual convention, Bill Brewer, the AQHA’s then executive vice-president said, “Our challenge becomes looking at ways to introduce an equine economic stimulus package that will boost registration numbers.” Apparently, that package includes killing off existing Quarter Horses to make room for more.

The AQHA and its allies have promoted unfounded stories that the nation is being flooded with tens of thousands of abandoned horses. It was a salient point made by supporters of “The Butcher Bill” and was picked up by the Montana media and repeated without question, even though county officials reported a total of only fourteen abandoned horses in 2008.

Yet the group and its apologists fail to mention the indiscriminate breeding encouraged by the AQHA and ranchers such as Weaver. Weaver’s ranch alone produces and registers 100 horses per year and helps fill the AQHA treasury with registration fees.

According to Weaver, the next major AQHA effort will be to try to defeat the federal legislation that will end the slaughter of American horses; HR 503, The Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2009.

In their zealous quest to defeat HR 503, EWA expects more of the elaborate disinformation campaign from the AQHA and its lobbyists.

EWA wholeheartedly supports humane and responsible animal agriculture and is prepared to respond.

here is also a copy of the email/letter the President of the MQHA sent around:

From: Stan Weaver []
Sent: Tuesday, May 05, 2009 2:03 PM
To: (names removed to protect the recipients)
Subject: HB 418 Final Comments - Success!!!
I am sure you are all aware that HB 418 has become law. Although Governor
Schweitzer did not sign the bill, he still had a hand in it becoming law. The Montana
Horse Industry owes him a big “Thank You.”
I think each one of you can take credit in the fact that we got this bill passed. It is
because of all of your phone calls, letters, faxes and e-mails that you took the time to do
in order to show your passion for this cause that produced such a positive outcome.
Being involved made all the difference. This was a true grass roots effort and
Representative Ed Butcher told me that at the end of our campaign, calls from just
Montanans were 80% in favor of the bill. That is outstanding - and really shows what a
grass roots effort can do.
I would like to personally thank all of you that sent me e-mails and made phone
calls to me in support. Many of you copied me letters that you had sent to the Governor,
and each showed your passion and truth for this subject. Maybe one of these days I will
write a book of all those e-mails and letters – there are some pretty interesting ones to say
the least.
I also would like to thank the Montana Quarter Horse Association and its Board of
Directors for letting me represent them in this endeavor. It was at a meeting of these
folks on Sunday, February 8th that the whole idea was born. At that meeting it was
decided unanimously that we would support the Horse Processing bill, and I agreed to
write a letter and Cali would send it to our members. The effort and e-mail list just grew
from there.
This whole process just shows how important it is for us to get involved and do
what we can. It is a different world than it was in our grandparent’s day or even our
parents. Now days there are people who sit in an office in Washington, D.C. or New
York City, or Los Angeles and they have never calved a wild heifer or had to suckle a
chilled down calf. They never had a colt buck every time they jumped him out , and knew
they had to be hand enough to ride him or end up walking back to the house since there
was not a horse trailer and pickup close by. Yet, these people feel that we have been
doing this wrong for generations and they are sure that if they legislate their ideas it will
force us to abide by them. We must be aware of what goes on around us and we must
become active in preserving our way of life. I was contacted by several animal owners
that have different issues with the legislature this year. I feel that before the next
legislation there will be some sort of animal owners or animal/agriculture coalition to
help fight and support bills in the 2011 legislation. The tide is turning.
Our next big push will be HR 503 before the U.S. House of Representatives. This
is the bill to criminalize the transport of horses that will be sold for human consumption.
It is scheduled to be heard this fall. The AQHA and several of its affiliates (including
Montana) will work hard to defeat this bill. I will keep you all informed as to its process
and when we need to make our move and become involved.
Again, thanks for all your support and your commitment to getting HB 418
passed. You all take care and may God bless each of you until we talk again.
Best Regards,
Stan Weaver, President
Montana Quarter Horse Association