AAEP clarifies stance on horse slaughter
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 not pro-slaughter.
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.
Undisputable facts 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."
Retaliatory action 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 horses."
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:
"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."
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 Mexico.
Secondary bill component 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 adds.