AAEP to tour Mexican slaughter plants

AAEP to tour Mexican slaughter plants

Leadership seeks to bridle inhumane treatment of horses
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Mar 01, 2008

Lexington, Ky. — Four American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) leaders want to visit Mexican horse-slaughter plants following widespread reports of equine abuse and inhumane euthanasia.

The trip, described as a fact-finding mission, is tentatively planned for April. While AAEP has no authority concerning Mexico's horse-slaughter industry, leaders' interest is in response to a reported 312-percent increase in U.S. equine exports to Mexico following last year's closure of American slaughter facilities that processed horse meat for human consumption.

In October, the Humane Society of the United States released undercover video showing a horse stabbed to death in a Mexican slaughter facility.

Dr. Thomas Lenz, an AAEP past president, says he's not making assumptions without seeing Mexican facilities firsthand.

"We want to tour the plants, see how the horses are handled and see how they're euthanized," he says.

The visit might have been arranged earlier, Lenz adds, but articles published in American newspapers offended owners of Mexican slaughter plants. AAEP reportedly has worked to mend those fences. "I think they're receptive now to our visit, and we'll go ahead and proceed. We haven't set an exact date, but a general agreement to do it," Lenz says.

This isn't the first time AAEP officials have made such a trip. Last fall, leaders traveled to Presidio, Texas, to witness the "dramatic increase" of horses crossing the border following the U.S. plant closures.

"One thousand animals crossed there a week," Lenz recalls. "They were being loaded, put in sealed trailers and hauled about eight hours south to a slaughter plant."

Business swells

That surge came after America's three horse-slaughter plants — two in Texas and one in Illinois — closed when court rulings sided with state laws that ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption.

Anti-horse-slaughter activists also are pushing the ban at the federal level. Congress has considered the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act several times, most recently when it passed in the House but languished in the Senate until lawmakers adjourned last year. The measure seeks to prohibit any horse-slaughter plant from operating in the United States and bar the transport of horses to other countries for processing.

Yet AAEP and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) are squarely opposed. Both contend that, without a regulated outlet for unwanted horses in the United States, the welfare of thousands of animals is in jeopardy.

It's a problem the horse industry needs to deal with, Lenz contends.

"Ultimately, a horse that goes to a slaughter plant for human consumption is a horse of no value; no one wants it," he says. "We think the industry should be allowed time to solve this, and until then euthanasia at a processing plant is an acceptable form of euthanasia for these horses rather than abuse, neglect or being turned out. We would just like that to be in the United States, where it's regulated."