All Horses are Wanted: Some People Just Want them Dead

At the 2011 International Equine Conference (September 26-28, 2011, in Alexandria, VA), Congressman Jim Moran, VA., an opponent of horse slaughter, described an “ongoing, concerted attempt by Western members of Congress to revive horse slaughter in the U.S..”  Rep. Moran was troubled by the unsupported conclusion of a controversial report by the Government Accounting Office; that closing horse slaughter plants in the U.S. led to “rising numbers of unwanted horses and associated costs.”  Rep. Moran said the GAO report “seemed as if it had been written by proponents of horse slaughter.”
The report (GAO-11-228, Horse Welfare:  Action Needed to Address Unintended Consequences from Cessation of Domestic Slaughter, June 2011) is an example of what writer Hannah Arendt called “the banality of evil;” what economist Edward S. Herman describes it as “the process whereby ugly, degrading, murderous, and unspeakable acts become routine and are accepted as ‘the way things are done’.”  The banality of evil in the GAO report is not only that it sanctions “the ways things are done” in horse slaughter facilities, but also in what it shows about “the way things are done” in Washington.
The GAO report is a federal rubber stamp on an argumentum ad ignorantiam devised years ago by special interests whose aim was to defeat federal legislation outlawing horse slaughter.  After earlier attempts to frame the issue as one of private property rights failed to find favor with legislators, the pro-slaughter crowd pivoted, and started pushing horse slaughter as a matter of “horse welfare,” suggesting that the “unintended consequence” of the closing of the last U.S. horse slaughterhouses in 2007 was a decline in U.S. horses’ welfare.  By labeling as “unwanted” those horses unlucky enough to be managed by the Bureau of Land Management, owned by contractors for Wyeth Labs or bred for color and conformation, horse slaughter proponents gained control of the dialogue and got the GAO “analysts” to memorialize it in their bloody report.
Veterinarian and past Chairman of the “Unwanted Horse Coalition” Tom Lenz claims the phrase “unwanted horse” was “coined by the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) in 2005” in response to demand for substitute meat by European meat producers after the “mad cow” scare.  I think Lenz knows it was coined in 2003 or earlier by the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) for a “talking points” memo intended to defeat federal legislation to ban horse slaughter in the U.S..  Before it died in committee, H.R. 857, the “American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act,”  had widespread support in the American public and 228 cosponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives, and it had the AQHA all atwitter.
I have never seen the AQHA memo, but it was described in a November 20, 2003 abstract written by Michael Shane North, a MBA candidate at Utah State University at the time:

The AQHA has released a statement concerning horses that are slaughtered for human consumption. In a document entitled “Talking points on legislation banning the processing of horses for Human Consumption,” the AQHA discusses twelve points and concludes that “A federally-imposed ban is not in the best interest of the horse’s welfare” (AQHA). The critical issues are unwanted horses, owner responsibility, and animal welfare.

American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA). “Talking Points on Legislation Banning the Processing of Horses for Human Consumption. ” The American Quarter Horse Association. 2003.

North was a candidate for a Masters of Business Administration in the Economics Department under Professor DeeVon Bailey (a proponent of “innovative agribusiness marketing”).   North’s 2003 Masters’ abstract was entitled:

I’M SO HUNGRY I COULD EAT A HORSE!
THE ESTIMATED ECONOMIC IMPACT ON THE UNITED STATES AND EUROPEAN UNION RESULTING FROM A PROPOSED U.S. BAN ON HORSE SLAUGHTER FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION

In Chapter 2, “Current Outlook of the Horse Slaughter Industry,” North includes these categories in his “Description of Unwanted Horses”:

  • Horses with behavioral problems known as outlaws are horses that cannot be trained, or they unpredictably flee or buck
  • Weavers and pacers
  • Injured Horses
  • Blindness
  • Foundered
  • Lameness
  • Broken bones, especially limbs Cuts [sic], abrasions
  • Breeding Failures
  • Bad conformation, deformed, or bad limbs
  • Slow race horses
  • Unaccomplished show horses

North goes on to say

Another source of unwanted horses is the production of pregnant mare serum, also known as Premarin. This drug is used to treat women experiencing vaginal itching, pain, and hot flashes that are associated with menopause. The mare’s offspring become a “by-product” of Premarin production (Humane Society of the United States).

In many of these cases, the horse has a higher value as horsemeat than as a riding, working, recreational, or companion animal.

Shane’s abstract is a painful read for anyone who cares about scholarship.  It is full of anonymous sources, unsubstantiated information, hearsay and conclusions without support, and is transparently intended to support horse slaughter proponents.  An example is this “interview” with a “Mr. Jim Warren” identified in North’s abstract as the “owner of an equine rescue facility”:

Mr. Warren, owner of an equine rescue facility south of San Francisco, has seen an average of 25 abandoned horses per year since the ban. This is a very scary occurrence, says Warren, eventually an abandoned horse is going to end up on the road. According to Warren, the law will not change until an unwanted horse finds its way onto a highway and someone is killed (Warren).

Horses have been found without an owner, brand, or identification with which to find the responsible person. In the last few years, there have been several cases in which horse owners have moved out of California and left their horses behind (Warren). Reports have also been made where a rancher/producer finds a new horse on their farm. In some of these cases, the horses are malnourished and end up dying within a few days time (Anonymous B).

A contemporaneous CNN news account quotes a Jim Warren, described here as a “horse and cattle auctioneer,” opining on the same subject:

They’re trying to tell the general public what they can and what they can’t eat, said horse and cattle auctioneer Jim Warren. I wouldn’t want someone to tell me I couldn’t eat broccoli, or cauliflower or lettuce.

I guess if you believe slaughter is good for horses, it follows that a horse auctioneer is an “equine rescuer.”  That makes cattle auctioneers “bovine rescuers” and pig auctioneers “porcine rescuers.”

Although Shane’s undergraduate paper is a not well-reasoned or well-referenced, it is a document that proved useful to horse slaughter proponents in the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the AQHA, particularly in its employment and repetition of the phrase “unwanted horse.”  Tell a lie often enough and the weak-minded will see it as the truth.

By December 2004, the “unwanted horse” phrase had developed legs and was featured at the Annual Convention of the AAEP,  (AAEP Convention 2004: The Unwanted Horse).  A veterinarian named Nat Messer presented his two page paper on the “Plight of the Unwanted Horse.”  The copy of Messer’s “Plight” that is available through the AAEP includes three “References” in support of its author’s argument:

References

1National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Agricultural Statistics Board, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1998 Report. http://www.usda.gov

2 National Animal Health Monitoring System Equine ’98 Study. Part 1: Baseline Reference of 1998 Equine Health and Management, United States Department of Agriculture/Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. September 1999. N280.898 http://www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/ceah/cnahs/nahms/equine/Equine98/eq98pt1.pdf

3 Gimenez RM. Letter to the editor re: unwanted horses. The Horse Magazine 2004; 21(April): 30.

A second version of Messer’s “Plight,” one published by the AVMA, listed four “References”:

References

1National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Agricultural Statistics Board, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1998 Report. http://www.usda.gov

2 National Animal Health Monitoring System Equine ’98 Study. Part 1: Baseline Reference of 1998 Equine Health and Management, United States Department of Agriculture/Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. September 1999. N280.898 http://www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/ceah/cnahs/nahms/equine/Equine98/eq98pt1.pdf

3 North MS, Bailey D. 14th Annual World Food and Agribusiness Forum, 2004

4 Gimenez RM. Letter to the editor re: unwanted horses. The Horse Magazine 2004; 21(April): 30.

The additional reference in the AVMA version is to a 2004 paper presented to the 14th Annual World Food and Agribusiness Forum by “North MS” and “Bailey D;” none other than the 2003 Masters abstract written by Michael Shane North under the guidance of Professor DeeVon Bailey.  Did Messer (or the AAEP) get squeamish about the reference to an economic paper presented to an agribusiness forum that had the unfortunate title “I’m So Hungry I Could Eat a Horse?”  For whatever reason, all subsequent versions of Messer’s paper that I could find do not reference the North/Bailey abstract.

Nat Messer at AAEP Conference in December 2004

DeeVon Bailey,

ASSOCIATE VICE PRESIDENT FOR INTERNATIONAL RESEARCH

Messer’s “Plight” introduced a new player in the “unwanted” pantheon–wild, free roaming horses under the domain of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

. . . [approximately] 10,000 feral [sic] horses deemed to be unadoptable [sic] or unwanted that are being maintained by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on privately owned sanctuaries. Additionally, 5000 or so horses are awaiting adoption in short-term holding facilities operated by the BLM . . .

The third (or fourth) reference listed by Messer is a letter to the editor:

According to Rebecca M. Gimenez, a member of the advisory board of the South Carolina Awareness and Rescue for Equines organization, “we have seen a huge upsurge in abuse and neglect cases over the last three years in our state alone.”3 She goes on to say that “looking on the web and talking to veterinarians, farriers, and horse indus- try professionals all tell me that this isn’t only a South Carolina problem.”3

According to her CV published online, Rebecca Gimenez has a Ph.D. in Animal Physiology with a concentration in Equine Reproductive Endocrinology.  From 1999 to 2003, she was Managing Editor / Co-Owner & Secretary of Equine & Bovine MagazineTM, a regional horse and cattle trade magazine.  None of that makes her an expert on abuse and neglect statistics in South Carolina, let alone the nation.

On April 19, 2005, the AAEP convened an invitation-only “Summit” on “The ‘Unwanted’ Horse in the U.S.”  According to a report prepared by the Summit Consultant, the purpose was

to bring key stakeholders together to start a dialogue on the plight of the unwanted horse in North America for the purpose of developing consensus on the most effective way to work together to improve the quality of life for tens of thousands of unwanted horses and to reduce their number. Because the Summit was designed as a working session, the size of the group was limited to approximately 30 people. The Summit invitation list was drawn up with every effort to assure representation of a broad range of views, sometimes opposing views, among breed groups, sport and discipline organizations, rescue and retirement facilities, veterinary associations and welfare groups.

The “Summit” led to the creation of the “Unwanted Horse Coalition” that was eventually folded into the “American Horse Council” in June 2006.

On May 15, 2006, an organization that calls itself the “Animal Welfare Council (AWC) published a document entitled “The Unintended Consequences of a Ban on the Humane Slaughter (Processing) of Horses in the United States.”  The AWC, according to the website “Source Watch“) lobbys for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and is the web “front” of Cindy Schonholtz.  Schonholtz is vice president of a similar “front” group, the National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA), according to her biography at the NAIA website:

Cindy serves as the Director of Industry Outreach for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association handling livestock  welfare issues as well as being the Program Manager for the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund.  She assists the PRCA by monitoring animal welfare and animal rights issues, educating the public and livestock industry regarding animal welfare issues facing rodeo, networking with veterinary and livestock organizations, assisting PRCA members with animal health issues, and overseeing the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Animal Welfare Committee.  Additionally she handles government relations for the PRCA relating to animal issues leading to the defeat of numerous bans on rodeo.  In addition to her work with the PRCA, Cindy networks with many other animal use industries and works to educate the public on animal welfare issues.  She has authored many articles on the subject of animal rights and animal welfare and offers presentations on the topic at conferences. She serves as the President of the Animal Welfare Council, Vice President of the National Animal Interest Alliance and serves on the Colorado Horse Council Board.  Additionally, she is a member of the Public Policy Committee for the American Quarter Horse Association and as a Board Member for the Colorado Unwanted Horse Alliance.  Cindy is a graduate of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. Prior to moving to Colorado, she served as the Executive Director for the Miss Rodeo California Pageant.

 The AWC primarily represents rodeo organizations including the PRCA (the sanctioning body for U.S. rodeo, based in Colorado Springs, Colorado) and the Women’s Professional Rodeo Asssociation, but also the American Association of Equine Practiioners (AAEP), the American Horse Council (an adjunct of the AAEP), the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), the California Cattlemen’s Association, Carriage Operators of North America, Ringling Brothers circus and Americans for Medical Progress (AMP).  AMP is itself a “front” organization which represents drug and animal testing industries and has a Pfizer executive on its Board. (Sourcewatch report, footnotes omitted).
In a keynote presentation to an 2011 Annual General Meeting of the Canadian Quarter Horse Association (CQHA) in Ontario, Canada, Schonholtz issued a call to action in which she outlined what she calls “Animal Welfare vs. Animal Rights,” the latter described by her as the domain of “true animal rights extremists” and animals rights “terrorists” whom Schonholtz believes to have a “vegan agenda” with the ultimate aim of outlawing all use of animals by humans, including companionship and horseback showing, riding and driving.  Schonholtz advises proponents of horse slaughter to refuse to negotiate with “activists who want to ban our way of life,” to “back your claims” with “documented information from reliable sources, veterinarians, universities or other sources,” and to develop relationships with legislators and other policy makers.

On July 7, 2009, the GAO was asked by the Senate Appropriations Committee to study the issue of horse slaughter in the U.S..  The House passed its version of the Agriculture Appropriations bill, H.R. 2997 on July 9; the Senate passed its amended version of H.R. 2997 on August 4. Differences were reconciled through a conference committee comprising members from the House and Senate appropriations committees, and the request to the GAO followed.

July 7, 2009.  Horse Welfare.—The Committee directs the Government Accountability Office [GAO] to conduct an investigation on the status of horse welfare in this country as it relates to the cessation of horse slaughter operations. In particular, the Committee believes that GAO should consider, at least, how the horse industry has responded to the closure of U.S. horse slaughter facilities in terms of both the numbers of horse sales, exports, adoptions, or abandonments; the implications these changes have had on farm income and trade; the extent to which horses in the United States are slaughtered for any purpose; any impacts to State and local governments and animal protection organizations; how the Department oversees the transport of horses destined for slaughter in foreign countries, particularly Canada and Mexico; the manner in which the Department coordinates with the Department of the Interior and State governments to assist them in identifying, holding and transporting unwanted horses for foreign export; and general conclusions regarding the welfare of horses as a result of a ban on horse slaughter for human consumption. The Committee expects a report in this investigation by March 1, 2010.

On December 8, 2009, Keith Kline, the Director of Industry Relations for the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), expressed confidence that the outcome of the GAO study (that had not yet been undertaken) would support the AAEP’s position on horse slaughter.  “Hopefully, the study results will provide congressional leaders facts on the realities of the issue that will aid them in crafting legislation to aid the horse industry in dealing with the ever increasing number of unwanted horses.”

A September, 2010, report entitled “Horse Slaughter Prevention Bills and Issues” by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), provides an overview of the issue:

In 2006 two Texas plants and one in Illinois slaughtered nearly 105,000 horses for human food, mainly for European and Asian consumers. In 2007, court action effectively closed the Texas plants, and a state ban in Illinois closed that plant. Meanwhile, activists have continued to press Congress for a federal ban. Lawmakers have prohibited the use of funds or user fees for inspection of horses for human food in several years’ appropriations measures, including FY2010 (P.L. 111-80). Pending at the start of the second session of the 111th Congress are bills (H.R. 503, S. 727) that would made it a crime to knowingly possess, ship, transport, sell, deliver, or receive any horse, carcass, or horse flesh intended for human consumption.

Also, according to the CRS report,

Nearly 105,000 horses were slaughtered for human food in 2006, all in two foreign-owned Texas plants and a third foreign plant in Illinois, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Virtually all the meat was for export, the largest markets being France, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, Japan, and Mexico. The United States exported more than 17,000 metric tons of horse meat valued at about $65 million in 2006. Most of these horses were raised for other purposes, like riding. Dealers collected them for the plants from auctions, boarding facilities, and elsewhere. Although U.S. horse slaughter had been rising since 2002—before a recent series of court actions closed the three plants—it remained below levels of the 1980s, when more than 300,000 were processed annually in at least 16 U.S. plants.

Although U.S. slaughter has ended for the present, advocates continue to support federal legislation to ban it permanently. They—and those who have opposed a permanent ban—also express concern about the shipment of more U.S. horses to Canada and Mexico, where plants can still slaughter them for food.

The CRS report notes that federal law has never banned or prohibited the slaughter of horses for meat but does provide minimum standards for the process, including that the horses be “unconscious prior to slaughter:”

U.S. horse slaughter plants were long subject to the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) of 1906, as amended (21 U.S.C. 601 et seq.), which requires USDA to inspect all cattle, sheep, swine, goats, and equines slaughtered and processed into products for human food. This act, administered by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), aims to ensure that meat and meat products from these animals are safe, wholesome, and properly labeled. FSIS safety inspection is mandatory, and most costs must be covered by appropriated funds, except for overtime and holiday periods. Meat inspectors also are charged with enforcing the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (7 U.S.C. 1901 et seq.), requiring that livestock (but not poultry) be rendered unconscious prior to slaughter.

The report stated “Horses often had to be shipped long distances to reach the few U.S. plants that, until 2007, were slaughtering them.”

The three Belgian-owned horse slaughter plants in the U.S. closed in 2007 but the proponents of horse slaughter who would like to bring horse slaughter back to the U.S., cite as one “concern” for horses is that they are now shipped “long distances” to Canada and Mexico to be slaughtered in Belgian-owned facilities there.  Obviously, this concern is as phony as the concern about “unintended consequences” and “unwanted horses,” and will ultimately taste of ashes.

Horse doctors, heal yourselves.

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