Open Letter to the AAEP
Open Letter to the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP): Time to Set the Record Straight on Horse Slaughter, Responsible Ownership and the Myth of the “Unwanted Horse”
The AAEP will soon convene its 59th Annual Convention in Nashville, Tennessee. According to the Convention schedule, one topic to be covered is “Slaughter Horse Transport.” In language taken directly from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Animal And Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) guidelines, the AAEP instructs its members, “As an accredited veterinarian, one of your many roles and responsibilities is to inspect horses, including horses intended for processing, and sign documents allowing them to travel.”
Horses “intended for” slaughter, according to the circular reasoning of the AAEP’s Unwanted Horse Coalition, are “unwanted horses,” and slaughter is a “necessary” and “humane” solution to the “problem” of “unwanted horses.” The AAEP claims it coined the phrase “Unwanted Horse” in 2005, to describe an “unintended consequence” to “horse welfare” due to the closing of U.S. horse slaughter plants.
Except that the plants did not close until 2007, the AAEP did not coin the phrase “Unwanted Horse,” and the predicament of the “unwanted horse” is a fiction.
The current leadership of the AAEP needs to set the record straight.
The phrase “Unwanted Horse” was coined in 2003 by the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), in its lobbying memorandum entitled “Talking Points on Legislation Banning the Processing of Horses for Human Consumption.”
The 2003 memo, circulated by the AQHA to lobby against the “American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (H.R. 857),” discussed “twelve points” supporting horse slaughter, and concluded that “critical issues are Unwanted Horses, Owner Responsibility, and Animal Welfare.” (North MS, Bailey D, 14th Annual World Food and Agribusiness Forum, 2004, citing “(AQHA) Talking Points on Legislation Banning the Processing of Horses for Human Consumption. The American Quarter Horse Association. 2003.”)
The North/Bailey paper was originally a rank undergraduate thesis proposed in November 2003 by Michael Shane North, a student at the time in Utah State University’s (USU’s) Department of Applied Economics. North’s thesis (“I’m So Hungry I Could Eat A Horse! The Estimated Economic Impact on the United States and European Union Resulting from a U.S. Ban on Horse Slaughter for Human Consumption”) was an attempt to show the “economic consequences for the horse industry in the United States and the horse meat market in Europe” if horse slaughter was banned in the U.S.
North relied heavily on the AQHA’s memo defining the “unwanted horse” to include foundered, lame, blind and injured horses, but also horses that are “breeding failures,” “slow race horses, “unaccomplished show horses,” the foals of “Premarin mares” and federally-protected wild horses, among others. Many, if not most, of the horses in the latter categories would be very young (including newborn foals) healthy, fit horses.
North’s “I Could Eat A Horse” was later cleaned-up (some) and expanded into a paper. USU Professor DeeVon Bailey signed on as co-author, and presented it to the 14th Annual World Food and Agribusiness Forum in 2004.
The same year, at the AAEP’s 50th Annual Convention, held December 2004 in Denver, Colorado, veterinarian Nat T. Messer presented his own thinly-supported pro-slaughter paper, “Plight of The Unwanted Horse.” Messer used the “unwanted horse” phrase without specific attribution, but cited “I Could Eat A Horse” as one (of only four) general sources in support of his pro-slaughter argument.
The other three sources were a 2004 Letter to the Editor of “The Horse” magazine, a 1999 APHIS report and a 1998 USDA report. Barely a work of scholarship, “Plight” was nevertheless enough to springboard the “unwanted horse” slogan from the AQHA to the veterinary community, and eventually the public.
Messer later deleted the citation to “I Could Eat A Horse” from his “Plight,” thereby removing an important ink in the chain of causation from the AQHA’s 2003 “”Unwanted Horse” memo to the AAEP’s 2005 “Unwanted Horse Coalition.”
The original AQHA memo was also “disappeared” from the ethernet, as far as I can tell, but the talking points were paraphrased in a letter from the Legislative Director of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) to its members encouraging them to oppose any federal ban on horse slaughter “due to the precedent it would set for the banning of other meats . . .”
Federal legislation seeking to ban horse slaughter died in Congress. Three U.S. horse slaughter plants have since been granted a right of inspection by the USDA. The “Unwanted Horse” slogan proved it has legs.
The AAEP did not coin the phrase “Unwanted Horse” in 2005 to address horse welfare. The AQHA made the phrase up out of whole cloth in 2003 to advance its members’ narrow economic interest in over-producing horses. The NCBA rode the coat tails of the AQHA’s lobbying to protect its own members’ broader economic interest in producing meat. And the AAEP sought to give the phrase the “medical community’s” stamp of legitimacy by claiming it as it’s own. In that, it has wildly succeeded, with most media reports citing the “unwanted horse” fiction as fact.
Critical then, to come clean, AAEP leaders, as the 2013 AAEP Convention draws near, and the specter of horse slaughter returns to the United States.
American Equine Counsel
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