The Arabian Horse Association has provided a personal letter from AHA secretary Jan Decker outlining her own sentiments in explaining why she believes the AHA was moved to support the re-establishment of horse slaughter in the United States. This letter was provided by Glenn T. Petty, executive vice president of the AHA, and was also published on The Jurga Report.
A personal note: Ms Decker is so miserably uninformed on the issues regarding horse-slaughter, the idea that anyone on the Board of Directors would allow this statement, (rife with outright fabrications, inaccuracies and her personal opinions) to be used to explain the AHA’s position is enough to make one’s mind reel.
Here is the complete text of Ms. Decker’s letter (AHAMS responses in RED):
Decker: I will not attempt to speak for all of the Board members, (however Mr Petty has confirmed he considers your explanation representative of the Board members’ reasoning behind their endorsement of slaughter…)but I want to share my thoughts with you related to this issue. I have had a passion for horses all of my life (and I mean all my life) and I share your concerns especially for the welfare of, not just Arabians, but all horses in the United States.
Unfortunately, time has proved that the discontinuation of equine slaughter houses in the United States was a government action that was meant to be good thing, but turned out to be bad thing for the welfare of a lot of horses, in my opinion, from what I have observed since the inception of slaughter house closings.
I am still struggling with the concept of a horse breed organization going to the American Horse Council trustees meeting this summer in the position of condoning horse euthanization aka slaughter.
AHAMS: The concept of a breed organization supporting slaughter is in fact unconscionable. As a breed organization, the AHA has absolutely NO BUSINESS endorsing slaughter — this endorsement is not in line with the Mission of the organization.
To be clear: euthanasia is NOT ‘also known as’ slaughter.
Decker: However, the facts of starving horses standing in squalid conditions because owners can not or will not provide feed due to current economic conditions is horrible. Trucks hauling loads of debilitated horses thousands of miles to get across the U.S. Borders south to Mexico or north to Canada is not a pleasant thought.
AHAMS: Starving, neglected horses exist even when slaughter is a convenient, legal, and available option. The Canadian ASPCA, acting on numerous complaints about dead and dying horses on a property near Edmonton, AB, found Axel Hinz-Schleuter and Dale Huber living on a ranch with 100 Arabian horses in profound stages of emaciation. Carcasses of over 20 horses that had died apparently from starvation lay around the farm. Not only is horse slaughter legal in Canada, but the farm was only 75 miles from the Lacombe, AB slaughter facility. So, despite the fact that horse slaughter was legal, available, and convenient, Huber and Hinz-Schleuter allowed horses to starve.
Decker: I have been told herds of ‘wild’ horses out west in open range are growing greatly in numbers as owners haul their horses out to open range and open the trailer doors and abandon their animals. There are countless tales of horrible events all across the USA related to equines that I can not go into here of horses just “dumped” on rural roads and other stories of horror.
The state forest/parks here in Indiana now have adopted the position of counting the horses in a trailer when they come into a park to be sure the people do not leave horses behind in the park turned loose to fend for themselves. Local fairgrounds with horse stalls are patrolling them to insure no one has broken into the locked fairground stalls and left behind horses in those facility’s stalls.
AHAMS: To verify the above statement, we called the Indiana Parks department on August 19th, 2009 and spoke with John Bergman, the Assistant Director of Parks and Reservoirs for the State of Indiana. He said that in the 20+ years he has worked for the Parks department, he has never known of horses being ‘abandoned’ in any of the state parks. He stated that Brown County, home to one of the largest horse-campgrounds in the Midwest, does charge a per-head admission to the park, but this has nothing to do with making sure people don’t leave a horse behind. He then stated that there is absolutely “no policy of counting the horses in a trailer when they come into a park to be sure the people do not leave horses behind in the park, turned loose to fend for themselves”.
John Seifert, State Forester with Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry, was quoted last year as saying “I can assure you that there are no abandoned horses, or to our knowledge have ever been abandoned horses on Indiana state forests.”
The stories of horses abandoned across the US are repeated endlessly in newspaper articles and on the Internet, until with repetition, though unsubstantiated, they become accepted as ‘fact’. That such a story is repeated here serves to confirm that the information used to support the board’s decision to pass this motion was based not on fact, but on rumor, propaganda, and conjecture.
Decker: One suggestion I heard of recently that has come up is a ‘Euthanasia Clinic’ and I have been solicited to donate money to such a ‘Clinic’. I can not visualize that picture of a lot of old, crippled, starved, or just plain unwanted horses hauled into one location to be ‘put to sleep’ at a cost of $200 – $500 per animal. Would they be buried on site? Would a winch truck be there to pull all the bodies up into a big ‘dead wagon’ truck? I just can’t envision this happening with a lot of dead horses lying around after such an event.
AHAMS: A visit to the Nor-Cal Rescue site attests to the fact that they are not so callous as imagined here. Horses brought in are evaluated by staff and a veterinarian to determine if their condition offers a good quality of life, making adoption an option. Also, euthanasia services are free as funds allow. If there are insufficient funds for free euthanasia it becomes low cost clinic where horse owners pay a total of $125.
Decker: It is never easy to euthanize a horse anytime, but when the suffering does not validate continued life it is necessary. I had the veterinarian euthanize a horse on this farm last Saturday and then buried it with a back hoe. This old mare had some age on her, a thyroid condition and had grass foundered and her system was shutting down, we had doctored her for a month and she was not getting any better.
Many counties/states do not allow horses/livestock to be buried and cremation costs about $1500.00 so I am told, thank goodness, we still have space to bury them on our farm and can do it legally in our county.
AHAMS: To use carcass disposal as the reason to re-open slaughterhouses is ludicrous. Horses regularly die a natural death, or must be euthanized and owners remove the body either by burial, rendering, cremation, or disposal in a landfill. They don’t deny their horse a merciful death, or surrender a beloved companion to a kill buyer because it will be inconvenient to dispose of the body.
Decker: Animal slaughter is necessary to obtain meat for consumption by humans and if the cattle, hog, chicken, sheep, goat meat slaughter houses can be regulated and maintained using humane methods to kill these animals, there is no reason humane standards of treatment and euthanasia can not be met for horses even though not for meat to be consumed by humans.
AHAMS: Evidence from federally-inspected slaughterhouses around the country shows that due to increased production speeds and industry deregulation, violations of Humane Slaughter Act regulations are commonplace. The most brutal of these violations is the common occurrence of inaccurate and ineffective stunning which does not render the animals unconscious yet still forces them to move down the line through the slaughter. There are also numerous other violations such as dragging, beating, excessive electric prodding, and abusive treatment of disabled animals. These illegal practices happen every day at USDA-inspected plants across the country. Slaughterhouses exist to make a profit, not to address welfare concerns.
Decker: Yes, there are rescue facilities around the country and here in Indiana. I had a college student/boarder here at my stable that was unable to maintain paying her pasture board here at my location so she “donated” her two fat healthy horses to a “rescue” place in southern Indiana. These were a palomino quarter type horse and an Arabian gelding (without papers) trained to ride, sound, and good looking horses. She had to pay some amount of money to the rescue location to take these horses off her hands and she still owes me $1700.00 in back board. The “Rescue” site would not take her horses until I agreed to let her make payments on what she owed to me. And this is just one story of thousands.
AHAMS: It is naïve to believe that Rescues should blithely act as convenient dumping grounds for horses. A good Rescue ensures that they will also be able to provide adequately for the animals in their care.
Decker: In conclusion, am I in favor of regulated horse slaughter, yes, if the alternative is mistreatment of horses. Regulated being the key word here. Am I in favor of starving, mistreated, abandoned horses of any breed absolutely not, but people must face reality even though it can be ugly at times. Life is just not fair.
AHAMS: This conclusion implies that there are there only two options – slaughter or mistreatment – this is a simplistic point of view. Mistreatment of horses occurs with the same regularity regardless of whether slaughterhouses are an option or not. Mistreatment must be addressed by enforcement of anti-cruelty laws in already in place.
No one is in favor of starving or mistreating horses, but slaughter does nothing to address the root cause of these ills. The reality is that with horse ownership comes personal responsibility for their welfare. We cannot be absolved of our responsibility for those in our care by lamenting the unfairness of life.
Decker: Do not judge any of us to harshly, I believe we really do have the best interest of the horses in our hearts. It was not an easy position to take.”
Jan Decker, owner of horses for 64 years
AHAMS: It is questionable whether endorsing re-opening slaughterhouses in the US is truly in the best interest of horses. That is a personal issue for members to decide for themselves. To act in the best interest of the horse as a breed organization is to provide and promote activities involving the Arabian and Half Arabian, which in turn creates interest in, and increases the value and demand for the breed.
If there is ever a question whether to choose a particular course of action, look back on the mission statement and see if the proposal is consistent with it. The Board’s position would have been clear had they chosen to follow AHA’s definition of purpose and primary objectives, the Mission statement. Their decision to take this position is an ill-considered action that does nothing to inspire support and ongoing commitment, nor does it motivate those who are connected to the organization.