One of the things about the slaughter wars that has bothered me the most is the assertion that the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) was in support of horse slaughter. It was disturbing to me because I could not understand how an association of people who presumably want to help animals, could underwrite something that has proven to cause suffering. So, as usual, I got to digging around a bit. Instead of things becoming clear for me, they became very muddy indeed. It would seem that the AVMA may be more about the money than the animals. At any rate their support of slaughter is weak at best.
According to their website, the AVMA they aren’t as 100% pro-slaughter as Slaughterhouse Sue and Captain Douchebag would have us believe. Here is a direct quote off their FAQ as to their stance on slaughter:
“Until suitable short- and long-term solutions to address the welfare issues associated with unwanted horses are in place, we believe that none of the options for dealing with unwanted horses – including slaughter – should be eliminated. We would prefer to see horse slaughter cease in the U.S. when and if there are NO MORE unwanted horses to justify its continued existence, but that’s not realistic at this time.”
So, they are not in support of the ban on it, but they have placed some heavy qualifiers on things as you will see if you go through their FAQ page that I have linked. They admit that basically the same number of horses have been sent to slaughter after the ban as were being slaughtered before. If you follow that logic, slaughter did not eliminate or even lessen the problem of unwanted horses and little has changed since the ban. They also go on to say that enforcing abuse and neglect laws can be difficult. If that is the case, how on earth do they propose that they will be able to monitor and enforce humane practices in slaughter houses when they weren’t able to accomplish this before? They have a lot of information and opinions on their site and it would probably bore the hell out of people to rehash it all here, so I’m going to leave a link to their FAQ.
So what about this AVMA that won’t support a ban on slaughter and who are they? It turns out that they primarily are made up of vets that treat companion animals. On their own website, this blurb can be found:
“In addition to caring for the nation’s more than 70 million dogs, 80 million cats, 11 million birds, 7 million pet horses, and millions of other companion animals, veterinarians serve in medical research, prevention of bio- and agroterrorism, and food safety and contribute greatly to scientific breakthroughs throughout the world.”
Notice the wording of `PET’ horses. Not cattle, not hogs, not livestock, but PET horses. Even they admit that the classification of horses as pets or livestock is a grey area. It should be noted that Dr. Ron DeHaven , the executive vice president was in charge of puppy mill inspections for the USDA during a time that citations were very rarely issued. The AVMA does not have a great track record of backing up their stances it would seem. Even with monitoring the soring of Tennessee Walking Horses, of which they are very much opposed, they have been relatively ineffectual at ending this practice stating `budget constraints’. I don’t know about you, but I can foresee them saying `budget constraints’ if slaughter houses reopen and it comes out that nothing has changed.
Thankfully, we have Veterinarians for Equine Welfare. They have elected to take an anti-slaughter stance and join in the fray on behalf of the horses. Their website www.vetsforequinewelfare.org has quite a bit of information on it. Their `about’ page states:
“Veterinarians for Equine Welfare (VEW) was created by a group of veterinarians* from all disciplines who are concerned about misinformation being transmitted to the public regarding the national debate on horse slaughter. We believe that our profession’s integrity is being undermined by the hard line stance of a few misinformed individuals whose opinions have been swayed by unfounded logistical concerns as opposed to what should be a primary concern for animal welfare. Veterinarians should put animal welfare at the top of their priorities, not relegate it to an also-ran concern.”
I may be biased, but this sounds more along the lines of the stance I would expect any vet to take. This is a relatively new organization born out of a genuine concern for the welfare of all horses. They assert that equating slaughter with humane euthanasia is unethical and they do have video clips of both on their site. “It is the united opinion of VEW that horse slaughter is inhumane, and that it is an unacceptable way to end a horse’s life under any circumstance“ If you still don’t believe that, I suggest you do watch some of their short video clips and decide for yourself how easy it is to accurately place a captive bolt on a frightened horse.
While the FAQ on the AVMA speaks in generalities and doesn’t really come right down to the ugly realities, the VEW’s white paper goes into detail on why slaughter is inhumane, including the use of the captive bolt. “ According to the AVMA’s own guidelines, the head of the animal to which the captive bolt is being applied must be restrained or still and a highly skilled individual. In the slaughterhouse none of these best case scenarios are in place: the horse is most likely panicked, its head is unrestrained, and the person administering the captive bolt is a low-paid worker who is expected to move horses through the kill line at high speed. Herein lays the controversy surrounding the use of the captive bolt in horse slaughter.” Neither UH or AVMA have bothered to explain to anybody how they plan to address these issues. They just say that they will. Going by how transport for slaughter is being monitored, I’m not buying it.
If you are really interested in reading another viewpoint besides the one endorsed by United Horsemen and Slaughterhouse Sue, please take the time to read the VEW White Paper http://www.vetsforequinewelfare.org/white_paper.php
So, who are you going to believe? VEW or AVMA? My guess is that people will choose whichever one backs up their own agenda as that is human nature. I’ve seen some people say they have become `pro’ because they see no other option to address all the neglected, unwanted and unsuitable horses. They choose to believe that promises will be fulfilled and that slaughter will somehow become humane. I would like those people near the fence to read very carefully what is being promised. Nobody has promised that there will be no suffering. They said there will be MINIMAL suffering. What does that even mean? Is that like being minimally pregnant? For me, any amount of suffering is not acceptable. We have laws in place for cruelty to animals and yet, by opening slaughter houses again, we’re going to make cruelty ok under some circumstances. How is that ok?