AQHA President Peter J Cofrancesco III, of Sparta, New Jersey sat down exclusively with GoHorseShow.com and discussed the very controversial issue of horse slaughter in a question and answer session. We would like to thank him for taking the time to answer questions on such a hot button and emotional issue that directly effects many people in our industry.
Q: What is AQHA's stance on slaughter houses in the US?
A: AQHA supports humane processing at USDA regulated and inspected slaughter houses in the United States as an option for owners who might need to use this avenue for horses that might become unwanted or otherwise unusable.
Q: What is your response to Congress lifting the ban on horse slaughter?
A: AQHA and its Washington, D.C. based lobbyist worked with members of Congress to keep the rider that prohibited USDA inspection of horsemeat from making it into the Agriculture Appropriations Bill. The ban that occurred as a result of that rider had many unintended consequences that AQHA warned about and that were highlighted in a US Government Accountability Office study on the effects of the slaughter ban.
Q: What is AQHA doing specifically to help alleviate the overbreeding of quarter horses?
A: When individuals say there is an overbreeding of American Quarter Horses, they need to be able to quantify and qualify exactly what that is. Because there are more American Quarter Horses than any other breed does not mean there is an overbreeding of American Quarter Horses. What AQHA is focusing on is promoting and educating people on responsible breeding so that when horses are bred, the owner has a goal and purpose in mind for the resulting offspring. That is what the Association’s role should be. What most people don’t understand is that in many instances, AQHA cannot legally restrict a person’s right to breed or restrain their trade when it comes to breeding. AQHA can and should, however, be a leader and provide educational resources and information so that potential breeders can make the best possible decisions for their programs to alleviate the potential of horses becoming unwanted.
Q: Is AQHA doing anything specific to help rescue programs that are overcrowded with abandoned horses?
A: AQHA has instituted programs to help keep horses from going to rescue and retirement facilities and is investigating a way through its Full Circle Program, that it might facilitate some adoptions of horses. Ironically, overcrowding at rescue facilities is something AQHA warned about with respect to the slaughter ban, which was underscored by the Government Accountability Office study.
Q: What would you like to say to the animal rights activists that are very upset about this reversal?
A: The Association’s position on slaughter has never been about anything but the welfare of the horse. We have stated before – slaughter by its very nature – is not something people like to think or talk about it. But in a federally regulated facility where strict guidelines on humane care and handling are adhered to, it is a far better end-of-life option than neglect, abuse or abandonment. People are going to say and believe what they want to, we recognize that, and while some like to mischaracterize AQHA’s position and make accusations that simply aren’t true, the Association has never been for anything but the welfare of the horse and that includes a humane euthanasia at a processing facility, which as a last resort is preferred over simply abandoning a domesticated horse.
Proponents of the slaughter ban like to characterize AQHA as being greedy and not being for the benefit of the horse. That couldn’t be further from the truth. AQHA members are horse lovers, and so are our employees and members of our governing board. Horses are the reason for our existence.
Q: Do you think the removal of the ban will help raise the value of our horses?
A: Economics certainly comes into play and when the base price of horses was removed, it created an unintended effect that devalued many horses. Other options for dealing with unwanted horses can be costly, and the last thing anyone would want to risk is having a horse neglected or abused because an owner might not have all the options available to him or her.
Q: Some animal rights people would probably say that lifting the ban will only increase the amount of unnecessary breeding and irresponsible horse ownership. What is your response to this comment?
A: That argument simply doesn’t make sense and again, one need only look at the economics of raising and properly caring for a horse to realize having domestic processing reinstituted does not lead to unnecessary breeding. With the ban in place – and unless and until – a domestic horse processing facility opens, the welfare of the horse will be in jeopardy. Horses will travel outside of the United States to facilities beyond the control of the USDA or any domestic group. Horses will travel longer distances and once outside the US, their care and handling is subject to some other country’s laws…or lack thereof.
Q: Do you think this lifting of the ban will improve horse welfare?
A: AQHA believes that reinstituting domestic horse processing will improve the economics of the horse industry by reintroducing a base price for horses and it will give owners one more option to have available should they need it. That option is preferred to any horse suffering because of abuse, abandonment or neglect.
Q: Do you have an alliance with the United Horseman who are currently looking for options of opening up slaughterhouses for horses in some western states?
A: AQHA does not have an alliance with United Horsemen although AQHA and leadership within United Horsemen have worked together on the issue of the unwanted horse.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
A: All of us have to realize that not all horses, and not all horse owners, are in similar circumstances. Sometimes horses become dangerous, or their owners – for a variety of reasons – become unable or unwilling to care for them.
Sending a horse to a processing facility is unthinkable to many, and we respect that feeling. But for others, it is the best option. AQHA recognizes that the processing of unwanted horses is currently a necessary aspect of the equine industry, because it provides a humane euthanasia alternative for horses that might otherwise continue a life of discomfort and pain, or inadequate care or abandonment.
On the surface, AQHA’s position might appear to be pro-slaughter, but it’s not that cut and dried. AQHA supports other choices for unwanted horses, including euthanasia by injection, life in an equine retirement facility, donation to a college or university, or simply being turned out to pasture. Further, the Association encourages responsible ownership practices and management that will reduce the number of unwanted horses.
While AQHA does not favor processing as a way of dealing with unwanted horses or an owner’s equine end-of-life decision, the Association does recognize that both leading U.S. veterinary groups (the American Association of Equine Practitioners and the American Veterinary Medical Association) have stated that the penetrating captive bolt used in processing plants is the most humane method of euthanasia.
One of the major issues in the slaughter debate centers around personal property rights. AQHA believes that allowing animal-rights advocates to determine how we manage our horses opens the door to letting them put other limits on what we can or cannot do with our horses (i.e. transportation, trail riding, racing, showing and overall care). AQHA respects the right of horse owners to manage their personal property as they choose, so long as the welfare of the American Quarter Horse is paramount to all other concerns.
AQHA is about the horse and about educating owners on options they have. It has never been about sensationalizing a very emotional issue.
Q: Thank you, Peter. We sincerely appreciate your time.
A: You're welcome.
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Ok....Just something to think about. Has anyone over heard of living above their means? Counting your chickens b4 they hatch? Preparing for the future, which by the way, is Never certain? Can a man/woman ride more than 1 horse? Why do some people believe because they have acreage that they should own 20, 30 or a 100 horses? Why do they not practice responsible breeding? Oh I get it! You have plenty of room for horses! Now it is drought season...Not enough food or water for horses. Hmmmmm....Let's send them to slaughter cuz we can make a couple hundred bucks! Sad....and very, very ignorant! It is one thing when someone falls on hard times with 1 or 2 horses. When you fall on hard times with more horses than you can ride....You're just plain stupid!
We have three horses, one is a Quarter Horse. I have been lucky enough to have had him in my life for the past 16 years...he is now 24. I hope we have many more years together. Next year, I will have to inform AQHA that he is still alive, as they consider horses over 25 to be deceased. Of course, I won't be doing that. Because of their strong pro slaughter stance, I have not renewed my membership for several years.
I could not believe my eyes, when I read "AQHA and its Washington, D.C. based lobbyist worked with members of Congress to keep the rider that prohibited USDA inspection of horsemeat from making it into the Agriculture Appropriations Bill."
I would be livid knowing that a portion of my membership dues was used to pay a LOBBYIST to "work with members of Congress".
It is dangerous to simply view the registration statistics, or the slaughter statistics- forgetting that these are real animals that experience fear and pain. Horses cannot be slaughtered humanely...
I don't believe slaughter should be an end of life "option" at all. Responsible horse ownership and breeding programs should be the goal. If a "breeder" is sending horses for slaughter, I would have to seriously question the qualifications of those that are responsible for the breeding program.
While I hate the thought of horses being slaughtered, I also cannot stomach current alternatives such as abandonment, starvation, neglect or shipping horses to Canada or Mexico to have them slaughtered. Thank you AQHA for taking the stand.
Last year, 176,000 horses were shipped to our borders to be slaughtered. Ten years ago, only 25,000 were shipped to the borders out of 85,000 going to slaughter. Until we as a country can find an alternative and cost effective ways to end the life of these animals, we need to have facilities in place, in the US, to deal with this.
Create avenues in this country to get the meat to zoos and animal shelters in the form of repurposed food. By closing the loop, we can assist in establishing good venues for this path.
Today in the NW, you can't even give sound, healthy, young horses away. I will add that these horses are typically backyard breeders, breeding mix or horse of questionable utility ~ i.e. 14H horses (not to snub the smaller horse, but the taller horses seem to find homes quicker)..just saying....
Work on the breeders, assist the rescues. We are scrambeling to find avenues for all the Kill PEN or Free HORSES now, what if there were another 176K added to that amount? Can we all absorb them? I know I can't, and I don't see Oregon being able to. We've got 50,000 mustangs sitting in feed lots in middle america, more mustangs than are out on range. Mustang management is taking $76 million in taxpayer that's 7 percent of the BLM's budget and three times what the agency spends on the 211 endangered native species that inhabit the land it manages. And they aren't even native.
I could go on, but why don't we all sterlize our mares before we sell her down the road, and offer free castrations to all the yearlings in our communities....I could go on, but the discussion needs to change from adding to the problem by banning slaughter, to finding both local and national solutions to overpopulation so that slaughter houses don't need to exist. However, we haven't done it with our dogs and cats yet, so don't hold your breath.
Horses are typically companion animals similar to cats and dogs and are NOT bred for slaughter - sheep, cattle, chickens , pigs etc. are typically NOT companion animals and are typically bred for slaughter, thus having a regulated medical history to qualify for USDA slaughter requirements.
Anytime anyone or any organization takes a stance as ridiculous as this---and tries to make it sound like they are "all about the welfare of the horse"---well, all you have to do is step back and see who has to profit by repealing the horse slaughter ban. It certainly is not beneficial to any horse. Slaughter is NOT humane and it is NOT euthanasia. The word "euthanasia" means "good death." Going to the slaughter house cannot be described in ANY way as a good death. Stressful from beginning to end---and really horrifying in the end. Anyone who thinks that going to slaughter is a nice, good ending for a horse should put it on their own Bucket List. Good grief. Reversing the ban just means more money for breeders who are over breeding--and more money for the slaughter industry. And yes, the Quarter Horse business can take the blame for a large amount of their "culls" ending up in the slaughter house. Shame on them for calling themselves advocates for the wellbeing of horses. I love the American Quarter Horse---but not a fan of the AQHA. Not anymore.
Please stop trying to BS the public, state the truth.
Stated in the interview: "While AQHA does not favor processing as a way of dealing with unwanted horses or an owner’s equine end-of-life decision, the Association does recognize that both leading U.S. veterinary groups (the American Association of Equine Practitioners and the American Veterinary Medical Association) have stated that the penetrating captive bolt used in processing plants is the most humane method of euthanasia." Sorry, but this is either: A. not true or B. a bald faced lie ...depending on what you know in advance. I'm a licensed veterinarian, and an experienced horsewoman. What the AVMA DOES say, is that the captive bolt is an "acceptable" means of euthanasia (not the most humane) when used with proper head restraint. NOT by itself, and there, as the bard says, is the rub. Slaughter facilities, by their very nature, simply cannot provide proper head restraint. The horses are not haltered, many of them cannot be haltered, and the containment chute is not able to "still" the equine head. Attempts to do so would only panic the already nervous animals more. The only humane death available is true euthanasia, and that has nothing to do with a slaughterhouse. Please, stop the "spin doctoring", and get real. We aren't stupid. We are grown ups.
All you pro slaughter people who are offering to send horses to anyone who will rescue them..sure you are. Pleading for someone to take the horses because YOU are working so hard and NO ONE is offering to adopt these horses. You pretend to be a rescue person..you are NOT. You are so transparent..and false. Shame on you. Will you stop at nothing?
I am appalled at the irresponsibility of the AQHA. This sickens me. At least 70% of the people in this country are AGAINST horse slaughter and for good reason. View the videos of what actually happens in a horse slaughter plant and explain to me how that is humane? Those of us who are against horse slaughter don't need to watch these videos of hell on earth, but those of you who are so greed-driven that you have lost your humanity should be forced to watch what you support. The AQHA is a sham and a shame.