AQHA President Discusses Lift of Ban on Horse Slaughter
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"The Association’s position on slaughter has never been about anything but the welfare of the horse," AQHA President Peter J Cofrancesco told GoHorseShow

AQHA President Peter J Cofrancesco III, of Sparta, New Jersey sat down exclusively with 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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Lifted Ban Means Horse Slaughter Will Likely Resume by Spring
50 comments for this article Reverse Comment Order
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Added: May 23, 2013. 08:46 AM CDT
Sen. Landrieu
The Senator of Louisiana explained you can euthanise rather than slaughter. Horses are full of chemicals not for humans and with all the cancer and variety of illnesses we hear everyday, it should be illegal from the Health Department to slaughter and sell horsemeat. And where is the Health Department on this subject? I wish someone would ask the health department what are their thoughts if they care at all? But we all must fight and Ban this barbaric cruelty to our American Horses.
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Added: May 22, 2013. 11:44 PM CDT
If you hate slaughter support your local horse rescues!
Why is their so little support for rescues from the horse registries, breeders, horse men and horse woman? I have owned a 501c3 rescue since 1995 and have never been supported by anyone bringing an unwanted horse to me. I pay for my rescues out of my own pocket and therefore must limit the number of horses I can save. This seems very wrong to me. If rescues where supported by this industry then more horses would not have to go to slaughter, but I see no other way to deal with the huge number of unwanted or old horses nobody wants. If you hate the idea of horse slaughter then start supporting the people who care for your old, lame and unwanted horses. I do not understand the mindset that an unrideable horse is a useless horse. Every horse on my property is a wonderful companion, pet or therapy horse for the people who now care for them. They still have so much to give. Animals are a lifetime commitment. Stop throwing them away just because you cannot ride them anymore. If you must part with your horse then at least take it to a rescue and support that rescue with time or finances to care for the animal that you no longer want to care for. This would change the horse world for the better. It may not eliminate the slaughter issue, but it would sure save a lot more lives and give the horse owner more options. If our rescue would have regular financial help we could do so much more.
Frustrated Rescuer
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Added: May 22, 2013. 10:06 PM CDT
AQHA wants to help politicians poison foreigners
It is truly a sad day in the united states when politicians, rich cattlemen, and foreign investors have to debate if they should knowingly and intentionally, poison the unsuspecting people of foreign nations! I can't.. for the life of me..understand why horse slaughter has to ever be in debate at all! our politicians, big rich cattlemen, the over-breeders, and FOREIGN investors, have to debate if they should knowingly and intentionally poison thousands of unaware
men, women, and children, of foreign nations...or not to poison them! really? if foreign nations want to poison their own people for a buck...then let them! we all know horse slaughter is the most horrific form of animal torture, and must be stopped! the biggest problem in this country is NO ONE is held accountable for their actions or in actions! if you own or buy a horse, then you know the expenses involved..and your obligation to care for that animal! in this day and age with thousands of people eating organic, going green, and fighting to have gmo's removed from OUR food supply... it has to make you is ONLY about the money! we need to contact foreign media outlets...and have them ask our government...why? the E U has banned horsemeat from the U.S.A.. I wonder what will happen when they finally put 2 & 2 together and realize that they have been eating our tainted horsemeat all along... and our politicians have been turning a knowing blind eye! GOD help our horses and us!
if the EU has banned American horses...the U.S. has banned our horses and deemed it toxic for our human consumption..and the fda has banned horsemeat in our own pets food...since the 70's.. because it sickened and killed our pets...then why the HELL would these people think it's o.k. to poison other foreigners???
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Added: May 22, 2013. 08:00 PM CDT
"humane processing" = SLAUGHTER
Starvation is not the option to slaughter. Horses are starving and neglected because of ignorant, irresponsible humans, not a lack of slaughter houses. Some breeders want to use horse slaughter as a disposal. Kill buyers just want to sell horse flesh. They don't care where the horse comes from. There is so much deception and cruelty surrounding horse slaughter. Not to mention the criminal activity and pollution that go with horse slaughter plants. Not all horses that stay out of the slaughter pipeline are starved or abandoned. That is a ridiculous notion.
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Added: May 22, 2013. 05:52 PM CDT
Novel Idea....
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!
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Added: May 22, 2013. 05:48 PM CDT
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.
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Added: May 22, 2013. 05:39 PM CDT
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.
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Added: May 22, 2013. 03:30 PM CDT
Equines & cattle NOT the same
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.
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Added: May 22, 2013. 02:14 PM CDT
Sad reality for America's breed
According to the USDA the majority of horses going to slaughter are Quarter Horses (70%). What a sad fate for the all-American breed.
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Added: February 25, 2013. 11:01 PM CDT
Follow the money
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.
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