Horse euthanasia discussed at forum

A veterinarian talked about the controversy surrounding the issue
Tuesday, August 19, 2008 | 10:46 a.m. CDT; updated 8:39 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, August 20, 2008

COLUMBIA — Community members were invited to hear about the problem of unwanted horses and discuss solutions at a meeting hosted Monday night at the Animal Science Research Center by Tom Lenz, a veterinarian and chairman of the Unwanted Horse Coalition.

Although Lenz said he will not take a side on the issue of horse euthanasia, he hopes these kinds of awareness programs will help people recognize the need to discuss it as a solution.

One of the goals of the coalition is to provide information on life-ending decisions and the need to euthanize rather than neglect unwanted horses. Lenz's opinion is that more people will turn to euthanasia now that Texas and Illinois, the only states that contained plants processing unwanted horses, have banned the practice.

"I think this is going to be hard for veterinarians," Lenz said. "But the difference between you, me and the horse is we look forward to next Christmas, to grand babies and summer vacation. Horses aren't looking down the road a week or a month or a year."

The issue of unwanted horses has been a growing problem, but after the failure of the federal government to pass legislation in 2006 preventing unwanted horses from going to slaughter, solutions to the problem are being discussed at local levels. Missouri has not banned the slaughter of horses, but Texas and Illinois lawmakers put a stop to the practice in 2007, effectively bringing horse slaughter in the United States to a standstill.

During the presentation, Lenz said he thinks the public will never see another processing plant in this country because of "America's love affair with horses" and the desire to find any other solution in lieu of slaughter. The problem with animal rights groups, like the Humane Society of the United States, is that they don't think about other possible solutions, Lenz said. The Humane Society considers slaughter an unnecessary practice and supports anti-slaughter legislation at state and federal levels.

Sheila Short, a board member with the Missouri Equine Council, said after the meeting that opponents of humane slaughter need to avoid thinking of horses as pets.

"I consider it as a direct attack on my personal property rights," Short said.

The idea that there is no humane way to euthanize a horse is foreign to Lenz, who said he's done it himself about a hundred times. He said he doesn't understand how animal rights groups can believe what he does is inhumane.

"As far as animal welfare groups, we're all in the same camp," Lenz said. "But animal rights groups have been more difficult to interact with."

Participants were given the opportunity to ask questions after Lenz's presentation­­. Of the 60 people in attendance, few had anything to say after the hourlong program. But Lenz was able to dispel one myth after a crowd member asked about the gunshot method of euthanizing a horse. Many believe the horse skull is too thick for this method, but Lenz said it's the only way he euthanizes his own horses and explained the proper procedure to the audience.

But regardless of how people feel on the issue, Lenz said he wants people to consider whether it's more humane to let a horse starve than to end its life quickly.

"In the past, we haven't thought about it because we could always just take them to the sales barn, and they went away," Lenz said.


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Marjorie Caruso August 19, 2008 | 9:42 p.m.

"In the past, we haven't thought about it because we could always just take them to the sales barn, and they went away," Lenz said.

Yes, they went away to a horrific journey and then a barbaric death. I guess, out of sight, out of mind and your conscience is clear.

"But regardless of how people feel on the issue, Lenz said he wants people to consider whether it's more humane to let a horse starve than to end its life quickly."

Let me see, do I want to starve to death or do I want to be tortured to death.

Starving one's horse is ILLEGAL and those people need to be put in jail!

Please call your representatives and ask them to co-sponsor HR 6598! Let's end the atrocity that is horse slaughter.

(Report Comment)
Linda Berardo August 20, 2008 | 7:22 a.m.

unwanted... Is that the term for over breeding horses for slaughter? All about money horse slaughter brings in and nobody is fooling anyone, we have the facts and numbers don't lie. As far as starving to death, well many demesticated animals are deserted by their families, when it comes to horses, they need an alternative WHY. What happened to animal abuse laws in this country, ignored for the horse because of the bucks it brings in. I feel like I am talking to mutants. You can not justify a horrendous journey to a slaughter house and bruatally killed for dinner plates in Europe.
Save our horses, Stop the slaughter.

(Report Comment)
K Webers August 20, 2008 | 1:02 p.m.

“The idea that there is no humane way to euthanize a horse is foreign to Lenz, who said he's done it himself about a hundred times. He said he doesn't understand how animal rights groups can believe what he does is inhumane.”

The above statement appears to be out of context. No one supporting a federal ban on horse slaughter has said that there is “no humane way to euthanize a horse”. In fact, euthanasia is an acceptable, preferred end when performed using recognized methods and under controlled circumstances. What is widely recognized is that the horse slaughter industry’s mass production aspects and terror-inducing conditions are at odds with euthanasia, a good death. The slaughter industry’s processes will never equate with euthanasia because of its failure to provide a death that “occurs with minimal pain and distress”. It would be accurate to say that supporters of the ban don’t understand Lenz.

(Report Comment)
Linda Berardo August 20, 2008 | 2:15 p.m.

Horse slaughter will never be "humane." Even the veterinarian who worked for the USDA testified before Congress that the process isn't humane. AVMA stated that the captive bolt gun should not be used on equines unless head restraint could be assured. This is because of the relative narrow forehead of equines, their head shyness and the fact that the brain is set back further than in cattle for which the gun was designed and intended. It is difficult at best for an operator to assure proper placement of the gun.

No slaughter house found a practical way to restrain the heads of the horses, so by the AVMA's very definition, the process was not acceptable. The result was a very large number of ineffective stuns. These misplaced blows undoubtedly caused severe pain until a stunning or fatal blow was delivered. Many of the horses are thus only stunned and are bled out and skinned alive.

(Report Comment)
Lori Hackman August 20, 2008 | 3:12 p.m.

So what ideas were brought to light at this forum? I hope that they would be something like these 1) create euthanasia funds (which I already contribute to at individual rescues) for those unable to pay for humane euthanasia (i.e. not slaughter) 2) charge breeding fees for people who breed horses. This fee could subsidise other areas of horse care, perhaps low cost spay/neuter programs 3) central euthanasia sites 4) education for potential horse owners on what's involved/costs in owning a horse 5) horse care education 6) just like dog & cat shelters there may come to be "kill" shelters and "no kill" shelters for horses. I think at some point this will need to be embraced unless we can get people to stop breeding. 7) horse racing is already starting to take part of the racing fees to set aside for after career care. A similar thing could be done from breed show entry fees, foal registrations, etc. for specific breed horse care. 8) better marketing. Auctions provide very few buyers for horses compared to the internet or other marketing sources. Creative ideas bring more money and more buyers.
These are just some thoughts. Nothing concrete, but I hope that ideas like this were discussed. Can anyone comment on what options were discussed at the forum?

(Report Comment)
Lucille Matte August 20, 2008 | 10:25 p.m.

"As far as animal welfare groups, we're all in the same camp," Lenz said. "But animal rights groups have been more difficult to interact with."

Hmmm could it be that the "animal rights groups" have nothing to gain monetarily therefore expose the truth about horse slaughter and the pro horse slaughter camp who line their pockets with the blood of the horses they torture and butcher alive doesn't want the truth to be told?

How about the Unwanted Horse Coalition (Tom Lenz) and his friends at the AAEP misleading hard working rescues in to thinking the coalition actually cares about what happens to the horses? They rake in some more money then spew their lies about horse slaughter being humane. Then they use and victimize the horse rescues in their testimony against the ban on horse slaughter when they know that the rescues would do anything in their power to ban horse slaughter. Fortunately enough many rescues did not join their coalition knowing it was all a front to use good rescue's names in their political agenda. How ever the truth always prevails and their coalition of lies will pay for the lies they tell.

As you may or may not know on July 24th Representative Conyers, Jr., Chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary, introduced HR 6598, the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2008 which would make horse slaughter illegal. See for more information.

On July 31st, Dr. Corey, past president of the AAEP testified in opposition to HR 6598 to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security. Dr. Corey used the Unwanted Horse Coalition in his testimony. Your organization is listed on the Unwanted Horse Coalition's website therefore making it look that you too oppose a ban on horse slaughter.

If you are a victim of the Unwanted Horse Coalition please speak up and let congress know. Many organizations joined the Unwanted Horse Coalition thinking the organization wanted to "help" the less fortunate horses in America when in fact they used underhanded tactics to rein you in and use you in their scare tactics to keep horse slaughter legal.

Please write a letter to Representative Conyers, Jr. and let him know that although your organization is listed on the Unwanted Horse Coalition's site you support HR 6598 and you were unaware that ultimately they would use your good name to oppose a ban on horse slaughter. The Judiciary Committee will be considering Dr. Corey's testimony when voting for HR 6598. Don't let your organization be a victim of the pro slaughter underhanded malarkey.

Please send your letter on your letterhead with your signature to:

Representative Conyers, Jr. and Members of the 110th Congress:
Fax (202) 225-0072

(Report Comment)
Theresa Messick August 22, 2008 | 11:15 a.m.

I have to wonder if Ms. Short has read the Fifth Amendment in it's entirety. Just so there is no confusion, I've copied it in to this post:

"No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

As a litigation paralegal for nearly 20 years, I have a fair understanding of the law and how to read. As is clearly set out above, it states that we can't "be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law". Additionally, "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation".

Can someone tell me, where in this Amendment it says that I can't sell my horse, if the U.S. passes a ban on the transport of equines for human consumption? This Amendment guarantees us the right to own our property without fear of it being taken away exclusive of adjudication, and that it can't be taken away "without just compensation", for public use.

I can guarantee you that an attorney came up with this Fifth Amendment nonsense. Now the Fifth Amendment does guarantee that my horses can't be taken from me, say if I don't feed or care for them, unless I'm prosecuted. Further, my horses can't be taken and slaughtered and used to feed the hungry, unless I receive "just compensation".

If there is another Amendment or Bill of Rights that I am not aware of, please enlighten me.

(Report Comment)
ron lefler August 28, 2008 | 3:16 p.m.

I wonder if any one who has posted a comment hear has ever been around horses??? Any one in the Horse industry would have told you 10 years ago that the slauter houses were horid. we are also the 1st ones to notice the results of the void. drive down any lane outside city limits in any county, you will find starving horses. now that you have taken 10 minutes to find one, go ahead and call the authorities and report it. The police will get around to looking into it at some point, they will get around to sending to the correct department sooner or later. 2 to 6 months later, they might pick up the animal. of course, by this time, it will need to be put down from malnutrition or foot problems. even if it took 1 month to go through slaughter..., the slaughter of animals brought control to the industry and we have removed that control without putting a replacement in place. furthermore, unless you WORK and CARE for the animals in question. We dont care about your thoughts.

(Report Comment)
Theresa Messick August 29, 2008 | 11:43 a.m.

Ron, I can tell you that since I visited my first slaughter plant in the early 80's, it was horrid. I have been trying to stop horse slaughter for over 20 years. The advent of the internet has brought many folks like me together in the last ten years or so and we aren't going away. I can also tell you that I have bred, trained, shown, bought and sold horses for nearly 40 years. It was my family's business. My family also boarded horses and my parents sold horses to a kill buyer when someone couldn't pay their bill or when we got a foal/prospect that wasn't the quality we were looking for. I grew up thinking that it was just the way things were. If my parents thought it was okay, well then it must have been. And I can tell you that I have spent countless hours trying to get law enforcement to do something about abused/neglected horses. If you've ever bred horses then you know the expense involved in breeding quality foals. It is beyond me why anyone would breed a mare without having a market for the resulting foal. But it happens every spring. Morons, who thoughtlessly think they can breed the next big thing, are what got us here. What is also horrid about the slaughtering process is the transportation aspect. Again, I have to say that if you are using slaughter prices to gage your horse's worth, then get out of the industry, you've done enough damage and we don't need you.

(Report Comment)

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