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21 posts from May 2011

May 31, 2011

Concern for Animal Welfare on the Rise in China

In The Bond, I argue that there’s a connection between people and animals that’s built into every one of us. We're born with it. It may be expressed more fully in some of us than in others, and it also can be negated or nurtured by culture—which means that there’s wide variance in how animals are treated from community to community and nation to nation. The bond sends us in the right direction, but it’s up to us to make the right choices in life and to call upon other actors in society to do the decent thing for our fellow creatures.

That means that people everywhere are concerned about animals, even in places where it seems there are customs and economic activities at odds with our modern animal welfare sensibilities. Ever since The HSUS conducted an investigation in the late 1990s in China to expose the killing of dogs and cats for their fur, I’ve had deep concerns about the treatment of animals in the most populous nation in the world. More recently, though, I’ve been encouraged by the growing influence of civil society in China, as evidenced by many things, including the growing network of animal protection organizations there. These groups are working to defend animals against the many powerful forces in the economy that pull people and businesses in the wrong direction and put enormous numbers of animals at risk.

A black dog on the street in China
Susan Prolman/HSI

This weekend's Washington Post had a story about the emerging social and class conflicts in China over the killing of dogs for meat. It's still a major industry, with perhaps 10 million dogs bred for meat or gathered up in the streets and killed and eaten each year.

While that’s deeply disturbing, it’s encouraging to see the influence of an emerging animal protection movement, led by Chinese, that is challenging this practice. Pet-keeping is emerging in a powerful way in the country, and with it comes a greater connection and bond with other creatures. In April, more than 400 dogs were rescued from the trade, and the plan is to place them in homes to live as family pets.

Just a few months ago, Chinese advocates stood together to oppose the import of seal products from Canada to China, and the National People's Congress accepted two legislative proposals on the topic. And in October 2010, the Chinese government put an end to inappropriate animal performances within zoos and other captive settings. Chinese activists have also rallied for sharks and against shark finning over the last few years.

A story in another paper mentioned the proliferation of vegetarian restaurants in Beijing, and how many Chinese are starting to question the industrial production of farm animals for food. Only three years ago, Humane Society International organized a major conference on animal welfare and agriculture, with special emphasis on the threat of concentrated animal feeding operations.

These are hopeful signs. But it’s not going to be easy in China—for many reasons, but above all because of the limited resources of struggling animal welfare organizations. That said, the presence of these organizations is tremendous, as is their determination to show the way and remind people of their responsibilities. The theme of kindness to animals has deep roots within Chinese culture and philosophy, and Chinese people and groups are the standard-bearers for those values.

Through the work of Humane Society International, we hope to strengthen the capacity of these organizations in the years ahead to lead the way. HSI has supported Chinese NGOs, participated in disaster rescue efforts, encouraged Chinese officials to re-evaluate their existing dog management policies, made a start on mercy release work in the People’s Republic of China, and initiated collaborative projects to improve the welfare of animals within a number of institutions. We're also sponsors of the Asia for Animals conference, to be held at Chengdu from June 10 to 14, with 400 speakers and delegates from all throughout Asia. It's one more expression of our commitment to work to spread humane values in every field, and everywhere.

May 27, 2011

This Memorial Day, Help Connect Veterans with Service Dogs

So many veterans have returned to America from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other conflict zones with post-traumatic stress disorder. I am so grateful for, and humbled by, the service and sacrifice of these young men and women to our nation. When their service results in mental turmoil or physical disability, we have a duty to help them cope and to treat their needs.

Dog Bless USA poster

It’s no surprise to see increased attention being paid to the use of animals, especially dogs, in therapeutic roles. Right now, the U.S. Congress is considering H.R. 198, the Veterans Dog Training Therapy Act, introduced earlier this year by Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y. This measure would create a pilot program that trains dogs for use in service roles, first by having veterans suffering from PTSD or other mental health conditions work with the animals, and then through the assignment of dogs to physically disabled alumni of our armed forces. One feature we at The HSUS especially like is H.R. 198’s provision for the use of shelter dogs in the program.

Now, just in time for Memorial Day comes a new initiative from Dog Bless You, the online community created by HSUS friend and supporter Charles Annenberg Weingarten, to connect up to 100 service dogs with returning soldiers in need. Between Memorial Day and July 4, for every 5,000 “likes” registered on its Facebook community page, Dog Bless You will provide the resources needed to fund a service dog to help our veterans. 

You can help by “liking” the Dog Bless You Facebook community page, a site for photos, videos, and personal stories about animals.

Memorial Day is a storied holiday on which we reflect and honor the many sacrifices that millions of Americans have made in the best interests of our nation. This year, you can help to make it that much more meaningful for a veteran who might benefit from the companionship of a dog.

May 26, 2011

Victories for Creatures Great and Small

At The HSUS, we care about whales, seals, tigers, and other big, charismatic creatures. But we also care about hummingbirds, prairie dogs, and chickens, special in their own right. They all have a beating heart and an interest in avoiding pain and suffering.

Sea lion with eyes closed

We’ve created some good news and positive outcomes for creatures great and small these last couple of days. Thanks to the work of our litigation and marine mammal protection teams, The HSUS successfully blocked plans to kill up to 85 sea lions each year in Washington and Oregon. State and federal officials had their sights set on killing the sea lions because some of them eat salmon, as they funnel through the Bonneville Dam.

Yet research on salmon mortality shows the sea lions only take 3 to 4 percent of the salmon, while fishermen take four times as many. The real culprits in salmon killing are the dams themselves, and we’re tired of seeing the sea lions made into scapegoats for the substantial, and largely unaddressed, human-caused toll on the region's salmon populations. The state and federal plans did not comply with the law, and our legal efforts will continue until the program is abandoned once and for all.

Our litigation team also scored a big win for chickens and the residents of a rural community in the Central Valley of California. For years, the people of French Camp have had the quality of their lives upended because of the waste emitted from a factory farm with more than 600,000 laying hens jammed into small cages. Yesterday, the community gained some measure of justice. A federal jury ruled the facility is a nuisance under state law and awarded $544,000 in damages to neighbors of this facility, which produces 133,000 pounds of chicken waste every day. It's a great success in the effort to make factory farming interests accountable for their inhumane and environmentally destructive practices.

Meanwhile, a hundred miles north, our animal fighting team was working with the Butte County Sheriff’s Office to raid a large cockfighting operation with international ties. And in Texas, state lawmakers passed a bill to make it a crime to possess fighting birds or to be a spectator at a cockfight. Our investigations unit has infiltrated 20 or so cockfighting rings throughout the state in the last year, showing lawmakers that they’ve got a substantial underground industry and that it’s time to close gaps in the state’s animal fighting law. This has been a major battle for us for years, and now the legislation is off to Gov. Perry, who we hope will sign the bill in quick order.

May 25, 2011

Animal Rescue Team Brings Hope amid Disasters

Today our thoughts are with the residents of Midwestern and Southern states who have suffered unimaginable destruction from this week's tornadoes, so close on the heels of historic flooding along the Mississippi River and tornadoes that swept through Alabama earlier this month. We’ve learned of so many tragic outcomes for people and animals, and we are grieving for the afflicted and mobilizing to assist where and when we can.

HSUS's Darci Adams with a dog at our Mississippi emergency shelter
Bevil Knapp

Our experienced team of rescuers is always ready to deploy to help animals affected by natural and man-made disasters. Earlier this month, we helped lost pets in tornado-stricken Tuscaloosa, Ala., cared for hundreds of animals at an emergency shelter in Kennett, Mo., and braved high waters to rescue cats stranded atop flooded homes in Tunica, Miss. (watch a video of the rescue).

This week, our Animal Rescue Team continues to care for pets at an emergency shelter in Natchez, Miss., and we have responders in Joplin, Mo., to assist with animal sheltering needs there. On Friday, we’ll be transporting more than 80 dogs in one of our specially equipped emergency vehicles from Mississippi to the Washington, D.C. area for adoption.

Amid all of the bad news associated with this overwhelming tragedy, I want to share a few of the uplifting stories sent in by our rescuers in the field. At the emergency shelter in Mississippi, HSUS staff and volunteers have been bottle-feeding kittens, bathing puppies to keep them cool, and welcoming residents who come to visit their pets at the shelter. Our field responder Tara Loller sent this report from Natchez:

People and animals face so many uncertainties when they are experiencing a disaster. It is crucial that others who can help, do help. This is where the Animal Rescue Team, both HSUS employees and our amazing volunteers, step in. We were asked into these communities that truly needed us and we immediately felt so appreciated.

Our emergency shelter has brought peace of mind to families who come in with stories of their pets, what their pet likes, and usually a little funny story. We listen. We hug them as they entrust their beloved family member to us. When they visit, we sit with them to discuss their situation and tell them about their pet's latest belly rub or new toy. We receive praise and repeated thank-yous, yet all we are doing is what we know best: helping animals in need.

It is a team effort from morning to night, and we all count on each other. Varied backgrounds, ages, and experiences all unite to form one outstanding team. The best reward for the HSUS Animal Rescue Team will always be in the form of purrs, puppy kisses, and tail wags.

While some of these pets have been reunited with their families, others were stray animals or were turned over to the shelter because people are no longer able to care for them. Another HSUS staffer, Jennifer Clegg, wrote about a few of the dogs who will be starting a new chapter in their lives when we transport them to the East Coast later this week:

One such dog is a sweet shepherd mix named Isis. When her owner stopped by to check out our temporary shelter, it was obvious that she loved Isis and was very concerned about her well-being during her stay. We reassured her that we would take care of Isis like she was one of our own beloved dogs. When she came back to drop Isis off, she admitted that she was overwhelmed with caring for the dog, as she was also caring for her ill husband, and she had taken in Isis after a friend had given her up.

The woman called the temporary shelter several times to check on Isis, and after hearing that The HSUS was planning to transport several of the area’s homeless animals to less crowded shelters up north, she decided it was in the dog’s best interest to surrender her with the hope that she would find a new family who could give her all the love and attention she truly needed. When she came to say goodbye, it was a heartfelt moment that brought tears to the eyes of the shelter staff.

Two other temporary shelter residents that will be finding new homes up north are the lovable characters that the staff has named Bologna and Cheese. These homeless beagle mixes were found running along the Mississippi riverbank, and the local sheriff’s department picked them up and brought to our emergency shelter. Their sweet personalities will make great additions to any family looking for a new companion.

If you’d like to help, you can support our Animal Rescue Team here. We’re grateful to all the volunteers and other animal protection groups who are working with us in these efforts, and to local authorities who’ve recognized that during difficult times like these, helping pets also helps people and the community as a whole. Our hearts go out to all of the victims—human and animal.

May 24, 2011

A Dog Who Saved the Day

In The Bond, I devote an entire chapter to the remarkable intelligence of animals and the efforts by some people for a long time to deny or explain away their thinking with high-sounding and dismissive theories. It’s really only in the last quarter-century or so that there’s been a revolution in our understanding about animal cognition and emotions.

For a long time, some leading behaviorists offered the view that animals were little more than biological machines, driven by instinct and ensnared in an endless and often harsh pursuit of mating, feeding opportunities, and other behaviors necessary for survival. They were pre-programmed, according to these theorists, and not capable of any choice or volition in their daily decision-making. By diminishing animal intelligence, and thereby putting ourselves on a special plane when it comes to intelligence, we cleared the way to do with animals as we wished.

Valor Dog of the Year, Yogi, who brought help to his injured owner
Paul Horton
Yogi helped his owner after a serious accident.

In the book, I also cite a remarkable range of altruistic acts by animals—another arena where we laid claim to species exclusivity. But the actions of dolphins saving swimmers from sharks, dogs alerting their owners to fires or other threats, and all sorts of animals acting in heroic ways puts the lie to that claim, too.

Today, our Texas state director presented the award for Valor Dog of the Year to a loyal dog who came to the rescue when his owner had a serious accident.

Last year, Paul Horton was riding his bike alongside his 4-year-old golden retriever, Yogi, near their Texas home. Horton hit a bump, flipped over the handlebars, and landed on his head. When he regained consciousness, he was unable to move.

For the next 45 minutes, Yogi refused to leave. When Horton told Yogi to go home, the dog instead went to the top of the hill where the trail met the road and barked furiously. When Horton’s neighbors took their dog for a walk nearby, they were drawn by Yogi’s barking and out-of-character agitation. Once they came closer, Yogi ran down the hill, leading them to where Horton lay.

Even when the paramedics arrived, Yogi refused to leave Horton’s side. After surgery and countless tests, Horton found out he had broken a vertebra and was paralyzed from the chest down. But if Yogi hadn’t brought help, doctors say he could have died. Horton went through rehabilitation and has some use of his arms and hands. Now, the dog rarely leaves his side.

Yogi was singled out among many other heroic dogs by our panel of celebrity judges, including Charlotte Ross, Chris Riggi, and Jon Prescott, and also by supporters who named him the People's Hero. His family received special prizes, though the love and devotion of their furry companion might be the best reward.

P.S. I’m also reminded of the strength of the bond between people and their pets in the wake of disasters, like this spring’s tornadoes and flooding. While our flood response continues in Mississippi, The HSUS is also sending staff to the devastated city of Joplin, Mo., to care for displaced pets at an emergency shelter with the ASPCA.

May 23, 2011

Talk Back: New Beginnings at Doris Day Horse Rescue and Adoption Center

On Saturday, sports columnist William Rhoden of the New York Times wrote about horse racing’s “dark side” and about “the terrible fate that awaited horses that did not make the grade or were simply used up and spent—sold at auction and shipped to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico.” 

Rhoden included my thoughts in the piece, and I argued that the industry must do a better job of caring for its own—not leaving it up to groups like The HSUS and The Fund for Animals to rescue and shelter its discards and cast-offs. The people who are breeding and using horses need to be part of the solution, and not turn away either from their responsibility to provide lifetime care to horses or to avert their gaze from the terrible North American problem of horse slaughter.

Rescued horse Doris at the Doris Day Horse Rescue and Adoption Center
Doris, a palomino rescued from neglect.

No species of animal has played a more important role in the development of our nation than the horse, yet we exhibit so little respect for the service it's provided to us. The HSUS is fighting for horses on many fronts, pushing for new policies to protect them and also sheltering them when and where we can. 

Last week I told you about our new Doris Day Horse Rescue and Adoption Center in Texas, founded to rehabilitate abused, neglected, and abandoned equines and find them new homes. Our staff has set up a thorough adoption process to match each horse with the right family, and we’re happy to report that as a result of the grand opening, Doris, Glory, Blaze, and Braveheart all have adoptions pending. We helped rescue Doris and Glory from neglect in east Texas last December.

Many of you wrote in to the blog and on Facebook welcoming these new opportunities for rescued horses:

My family and I had the pleasure of attending the grand opening of HSUS's Doris Day Horse Rescue and Adoption Center on May 14. It was clear from the moment that we stepped on the grounds that love and concern for horses was paramount in the planning of this center. We watched a demonstration of the natural horsemanship techniques employed to help these horses recover from their past abusive situations and move on to lives filled with love and compassion. Thank you to the on-site staff and volunteers who serve the resident equines. We appreciated seeing Wayne and other HSUS staff who were there to celebrate the opening. As Wayne's book The Bond points out, if each of us follows that innate call to be of service to other animals, miracles do happen—and kindness can be the rule, rather than the exception. —Candis Fugitt

Thank you for this beautiful day! What a wonderful facility for horses rescued from horrible circumstances. Thanks to the DDHRAC rescued horses will have a good life, rehabilitation, training, and hope for new families to love and care for them. —Suzanne Fourmigue

Continue reading "Talk Back: New Beginnings at Doris Day Horse Rescue and Adoption Center" »

May 20, 2011

McDonald’s Takes Initial Positive Step by Starting to Use Cage-Free Eggs in the U.S.

When I upgraded our efforts to combat factory farming a half-dozen years ago, a top priority was to end the cruel confinement of egg-laying hens in barren battery cages—a practice that’s harsh and unacceptable, and inconsistent with our values about the care of animals. Our then-new campaign director, Paul Shapiro, had spent many years prior to his arrival at The HSUS publicizing the horrors of battery cages, and our campaign would aim to step up the campaign and turn around the situation.

Since that time, tens of millions of Americans have learned about the plight of laying hens; major egg production states like California and Michigan have enacted important legislative reforms; Washington and Oregon have pending ballot measures on the topic; scores of major food purveyors have adopted policies to start switching to cage-free eggs; and virtually no enterprise or entrepreneur in the egg industry is still installing new battery cages in the United States.

Chickens at a cage-free facility

But in spite of all this progress, the nation’s largest buyer of eggs, McDonald’s, for years refused to use even a single cage-free egg, even though all of the eggs it uses in McDonald’s European restaurants come from cage-free hens.

But this week, Paul spoke at the company’s shareholder meeting where McDonald’s announced that it would begin buying 12 million cage-free eggs a year, meaning approximately 50,000 fewer hens will know the confines of a battery cage as a result.

This is certainly a positive step, though this number of eggs still represents less than 1 percent of McDonald’s total egg use in the United States. Compared to Unilever’s press release this week that it’s switching 100 percent of its eggs to cage-free, affecting 1.8 million birds, McDonald’s isn’t exactly a leader on this issue, but at least it’s now finally taking a positive step—albeit a small one for a company with its resources and capabilities. Last week, I read a story in USA Today that the company was investing $1 billion in an exterior makeover of its outlets, and I thought, where’s the investment in animal welfare and public health and nutrition? The least the company could do was to switch to cage-free eggs.

Interestingly, McDonald’s in the EU has already done so—phasing in 100 percent cage-free eggs. While yesterday’s announcement is a breakthrough, it must be seen as the beginning for McDonald’s in our country.

Six years ago, few people thought it was likely that we’d be seeing such significant emphasis being paid to the welfare of egg-laying hens in our nation’s corporate boardrooms, on the ballot, and in the press. When we started our campaign, cage-free eggs represented 2 percent of the total egg market in the United States, and today that number has quadrupled to 8 percent of market share.

As I write in The Bond, we’re told that not a sparrow falls without his Maker knowing. He, and we, are also concerned about these millions of birds conscripted into egg production, and we must do better.

P.S. As an update to yesterday’s blog, many of you were very upset to read that the dogs from a shuttered Missouri puppy mill, S&S Family Puppies, are being auctioned off to other mills rather than having a chance at loving homes. I’m appealing to Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster to allow dogs like these to be taken in by shelters and rescue groups in the future, so they can find better lives after their ordeal.

May 19, 2011

Notorious Missouri Puppy Mill Closes its Doors

Last year, The HSUS released a Dirty Dozen report of some of the worst puppy mills in Missouri—the state with the highest concentration of these high-volume dog-breeding operations. Our report catalogued a raft of violations of the weak state and federal rules and showed a pattern of negligence and neglect.

Among the most egregious entries on our Dirty Dozen list was S&S Family Puppies, a puppy mill with more than 500 pages of enforcement records documenting dogs underweight, with oozing sores, and with untreated injuries. The records showed that the dogs lived in cramped and filthy conditions and had inadequate protection from harsh weather. Despite this appalling mistreatment, the kennel had maintained its license—until now, that is.

A matted white dog at Missouri puppy mill S&S Family Puppies
A matted, filthy dog at S&S Family Puppies.

This month, Missouri’s Attorney General, Chris Koster ordered S&S Family Puppies to close its doors. We hope this is just the start of an effort to crack down on the many inhumane and substandard breeding kennels in Missouri, especially the chronic violators that have demonstrated so little respect for the law or their dogs.

The Stephensons’ dogs, however, are not going to rescue groups or shelters where they could be adopted into loving families. Instead, the state is allowing them to be transferred or sold to other commercial breeding facilities. Forty of the dogs are scheduled to be sold to the highest bidder this Saturday at the Southwest Kennel Auction in Wheaton, Mo. 

And because only the Stephensons were mentioned in the Attorney General’s statement, we suspect many of these dogs may be transferred to a second kennel operated by another family member, Brandi Cheney. USDA records list Stephenson and Cheney as co-owners of S & S Family Puppies. In fact, last year several aggrieved consumers sued Diana Stephenson and Cheney under the Missouri consumer protection law. The consumers alleged that Stephenson and Cheney sold them sick puppies but misled them into believing the puppies were healthy. A copy of the plaintiffs’ complaint was sent to Attorney General Koster.

Nevertheless, as detailed in our March 2011 Dirty Dozen update, Cheney recently obtained a USDA license for a new kennel, called Circle B Farms, which has also been cited for severe animal care violations. 

Thus, the surviving dogs likely won’t have a chance at a better life, but merely a life in another puppy mill. This is unacceptable. Puppy mill operators who have repeatedly violated both state and federal laws should not be permitted to move or sell their surviving “stock” to other puppy mill operators. The dogs have already suffered untold trauma and should not be transferred to another breeding facility, especially considering that local and national animal groups are prepared to help these dogs. It’s time they find a loving home.

Editor's Note: The HSUS is appealing to Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster to allow dogs like these to be taken in by shelters and rescue groups in the future, so they can find better lives after their ordeal.

May 18, 2011

Your Donations at Work to Help Animals

When you provide financial support to The HSUS or one of our affiliates, you have a right to expect a tangible return. Your charitable gift is a social investment, and it’s our duty and purpose to translate it into animals rescued or cruelty prevented. At The HSUS, we choose to take on the biggest fights—against the biggest of animal-use industries—because there must be an organization with the might and know-how to do so. If not us, then who?

Our annual report for 2010 will be posted online shortly, and it shows a level of activity and accomplishment never before seen in our movement. We believe, and we have the facts to back it up, that no national group does more to help animals than The HSUS and our affiliates. We provide hands-on care to more animals than any other organization, but we also work to prevent cruelty—working with lawmakers, corporate leaders, and cultural influencers to drive forward the values and ideals of our cause. Every day in hundreds of ways, we complement the vital work of local shelters, rescues, and other groups—and, in fact, we share with these groups many of the same devoted supporters.

In assessing our work (for example, see a video of our current disaster response), one might measure the millions of animals touched in one way or another, the vivid stories and testimonials from our supporters and others who’ve seen our work firsthand, or even the obsessive attention we get from our political adversaries (whether in agribusiness, the animal fighting camps, the sealing industry, the puppy millers, or any of the others whose conduct we work to change).

But there’s no precise mathematical way to measure the performance of The HSUS or any other nonprofit organization. Our work is not an exercise in spending ratios, but a far more complex exercise in social reform, innovation, education, persuasion, market and political change, and the delivery of hands-on services.

The numbers do matter, however, and there are a few charity watchdog groups that exist to provide donors with some objective information on the performance of organizations.

I am glad to report that both The HSUS and Humane Society International have received three-star ratings from Charity Navigator, one of the evaluating entities. For a number of years, HSUS earned four stars, the highest rating, but for the past couple years, we’ve hit three stars. It’s a good rating indeed, and we are proud to have it. Taken over the last few years, we are bouncing between the highest numeric ratings provided by the organization, and that’s one more good measurement of our work.

One key Charity Navigator measure is program expense, the percentage of its total budget that a charity spends on the services it seeks to deliver. For 2009, The HSUS’s program expenses as a percentage of total expenses were 78 percent, and HSI’s were 82 percent, each exceeding by a great degree the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance standard of 65 percent.

Kitty, a rescued chimpanzee at Black Beauty Ranch
We work to protect all animals:
pets, wildlife, and more.

We are in excellent company, for the three-star rating is also provided to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Animal Welfare Institute, and Best Friends Animal Society, and to such peer charities in the Chronicle of Philanthropy 400 as Heifer Project International, Doctors without Borders, the United Negro College Fund, Volunteers of America, the World Wildlife Fund, and the National Wildlife Federation.

In recent years, The HSUS has received high marks from other independent third parties as well. For example, Cone and Intangible Business recognized HSUS as the 10th strongest brand of any nonprofit in the country (in looking at the 1,000 largest charities in the United States), and The HSUS was named in 2009 as one of Worth magazine's top 10 most fiscally responsible charities.

At The HSUS, we want you and the rest of the world to know about our work—transparency is one of our watchwords. We broadcast news of our programmatic work every day, as well as share our financial information. Take it all in: look at All Animals magazine, our website, my blog, as well as charity evaluation group ratings and the backhanded praise sent our way by our political opponents.

Through all of these sources and portals, you’ll find a rich tapestry, and only you can be the judge of our work and how it squares with your goals and objectives, as well as the degree of difficulty in our enterprise. Our goal is to change the way animals are treated throughout the world. We know it’s a big mission—some might say impossible—but we are truly shaping a humane society, and working to get closer to it every day.

May 17, 2011

Canadian TV Show Sends Wrong Message about Horse Slaughter

Today, our affiliate Humane Society International-Canada condemned “Top Chef Canada” for featuring a dish made with horse flesh, noting that “many of the horses who end up slaughtered for food are raised as companion animals and are condemned to this horrific end following a lifetime of service to people.”

Horses being transported for slaughter

We in the United States have been working hard, especially since the closure of the U.S.-based horse-killing plants in 2007, to ban the transport of live horses to Canada for slaughter. We’ve documented unscrupulous methods of obtaining the horses by so-called “killer buyers,” the punishing long-distance transport of the animals in trucks too small to accommodate them, and crude slaughter practices over the border. Unfortunately, the federal legislation to end this traffic—which is soon to be introduced again—has been held up for years by a coalition of foreign-owned horse slaughter interests working in cahoots with American agribusiness and the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Many horse enthusiasts, and many members of the general public, are surprised to hear about the AVMA’s opposition to this sensible legislation. I called the AVMA out on the issue in The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them, and here’s a short excerpt from Chapter 7, “Cruelty and Its Defenders”:

“If slaughter plants aren’t allowed to acquire and kill American horses, according to the AVMA, then American horse owners will starve and abandon their animals. The AVMA says there are tens of thousands of abandoned, unwanted horses, and unless there’s an outlet for them, people will just turn them loose. It’s a cynical, deeply pessimistic view of American horse owners, and a backhanded acceptance of illegal behavior, since abandonment and neglect of horses is a crime in just about every state. Are farmers really willing to commit criminal cruelty just to avoid the cost of sheltering or adopting out an animal who has served them or even granting the horse a decent death? The AVMA thinks so. Just as the AVMA leadership has internalized the mind-set of factory farmers, they have accepted all of the assumptions of the negligent horse owner and made it their official policy.”

There’s more in the book about the surprising stances of the AVMA on some of the major animal-welfare issues of the day.