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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Slaughter Prohibition Update: Dr. Patty Hogan as the Voice of Reason?

27 July--Things are wrapping up in the US House of Representatives today, as the final testimonies have finished in the controversial equine slaughter prohibition legislation, a.k.a. HR Bill 503, which seeks to prohibit the commercial slaughter of horses in the United States. In spite of a huge groundswell of public support, donations, and even heartfelt efforts from individuals in the horse breeding community, this legislation seems doomed, if you ask me (you didn't). The House Agriculture Committee failed to recommend it, and now it looks like two different versions of the bill are circulating.

Can this bill make it with the opposition of the AVMA, AAEP, and AQHA? Don't bet on it. Something about the way this issue is being handled gives me the creepie-crawlies.

One of the few bright spots in it all was the eloquent testimony of Dr Patty Hogan of New Jersey Equine, on Tuesday at a federal House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee hearing. I have a transcript of her testimony and I'd like to post it on; hopefully I can get that done this weekend. She points out many of the ambiguities surrounding this issue.

Those speaking out this week against the bill, which is expected to come up for a vote in the full House in September, were Dr. Bonnie Beaver (president of the AVMA), Dr. Doug Corey (president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners) and Dick Koehler (vice president of Beltex, one of three U.S. equine slaughter plants).

Koehler cited issues of private property rights as they pertain to horse owners, "It is a matter of choice," he said. "If you wish to do that with your horse, I believe you should have the right to do that." (It's not clear if he is a horse owner himself or not.)

Two of the veterinarians differed in their perspective on the humaneness or lack thereof in the slaughter process or whether it would curtail the prevalence of horses being slaughtered for meat. "By banning slaughter in the U.S., it will not stop slaughter," said Dr. Doug Corey. "It won't stop a Ferdinand [a former Thoroughbred champion believed slaughtered for meat in Japan after being there as a stud]. I would prefer to have these horses processed in the United States where there are regulations."

Dr. Hogan cited, "confusion regarding humane euthanasia and horse slaughter. We must remember these are two distinctly different processes. Horse slaughter is not euthanasia by anyone's definition. ... Horse slaughter uses a method called the captive bolt which involves aiming a bolt gun at the forehead of a partially-restrained horse in what is commonly termed the ‘kill-pen.’ ...There is a great deal of room for human and technical error with the captive bolt method and the recommendation for 'adequate restraint' is loosely defined and open for interpretation.”

Material for this post was aided by input from Harness Racing Communications, a division of the United States Trotting Association.

To learn more about Dr. Patty Hogan and her work as an equine surgeon, visit the New Jersey Equine Center home page at; some of you may remember her as the surgeon who worked on Smarty Jones and Afleet Alex, two leading US Thoroughbreds. Her bio page is

Warning: many reports on this legislation, both pro and con, are circulating on the web and are being publishing on magazine and association web sites. I find that most have a bias, and objective coverage is hard to find. I personally feel that horse publications have a duty to present both sides of the story to their readers, who can make up their own minds. Instead, many are pandering to either public "horse hugger" sentiment (anti-slaughter, generally) or "old boy friends of the cattle barons" political powers (pro-slaughter). This disturbs me; it's red states and blue states all over again. Now even the horse world is being split into political factions.

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