Russell Williams, a USTA director and vice chairman of the association as well as vice president of Hanover Shoe Farms, along with Dr. Patricia Hogan, a Standardbred owner and equine surgeon, were among those who testified in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday at a federal House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee hearing.
Williams and Hogan, testifying on their own behalf. not representing any organization, spoke in support of HR Bill 503, which seeks to prohibit the commercial slaughter of horses in the United States, along with T. Boone Pickens, whose wife Madeleine is a longtime Thoroughbred owner and breeder. Those speaking out against the bill, which is expected to come up for a vote in the full House in September, were Dr. Bonnie Beaver and Dr. Doug Corey, president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners and Dick Koehler, vice president of Beltex, one of three equine slaughter plants in the U.S.
In Williams' written testimony, the basis for his remarks to the group, he cited business concerns among his reasons for supporting the bill. "If horse racing has an edge over any other type of entertainment, it is the mystique that surrounds the horse itself. In a race, horses can display a unique distillation of beauty, power, speed and above all courage, which enables an individual to defeat all expectations and prevail by sheer force of will. Public awareness that we subject this noble animal to the needless suffering that goes with commercial horse slaughter could turn our customers against the sport of horse racing."
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."
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.”
Hogan proffered videos of the process and added that she was, "confident that the difference would be dramatic to you."
ourtesy Of Harness Racing Communications, A Division of the United States Trotting Association