Sunday, September 21, 2008

NTRA Withdraws Support of Anti-Horse Slaughter Bill

By Ray Paulick

National Thoroughbred Racing Association CEO Alex Waldrop said his organization neither opposes nor supports a U.S. House of Representatives bill that would criminalize transportation of horses with the intention they be slaughtered for human consumption. A letter from Waldrop expressing the NTRA’s neutrality was entered into the record on Wednesday by Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) during a markup hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on H.B. 6598, known as the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2008.

The bill, introduced in July, is sponsored by Democratic Judiciary Committee chair John Conyers of Michigan and 11 other House members.

In his letter to Congress, Waldrop said the NTRA supported 2003 anti-slaughter legislation, which failed to pass. He did not reference support or opposition to current legislation before the House (H.B. 103) and Senate (S.B. 311) that would prohibit slaughter and transportation to slaughter plants.

Those bills will prohibit slaughter, while H.R. 6598 criminalizes transportation of horses to slaughter plants for human consumption by amending federal criminal law and calling for fines and imprisonment. There currently are no slaughter plants operating in the U.S., the two in Texas having been shut down by a court ruling and a plant in Illinois shuttered after a state law was passed. There has been an increase in the number of horses being transported across the borders into Canada and Mexico, however, and this law provides enforcement for federal officials to end that. Horses confiscated would be under the jusisdiction of the attorney general, who, according to the bill, “shall provide for the humane placement or other humane disposition of any horse seized.”
Waldrop’s difficulty in supporting or opposing the bill stems from the makeup of the NTRA membership, which is funded in part by organizations such as the American Quarter Horse Association and the American Association of Equine Practitioners, which have opposed anti-slaughter legislation.

Passage of the bills seems a longshot with time running out during the current session of Congress.

Following is the text of Waldrop’s letter, citing the NTRA’s neutrality and concerns with the bill:

Dear Representative:

It has come to my attention that the House Judiciary Committee plans to mark up H.R. 6598, the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2008. As you may know, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) has previously supported another bill to ban the slaughter of horses, the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (H.R. 857), introduced in 2003.

We are now examining H.R. 6598, but have reached no decision as to whether we would support or oppose this legislation. After an initial review, we have some concerns with the bill and potential unintended consequences, notably that:

The bill would require the Attorney General to provide for the humane placement or other humane disposition of any horse seized in connection with an offense under this section. As an organization deeply involved in the care of horses every day, we have concern that this requirement (for the Department of Justice, with no known capacity to care for seized horses) could result in improper treatment.

Simply adding criminal penalties – while not providing procedural guidelines or funding for the care and treatment of abandoned horses – will likely only exacerbate the situation. While supporters of this bill might believe that adding criminal penalties would cure the problem, it could easily make it worse.

These are but a few of the questions that we and our members are examining.

With all due respect, I believe that prior legislation dealt with this issue in a more comprehensive way, was designed to address some of the possible unintended consequences that we find troubling, and was on the whole better legislation for horses and horse owners. We continue to examine this legislation but these concerns remain.

Finally, several anti-slaughter advocacy groups, including the Humane Society of the United States and Animal Welfare Institute, listed the NTRA as supporters of this legislation before consulting us. We trust that they, and any other third party with whom you may have spoken relative to the NTRA’s position, have clarified that they claimed our endorsement before discussing our concerns with them. Our association takes no position on this bill at this time.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.


Alex Waldrop
President and CEO
National Thoroughbred Racing Association

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You think it’s in an owners best interest to treat a horse badly that’s worth hundreds of thousands of dollars? Is that logical? I heard a horse racing analyst on ESPN state that in almost every situation the horses are treated better than the trainers. They are pampered and treated like royalty. Hmm, I guess maybe I’d like to sign up for this type of horrible suffering.