January 19, 2008

The Animal Welfare Institute has criticised a key veterinary group, accusing it of playing a role in the suffering of American horses.

The AWI has rejected claims that animal welfare advocates are to blame for the steep increase in horses going to Mexico for slaughter, saying the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) must shoulder some of the blame through its opposition the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (AHSPA).

"From day one, AWI has worked to end the slaughter of American horses here and over the border.

"The AVMA, on the other hand, has lobbied Congress to block passage of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act," said AWI's deputy director of government and legal affairs, Chris Heyde.

The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act would prohibit the slaughter of horses in the United States for human consumption, as well as their export for the same purpose.

While the federal bill passed the US House of Representatives comfortably in 2006, it is pending on Capitol Hill.

Meanwhile, the AWI worked with legislators and activists in Texas and Illinois to close the country's three remaining horse slaughter plants last year under state law.

"AWI actively worked in Texas and Illinois to close those plants. Citizens there wanted the plants gone and Congress had failed to pass a ban, so the states invoked their right to control what happens to horses within their own state lines.

"But the goal for all genuine equine advocates, of course, is passage of the federal bill. That's why we're taking off the gloves with the AVMA on this," said Heyde.

Heyde says he cannot understand how the AVMA can claim to be acting in the name of animal welfare over its position.

Heyde points to the fact that the AWI is also promoting responsible horse ownership, combating unscrupulous breeding and working to ensure placement of horses in need through its leadership in the Homes for Horses Coalition.

"I think it's pretty clear who has the best interest of the horses at heart, and it's not the AVMA."