Ernest Dempsey — Following our recent story on horse slaughter in the US, we had a short Q & A correspondence with Allen Warren of the Horse Harbor Foundation in Silverdale, Washington. Allen Warren was the person whose correspondence about the threat of horse slaughter in Stanwood was posted on social media late last year before the story matured to appear on GHN. Saving abused, neglected, or abandoned horses and providing a safe home to them is Allen’s passion and life’s mission.
Ernest: Allen, please tell briefly how horse slaughter has been recently made legal in America?
Allen: Equine slaughter has never been actually illegal in the United States in and of itself, but a 2007 court ruling made it illegal for the horse meat packers to pay USDA directly in the form of fees for their own meat inspections, a practice allowed under the George W. Bush administration. Horse slaughter had been halted here on that narrow legal point and unfortunately, the equine advocacy movement has not been able to move legislation through Congress since then that would make the trade itself illegal.
Ernest: Do you think the White House should have sent the bill back for revision?
Allen: In a classic political maneuver, the three GOP congressmen who added an amendment to the 2012 general government Appropriations Bill funding horse meat inspections by USDA made this impossible. Doing so in the eleventh hour in December of 2011 meant that failure to sign the bill would have shut down various functions of the entire U.S. government. It is my understanding that the bill was actually made into law by electronic signature because the President was out of the country at the time and this was the only way to meet the deadline to continue all government funding.
Ernest: Even if horse slaughter on US soil was not legalized, we still face the export of horses to other countries for slaughter? How do you see this problem?
Allen: This really is the crux of the problem as far as I’m concerned. Even if we get a complete ban passed here, horses will still be trucked across the borders into Canada and Mexico to slaughter; only then they would have paperwork showing they were for riding or breeding stock, and even the cursory inspections we have now would be lost while the butchery would go on.
Let’s face it, we can’t stop drugs, guns, or illegal aliens from crossing those borders; do we really think we can stop horses bound for slaughter when North America is a free trade zone?
I have long contended the only real solution is to convince the commercial breeding and racing industries to work with us to find more economical and truly humane ways to deal with the small percentage of U.S. horses that are displaced every year while practicing better selective breeding to reduce this number. That is why I wrote my White Paper outlining immediate and viable alternatives, to get us all thinking in a new direction and not just battling over the issue.
We have to do more than just be against equine slaughter, we have to be for something to take its place. And that something must make economic sense to the industry.
Ernest: What kind of a federal legislation do we need on horses in the US?
Allen: The current bills in Congress are fine, but, as I said before, won’t really stop our horses from being slaughtered as we’ve seen since 2007. No law is any better than its enforcement, and as long as there is access to slaughterhouses in our neighboring countries, the carnage will continue.
Ernest: So now with little legal protection to our equine friends here, how in your opinion should equine communities and anti-slaughter activists respond to this move against equine safety? Would you approve of them breaking the law and take to adventurism or mass protests?
Allen: Absolutely not on the question of breaking the law and adventurism. That will only deepen the divide between the commercial industry and the advocacy movement further. And I seriously doubt whether we could ever organize mass protests in this age of the horseless carriage. The American public may be overwhelmingly opposed to equine slaughter, but only a small number of us are motivated to go to the streets about it.
How about dialogue and hopefully eventual cooperation with the commercial industry as an alternative? Let’s face it; we’re right back where we were in 2007. What we’ve been doing hasn’t worked, so let’s try something different.
Ernest: Also tell me Allen, is mainstream media giving due coverage o this issue? Given that 80 percent of Americans are against horse slaughter, it is no less than a national issue for America, is it?
Allen: Of course not. To those of us who are passionate about the welfare of our horses, this is a hot button issue. It is not to the vast majority of our citizens and issues of greater interest to the public welfare are what the mainstream media will cover. I appreciate it that you’re doing this story, Ernest, but the reality is that where it will appear will be preaching to the choir.
Ernest: Ok, not being political here, but seeing angry comments against President Obama for signing this new legislation, would you say that Obama’s public image will be stained in this country, particularly among equine and animal rights supporters?
Allen: Among equine and animal rights supporters, sure. But we are but a drop in the ocean compared to those who are angry with him over such things as healthcare reform, government spending and so much more.
With a presidential election year in process and all the mud being slung at Obama by the GOP, this will barely get his notice. We might be the mouse that roared, but in the end, we are still the mouse. As to my own little squeak, I donated a few dollars to a presidential campaign for the first time in my life in 2008 and still get fundraising letters from the Obama campaign. I finally sent back a reply explaining that I would not do this again until he kept his promises regarding our horses. Do I think this will matter? Absolutely not!
Ernest: Thank you very much Allen for sharing your thoughts!
Allen: You’re welcome and let me add one more thing here if I may. A lot of these questions have been about President Obama. As a child of the Civil Rights movement in my country, I consider the election of Barak Obama to be the greatest achievement of my generation. We literally took minority rights in America from the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, to the White House in Washington, D.C., in half a century. He is not our enemy here, but a system that places the almighty dollar ahead of all else. If those of us whose passion is animal welfare will focus on real solutions, not just the problems, we might just be able to advance the cause of these innocents we love just as far.”
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Readers can visit Allen Warren’s Horse Harbor Foundation at the website http://www.horseharbor.org/.