It's a historic day for horse protection in The United States! The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act by a vote of 333 to 96.
The bill seeks to strengthen the Horse Protection Act and end the torturous practice of soring Tennessee Walking, Racking, and Spotted Saddle Horses.
Soring is an egregious form of animal abuse and has plagued the equine world for six decades. All for the sake of winning a blue ribbon, soring is the intentional infliction of pain to horses' front limbs by applying caustic chemicals such as mustard oil and kerosene, or inserting sharp objects into the horses' hooves to create an exaggerated gait known as the “Big Lick".
Once passed into federal law, the PAST Act would ban the use of painful large stacked shoes and ankle chains and would also eliminate the existing system of self-regulation by the industry and toughen penalties for violators of the Horse Protection Act.
The PAST Act has been blocked for years by a handful of well-placed lawmakers, but a new House rule triggering consideration of any measure that attracts 290 or more cosponsors brought the issue to the floor. The PAST garnered 307 cosponsors, and was led by U.S. Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and Ted Yoho (R-FL), co-chairs of the Congressional Veterinary Medicine Caucus, along with Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Ron Estes (R-KS), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Chris Collins (R-NY).
Click here to find out if your U.S. Representative voted YES on The PAST Act, H.R.693.
On July 24, 2019, the U.S. House held a debate on The PAST Act (H.R.693). Leading the charge was Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and Congressman Ted Yoho (R-FL).
This victory is a monumental step forward in getting The PAST Act signed into law. We now need the U.S. Senate to also pass its version, S.1007. Please raise your voice for the horses today!
The Humane Society of the United States released footage Thursday it says shows evidence of continued abuse to the Tennessee Walking Horse, further confirming the use of soring in the industry.
Soring is the practice of intentionally abusing a horse to accentuate its gait and often includes the use of caustic chemicals that eat away at the skin. Those who sore cause horses pain each time they step so they lift their front legs in an exaggeration of their natural gait in what is called the "big lick."
The video was taken by the United States Department of Agriculture in an inspection of the Maryville, Tenn., barn of top trainer Larry Wheelon in April 2013 and obtained with an open records request. The horses can be seen struggling to stand, walking stiffly and flinching away from the inspectors' touch. Photos from the same inspection show what appear to be scars around the horses' pasterns.
The video release comes as the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville goes into its final days for 2016, and as what appeared to be a sored stallion was discovered at an auction in Cookeville on Tuesday. The Horse Protection Act prohibits sored horses from participating in auctions, shows, exhibitions or sales.
Wheelon, who was arrested and charged with cruelty to animals, had 15 felony charges and three misdemeanors dropped, according to the Humane Society, when Blount County Judge Tammy Harrington ruled his Fourth Amendment rights had been violated in the raid.
When he was arrested in 2013, Wheelon was an active member of the Tennessee Walking Horse Trainers Association, sitting on its ethics committee. He did not respond to a request to comment made through his lawyer.
The USDA has since proposed some amendments to the Horse Protection Act.
One of those changes would mean the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service would train and license Designated Qualified Persons to inspect the horses at horse shows, exhibitions, sales and auctions for compliance with the HPA, whereas now, they are initiated and maintained by horse industry organizations. Many argue the current setup poses a conflict of interest.
Another amendment would ban the use of all action devices, pads and foreign substances at horse shows, exhibitions, sales and auctions, aligning the HPA regulations with existing equestrian standards set forth by the U.S. Equestrian Federation.
The USDA is accepting public comments on the proposed amendments until Sept. 26, but some have asked the organization to extend that deadline by 60 more days. Doing so could push the decision off onto a new administration that may not prioritize an end to soring.
Mike Inman, CEO of Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, denied that the stacks and chains cause horses to experience pain. Stacks are elevated pads attached to the horses' front hooves like high heels, and the chains are wrapped around their ankles.
"There is no big lick gait," Inman said. "Animal welfare is number one for The Celebration."
He said each horse must pass as many as 13 inspections by those belonging to horse industry organizations and the USDA, which test for foreign chemicals, palpation, locomotion, CT scanning and digital radiography.
"We urge the USDA to move away from subjective inspection and toward objective inspection," he said, arguing that digital radiography is the only objective exam. "We don't want any sore horse in the ring."
But Keith Dane, senior adviser on equine protection for The Humane Society of the United States, said some can fool the machine by making a ball out of hoof clippings and acrylic to match the density of the surrounding tissue.
Inman said no one has ever been disqualified for placing a foreign object between the shoe and the hoof at The Celebration, a practice called pressure shoeing.
The horse must also be clear of visible scars.
"If (the soring) is done to the extent where it causes physical damage, they can't show them anymore," said Tawnee Preisner, founder of the Horse Plus Humane Society. "They're worthless to them after that."
Preisner said she found Skywalks Magical Dream, a 4-year-old registered Tennessee Walking Horse stallion on stacks with chains, dumped at an auction on Tuesday. She took him to an equine veterinarian, who documented the damage and scarring on the horse's skin. Dream's last owners are listed as Sammy and Gayle Cogle, the owners of last weekend's champion Extra Special Jose.
Sammy Cogle said they were no longer in possession of the horse as of last January. "I'm sorry but the lawyers told me not to say anymore."
Preisner said it's the third time she's found sored horses at an auction in Tennessee.
Dane estimates there are up to 15,000 horses put on stacks and sored at any given time. He urged the USDA to pass the reforms to stop the remaining abusers.
"The culture is evolving," he said, comparing the competition of sored horses to dogfighting or cockfighting. "People are turning away more and more."
Source: The Tennessean
Those interested in submitting a comment to the USDA can do so at: http://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=APHIS-2011-0009.
The theme of World Horse Welfare's conference this year was: What is the Value of Horses? A spirited debate took place on whether welfare would improve if horse slaughter were banned and what is essential for good horsemanship.
At last year's conference, Princess Anne* asked if horsemeat was a welfare solution, with her comments being widely discussed in the media afterwards.
In a new format for 2014, four equine enthusiasts were asked to argue for or against the statement:
‘Horse welfare would be improved if horse slaughter were banned’
Taking to the stage to air their opinions were international dressage rider Richard Davison, Professor Natalie Waren from the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, Daily Mail columnist Liz Jones and Peter Webbon, former chief executive of the Animal Health Trust.
The key message from those who agreed with ending the slaughter of horses for meat was an emotional one – claiming we owe our equines a “debt of gratitude”.
Immoral and abhorrent
“Euthanasia is very different to slaughtering horses in an abattoir,” said Liz Jones. “It isn’t doing horses justice – we owe them a great deal of gratitude and that isn’t about getting them into the food chain. It’s a moral question – and to me it’s completely immoral and abhorrent.”
However, Peter Webbon stated the fate of the carcass – whether it was cremated, rendered or entered the food chain – is “totally irrelevant to animal welfare”.
“But anything that encourages people to have horses slaughtered without undue delay or long journeys to the slaughter house would improve welfare,” he said.
Professor Natalie Waren agreed once the animal is dead there is “neutral welfare”, but said there is no evidence that industrial slaughter is good for animal welfare.
“It’s about the quality of the animal’s last few moments,” she argued. “We do not want to objectify the horses we enjoy and that have a place in our hearts, which gives them special value.”
Richard questioned the wording of the statement, declaring the debate should be about how slaughter or euthanasia can be conducted in a more humane way.
“If you remain, like me, open minded about this you can not support this motion, as it is worded,” he said. “Abandoning slaughter won’t improve horses’ welfare. Before we consider a ban we need to look at improving methods and the conditions they are subjected to during slaughter.”
It was also argued those horses currently neglected and abandoned, would have a market value.
“Owners of these horses would be prepared to take them for slaughter, so they are no longer suffering,” said Peter. “But we need to change conditions of slaughter.”
However, Natalie raised concerns that slaughtering horses for meat would encourage the breeding of low-value horses.
“Indiscriminate breeding of poor value horses leads to neglect and abandoning, we don’t want to end up encouraging that and rewarding it by allowing slaughter as an easy option,” she said.
"If we open doors to say slaughter is the answer we are doing a disservice to a wonderful animal. In my eyes they have more value than commercially produced pig. Horses are special to us, let's keep it that way.”
Source: Horse and Country
*Princess Anne is the current president of World Horse Welfare, which was founded in 1927 as a campaigning organization to prevent the export of live British horses for slaughter. Despite all their welfare advocacy, the organization does not campaign against horse slaughter and the eating of horsemeat.