Guest blog by Brianne Goutal, a highly respected top international equestrian on the United States show jumping team. She represents Cloverleaf Farm, Remarkable Farm and her own stable, Brianne Goutal LLC. She is currently ranked 10th in the United States and 54thin the world and is the only rider to have won all four coveted equitation finals for junior riders, the crown being the ASPCA Maclay National Championship in 2006. Brianne is from New York City and has served as an ASPCA Equine Welfare Ambassador since 2008, speaking out against horse slaughter and other forms of equine abuse.
Like many Americans (and people worldwide) this weekend, I watched with my heart in my throat to see the outcome of this weekend’s famous annual horse race. We all witnessed an amazing day in history as American Pharoah became the first horse since 1978 to win the seemingly unattainable title of Triple Crown champion.
But as I watched, I was wrought with guilt knowing the horrors these horses may face once their careers are over. Every day hundreds of American horses are shipped in unimaginable conditions to slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada where they will be killed for human consumption. Over the course of this year alone, roughly 150,000 horses will face this terrifying experience.
It is nightmarish to think no horse is safe from ending up at a slaughterhouse. Not even American Pharoah is more than one bad sale away from this horrendous fate until horse slaughter is banned for good.
Rather than discuss the grisly details of this sad finality, I want to shine a light on a root cause of this problem: irresponsible breeding.
The racing industry, the western show industry and even my industry of show jumping—as well as many more—are guilty of irresponsible breeding practices. Breeding champions is a numbers game: the more you breed, the better your chances of breeding a star. As long as it remains legal to sell horses to slaughter, there are no real ramifications for irresponsible breeding.
Breeders can take responsibility for the horses they breed, starting now, without waiting for Congress to act. As an ASPCA Equine Welfare Ambassador, I call for an end to the slaughter of American horses for human consumption and ask all horse industries to adopt responsible breeding practices including:
Breeding horses purposefully and intentionally with specific good homes in mind.
Reclaiming a horse if he or she is at risk of abuse, neglect or slaughter.
Including a clause in every sales contract that gives you the first option to buy back the horse you are selling.
Pledging to never send a horse to auction where is no way to control who will buy him or her and for what purpose.
I want to applaud those breeders who already have publicly pledged to abide by these principles. I do not have a perfect solution, but I know these steps can make serious advances in prioritizing responsible breeding in the horse industry.
I urge everyone who cares for horses to think about this problem. Please join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade for updates on critical animal welfare legislation, including horse-slaughter-related legislation, and opportunities to lend your voice quickly and easily.
If you are a barn owner or run an equine business or organization, please sign the ASPCA Endorsement Form to let us know you support a ban on horse slaughter.
Whatever American Pharoah’s future may hold, I hope our awareness about equine welfare can take just one step closer to a goal of protecting the horses we rely on and who, in turn, rely on us. I truly believe that together we can find a solution. We are responsible for the horses we breed. Their fate depends on us. We are their voice.
Guest blog by Daisy Freund, Senior Manager of the ASPCA’s Farm Animal Welfare Campaign
A constitutional amendment guaranteeing the “right to farm” was passed in Missouri last week by the narrowest of margins. Amendment 1 squeaked by with a 0.2% lead; a mere 2,528 votes out of almost one million cast. While the amendment may have seemed harmless to many voters, those who opposed it, including the ASPCA, worry that it could shield a disturbingly broad range of agricultural industries and practices. Those benefiting from the amendment include factory farms and the state’s notorious puppy mill industry, considered by some to be a form of agriculture. It was incredibly heartening to see so many Missouri voters reject this deceptive measure in the face of such powerful and well-funded proponents of Amendment 1.The coalition formed in opposition– farmers, advocacy groups, businesses – is impressive and will continue to grow.
Many Missouri family farmers were wary of this amendment, for good reason. One farmer in Boone County explained why her commitment to running a sustainable, welfare-minded farm was also her reason for opposing a “right to farm.” In many cases, her farming methods conflict with nearby industrial farms’ practices, such as when her neighbors recently sprayed chemicals that drifted onto her chemical-free fields. In her words, “the rights of all farmers cannot be simultaneously guaranteed.”
The ASPCA appreciates this country’s hardworking, responsible farmers who use more humane practices, but irresponsible farming impacts lives—both animal and human. As Americans become increasingly interested in where their food is coming from, they’re learning that industrial-scale farms often achieve “efficiency” and cheaper products at the expense of animal welfare, food safety, worker safety and the environment. Society is demanding better.
But Big Ag is busy inventing ways to skirt the rules, creating “ag-ceptions.” In an effort to avoid the scandals that stem from undercover investigations, states with big farming industries are introducing ag-gag legislation that aim to criminalize on-farm whistleblowing. The movement to block these bills has been very successful, thanks to a strong coalition of civil liberties, animal welfare, labor, farming and environmental protection groups who believe in more transparency in the food system—not less. Just four states have passed ag-gag laws in the last three years, despite nearly half of all states introducing bills.
It’s exciting that Americans are demanding accountability on issues like animal welfare and food safety, but disappointing that much of the food industry stubbornly refuses to listen. “Right to farm” laws are another attempt to discourage scrutiny, but we deserve to take a close look at the agricultural industry when their decisions directly impact consumer safety, animal welfare, and our environment. The ASPCA will continue to stand up for animals—in Missouri and across the country—because there are no ag-ceptions to the rule that animals should live free from abuse and suffering.