New Anti-Slaughter Activist
I did a keyword
Internet search recently for "horse AND legislation" and
came up with approximately 173,000 hits. Adding variations such
as "group" or "organization" or "association"
to the mix brought it down to a still-unwieldy 33,000-96,000 hits.
With all these
major and minor players representing local, regional, national and
international equine interest groups, why does Catheleen Doyle,
founder of the new group HOOFPAC feel we need one more? The answer,
she says, is because while 50 percent of the horse community and
80 percent of the general population oppose horse slaughter, those
anit-slaughter interests have no voice or representation.
The big players
on the equine stage are "motivated purely by economics,"
Doyle charges. The horse is merely fodder to drive their industries.
And, they are all pro-slaughter."
the national equine protection and humane associations, and even
the national legislative representative for the horse industry as
facilitators due to their support of the recently published United
States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations governing the
transportation of horses to slaughter.
but not surprising, the industry supported the USDA and the horse
slaughter industry," she says. "The result? Horses are
now transported for 28 hours without water, there is no limit on
the number of horses that can be loaded, pregnant mares are shipped
(left to the discretion of the killers), and no veterinary 'fit
to travel' certificates of health are needed (left to the discretion
of the killers). Horses may continue to be transported in 5'9"
vehicles, even though seven states have managed to ban double-deckers
the horse industry approve transporting horses in vehicles contrary
to accepted equine industry standards?" Doyle questions. "How
can the horse industry approve watering intervals contrary to every
acceptable standard of equine husbandry? How can the equine industry
approve horses being transported out of state for long distances
without Certificates of Health?
are no criminal penalties and no police enforcement when these laws
are broken," Doyle continues. "Every cruelty that was
a point of contention has now been codified and is protected under
the USDA law. The horse got absolutely nothing while losing any
chance for good legislation."
strong charges - but there's more. "The industry defends horse
slaughter under the guise of waste management or the euthanasia
program for the poor," Doyle continues, "citing the horses
would otherwise be starved and neglected. Not so. Animal neglect
is a completely different pathology than slaughter: Owners who starve
or neglect horses are usually repeat offenders who will profess
to love their animals. Slaughter has to do with some dealer buying
up every available cheap horse he can get his hands on to sell for
Making a Difference
Tired of the big sell-out, Doyle founded HOOFPAC (PAC being an acronym
for political action committee), a nonprofit, tax-exempt group incorporated
to lobby and represent the political interests of compassionate
pleasure horse enthusiasts - the "huge horse constituency whose
market share and political interests have no representation within
the existing industry," says Doyle. "HOOFPAC represents
the political agenda of equine organizations opposed to horse slaughter.
We must never lose sight that rescue without advocacy will not change
people's thinking, set social policy, pass laws or abolish equine
cruelty." HOOFPAC was conceived in 1996 and incorporated in
mission is to prohibit horse slaughter by informing compassionate
horse enthusiasts about pending horse slaughter legislation. "We
post the bill on our website (www.hoofpac.com) in its entirety along
with a legal analysis, "Doyle explains. "We not only are
going to ask you to either support or oppose, but we are going to
tell you why and in great detail. Ultimately, HOOFPAC will send
out legislative action alerts to its supporting organizations, which
will then forward it on to their memberships. There is nothing more
powerful than an informed constituency. We will have been successful
when our supporters understand... that a piece of legislation that
started out wanting to prohibit something may instead actually institutionalize
and regulate it, that passing bad legislation removes the possibility
of passing good legislation." The HOOFPAC website contains
breakdowns of current or proposed bills under consideration with
legalese translated into layman's language.
to support only "winning" efforts. For example, HOOFPAC
will not invest time, energy or resources into supporting a piece
of equine welfare state legislation referred to the agriculture
committee. "Such a bill would either never be voted out of
committee, or worse become an omnibus vehicle for toxic industry
amendments," Doyle explains. "The lay activist might try
to rally to the good fight; we prefer to either ignore or kill the
bill. HOOFPAC will draw upon it's collective experiences and support
projects that stand a fighting chance."
this sound like quite a reach, given the recent years-long struggle
concerning the USDA equine transport regulations. More so for a
young, grass-roots organization. We've seen the heart-in-the-right-place
groups come on the scene decked out with ambitious promises and
good intentions, only to fade away under the harsh reality of underfunding,
lack of manpower and other overwhelming obstacles.
But Doyle brings
to HOOFPAC and interesting and formidable pedigree; She founded
the California Equine Council (CEC), whose greatest accomplishments
to date are the 1998 California initiative that led to voters banning
horse slaughter in California for human consumption, and the amendment
that makes it illegal to export out of the state any pet of companion
animal for the purpose of having that animal killed for food.
CEC helped pass anti-tripping legislation (a practice sometimes
found in rodeos called charreadas) in eight states; helped
pass laws that (1) required animal control, humane societies and
animal regulation departments placing an equine into private or
public auction to set a minimum bid above the current slaughter
price, (2) required slaughter disclosure, and (3) made it illegal
to acquire an animal through fraud or misrepresentation for the
purpose of sale and slaughter.
Other key members
of HOOFPAC such as Christine Berry,Susan Wagner and Gini Richardson
boast of notable achievements, too, including cosponsoring bills
related to horse theft, drugging and abuse; successfully lobbying
the Pennsylvania legislature to prohibit the transport of horses
in double-decked vehicles; and numerous rescue projects.
to predict what successes HOOFPAC will have. Their brash remarks
and unwillingness to compromise may cost them powerful allies that
could help their efforts. But that outspokenness and commitment
to working for nothing less than an end to slaughter, backed by
the passion and experience of activists who have already scored
precedent victories n anti-slaughter legislation, may very well
be the winning combination that finally triumphs.
is an award-winning freelance writer who writes frequently on equine
humane issues and equine care.