John Holland – President, Equine Welfare Alliance
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John Holland – President, Equine Welfare Alliance

October 20, 2019


Thank you very
much for inviting me here. I’m a different bird. I am the president of the
Equine Welfare Alliance. We are an organization that’s
an umbrella organization. We work with other groups. Our specialty is
data and information. We believe you can’t make informed
decisions unless you have real data. If someone says 96,000 horses
were slaughtered last year, I’ll tell you where they get
that number – from our website. We are the ones that go out
to the government websites. We probe around and get the
numbers, put them in spreadsheets. As such, I’m going to have
to throw a little bit of a damp rag on some of the
possibilities for aftercare. Aftercare is what I
wanted to address. We have tracked the number
of horses slaughtered. We have tracked where they were from. We’d done investigations
of the investigators. For example, in 2011, the GAO
put out a report stating that basically, things had gone
downhill for horse welfare since the plants closed in 2007. We checked that report and we proved
that it was, in fact, a fraud. They had misused dates and it
was completely fraudulent. Why heads didn’t roll
over that I don’t know. Apparently,
if you’re asked by a powerful enough person to come up with a
certain result, you do. It wasn’t true at all. The data from that they were using
for Montana was just the opposite. It showed that equine welfare
had actually improved. Having said that,
why is it important to us that we care so
much about horses? Not just because they’re
pretty, because they’re like big dogs, but our society
owes everything to horses. None of this would be here. We wouldn’t be in the new world
if it hadn’t been for horses. We got to power on
the back of a horse. We got out of subsistence
farming. We’d still be in subsistence farming
if it weren’t for horses. We made a pact with them. We haven’t really kept it very
well now that we don’t need them. That pact started 3,500
years ago when the Botai people first domesticated
horses and it ended in 1945. As many of you know,
tomorrow’s D-day. What does that have to do with it? That was pretty much the end. A recent book by a
man named Eckert speaks of the German experience of that. The biggest question the German
soldiers had of the Americans when they were captured after
D-day was “where are your horses?” The German army still depended despite the blitzkrieg and the panzers, it’s still dependent almost
entirely for transport on horses. Their artillery was
completely pulled by horses with the exception
of just a few units. After that and the demise
of the German army at the Falaise Pocket, two months
later there were thousands and thousands,
hundreds of thousands of horses probably
killed at that slaughter. It marked the end of when
we really depended on horses for the military
or for anything else. However, we still have that debt of
getting where we are on their backs. Now how does this deal with racing. In 2005, we got a FOIA
result back that showed each horse going to slaughter
at the slaughter plants, back then they were
slaughtered in the US, and what their breed was and
markings, things like that. We went through that
data and determined that about 18% of horses of
were racehorses, Thoroughbred racehorses – mostly
from the lip tattoos which of course are
very easy to identify. Since that time,
the slaughter has continued. We did kill about 96,000 last year. They had been exported
to Mexico and Canada. As such, we do not any longer
get any data on breeds. We can only estimate whether
they’re still that number. We do track everything we can
about the slaughter industry. I can tell you it’s a horror.
It’s an absolute horror. The trucks, the people,
it’s all criminal. Nobody cares about
the animals at all. It’s just moneymaking. Hiding in the back wings
of racing is slaughter because they breed
20,000 horses a year. If you look at that number of 20,000
horses, they can live to 25 to 30 years. Do some back of the envelope
numbers and you will find that every year you’re creating 500,000 horse
years of care that you’re going to have to give if you’re going to
see that horse through its natural life. Half a million horse years of care. Multiply that number by about
$2,000 which is about the lowest I’ve ever heard anybody say
they could feed a horse for. $2,000 a year and
you’ve got billion dollars. Each year this
industry creates a need for a billion dollars’ worth of aftercare. When they tell you,
“we gave $100,000 for a rescue,” you might want to realize
that that is nothing. It doesn’t even begin
to address the problem. Can we address the problem? It’s going to be tough
and it’s going to take realizing how big the
problem really is. A whole lot of things
could be done – racing later as Senator Martinez was
asking, that’s yes. If you race later
then the breeders are caring for the horses
longer and they have less life on the
after end of their career for someone else to pay for. I could give you any number of
great examples of why they are still going on to slaughter even
though the track is abandoned. Just one example – you can
google this – but there was a girl named Fallon ran a
horse rescue in Alabama. She would take in those race horses. She would take in a lot of horses that people couldn’t
care for anymore. All of them were sent
right to slaughter. We actually tracked her. We were the ones working with
a paralegal out of Georgia who got her charged and
she’s now up on charges. She’s going to trial soon.
It’s just one example. It’s a very sleazy industry.
Everything about it sleazy. You will not keep these
horses safe from them with anything short of tracing
them for their lives. You would have to actually trace
them for their entire lives. Having said that,
I hope we can improve the situation. Thank you Mr. Holland. Senator Jordan for a question. I missed some of the
testimony from John Holland. Yes ma’am. Senator: You’ve spoken of
the slaughter of horses and so I’m asking you exactly
who are you blaming for that? What is your ultimate goal? How would you go about
whatever is involved? Holland: In around
2000, there was a man on every race track in the
country on the shedrow that everybody knew and
you called him when your horse lost and you had it with the horse. Then he came over and you put your horse in a trailer
and it disappeared. Everybody knew he was a
slaughter killer buyer we call him. Now they’ve run those people
off for the most part. They’re not there.
It doesn’t matter. The horses still end
up in slaughter because there’s nowhere else for them to go. Yes, we can retrain them. Yes, we can put them in sanctuaries. I think when Dr. Palmer
says his biggest problem was that they wanted to get back
up to 50,000 horses a year. I almost fell out of
my chair because 20,000 horses is more than we
can even begin to handle. They’re going to go to slaughter and the industry is there
are waiting for them. Nice people like this vet student in
Alabama will be there to bring them. Now it’s hidden and it’s
much harder to find. That’s why we have investigators
that actually follow truckloads. You were talking
about that accident. There were two accidents in
Tennessee where the trucks broke in half on the highway and horses
spilled out onto the highway. Why? Because the
trucks were condemned. They should have never been on
the highway in the first place. That was an outfit
called Three Angels Farm. The DOT pulled their license.
You can’t transport anymore. Three Angels Farm went over their
neighbor which was some other name of farm and used their DOT number
until they spilled another load. What I’m saying is I’m afraid
I can’t quantify how they will end up in slaughter but
I can tell you they will. Senator: You’re suggesting
for what to happen? For 20, 000 horses. I’m not sure. Holland: If they could
come up with a billion dollars a year, that would go a
long way but they can’t. It can’t be cured with our
present racing structure. You can’t just put a
Band-aid on and give a little money here
and there to rescues. You can do PR that way but
you can’t cure the problem. I would like to see a beginning. One big part of it
would be to simply close the export of
horses to slaughter. We’ve been trying to do that for
15 years I’ve been working on it. The industry has to face
the fact that they have these horses and they can’t
sweep them to slaughter. That’s 100,000 horses a year. We would begin to find
incremental solutions to that. Re-training is part of it,
cutting down on breeding. I personally think that
the breeders should have to pay a huge fee to register
a racehorse to ever have a career. It shouldn’t be 50
bucks or whatever it is now, it should be $5,000 and that would mean that they’d
be a little more careful about the
numbers they’ve bred. We have to put the
responsibility back on the people causing the problem. Is that a decent answer? Because I could give you a lot
of incidental pieces of it. Senator: I understand
the incidental pieces that you’re talking about
and what’s happening with slaughter and
I’m very familiar with the bill that’s been out
there for many years. My predecessor Kerry Daniel for quite
some time and I worked with them. When you suggest not
breeding so many horses, that is a big part of our economy
also in New York State. The horse industry is second to
only dairy in New York State. There’s thing provides
over 42,000 jobs alone in this state
and great economic impact, so I don’t know
that we can interfere with all of that to stop slaughter. Holland: When horses and money
meet, horses lose. Senator: I’m sorry what was that? Holland: I said when horses
and money meet, horses lose. It’s just been that way for
a long long time, and I’d love to see it change but I’m
not sure it can be changed. At the same time,
we have to make some improvements. Senator: And when you lose? The horse industry
and all the families that rely on the jobs, they lose, so I’m just wondering what–I understand slaughter
is a problem but– Holland: Wait,
there’s a whole lot of things in racing that could
be done to help it. For instance,
the whole idea we want the hottest, fastest thing,
we only want a Maserati for the next race and when
it’s a year old we throw the Maserati away and we
get next year’s Maserati, right? You could have racing for
older horses, handicapped racing, you could keep
horses running a lot longer, but the idea of breeding
so many of them is just not going to fit with any
solution for their aftercare. I can’t think of a solution. Now, if we can cut down the breeding,
we can keep them on the track longer so that they’re earning their
living in that racing industry. Once they’re out of the racing industry,
they’re no value to anybody. I have a Thoroughbred. My wife and I run a small sanctuary
and I love our Thoroughbred to death. She’s the sweetest thing in the world
but you don’t have that many people who will take them,
and you’re creating this huge liability every year. A billion dollars a year in
aftercare we’re creating and Dr. Palmer would like that to be
two and a half times greater. I appreciate a lot of
things he’s done but that would not be something I
would look at positively. Of course, people making money
say, “That’s much more money for the industry and now we
can beat the dairy people out.” I wish I could give you a rosier
picture but I believe in numbers. Some people call us, EWA,
the geeks in the sneaks, because we get the
numbers and people can’t argue with the numbers,
and we do the sneaking around to find out
what’s really going on. We have people at the
auctions, people on the road,
to the limited budget we have. We probably cause more trouble
for the slaughter industry than all of the major
organizations put together. We report trucks
that are out of date. What happens when you send a
truck down the interstate and it breaks in half in the middle of
the interstate a 70 miles an hour? That’s not just an animal
thing, that’s a people thing. Senator: I think there
has to be another We don’t like the
idea and it would be a public relations disaster for the racing industry to
say, “All right, all losers over here on the right.
You’re gone.” But it would be facing
what really happens, and it wouldn’t put then through a long
trip to the slaughter plants. In one of the Mexican slaughter
plant types–the regional types, they kill the
horses by the punta method. You know what that is? It’s an expert with a knife who
jabs the knife into their spine. It paralyzes them,
makes them a quadriplegic but still thinking and
breathing and alive while they slaughter
them because they believe that the terror causes
tastier meat. The adrenaline. That’s how bad it is in Mexico so
yes, I’ll take euthanasia thank you. Senator: I understand we
don’t want horse slaughter. I’m just saying that I
don’t think we can decrease the thoroughbred population
and disrupt the economy here. Lowering the population of
horses which is- Holland: Well,
all I wanted to do is make sure people understood that
these cosmetic after-care things are just cosmetic,
they may help with PR but they don’t really
solve the problems. Senator: Thank you. And for Mr. Holland,
you had said in your testimony that last year there was
96,000 horses plus. Do you know how many
came from New York State? No, they don’t provide them down and so the only way to get any
individualized data is to actually follow the trucks,
and also with racing, the horses are going to bounce out of
New York to other places before they end up in the
slaughter pipeline a lot of times but the one downside
to closing the US slaughter plants, and I hate to say
it that there’s a downside to it because I was so
glad to get them closed. The one downside was we
lost all the information. One of the things that slaughter
apologists will tell you is, “Well the USDA tracks– In
America, we take care of this. It may be terrible in Mexico.
Bring them back.” Well the USDA has
eliminated its one inspector that was the one hope of a
horse going to slaughter in Mexico. They just reassigned him. Horses go through that border
now with no check it all. They carry health certificates
and you’ll love this – signed by veterinarians who have never been within hundreds of
miles of the horse. We have, again, this is us sneaking and gigging, we have found the endless violations where people– They
put in something called an equine identification
document in 2008. This was supposed to
track the horse from the auction and this was
in response to drugs. The seller of the horse
had to fill out with the markings were,
what the sex was, and so forth. What the breed was, and that had
to go to slaughter with the horse. Well, we found that the
sellers– We actually photograph these
papers at the New Holland auction and the sellers
were simply signing all these papers and putting
them on the desk. They didn’t even have the
breed or the sex or anything. Then the kill buyer
on his way down would fill out these forms
with whatever he thought that the horse
was, and that was the only information
you had any more. The information available to us
is really shrunk in the last 10 years perhaps because we abused
it by telling people about it. Senator: Thank you. Speaker 2: Thanks a lot Senator
Martinez. Dr. Freelander, Mr. Holland, Miss Wagner,
I appreciate the work that you do individually
and like I mentioned the previous panel,
the information back and forth to us as we go forward on
this issue is most helpful.

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