One of the major stumbling blocks for most humane organizations is a misconception about the difference between animal rights advocates and animal welfare organizations. While one group enjoys a good reputation, the other has a shady and somewhat sordid past and sometimes employ fanatical means to accomplish their goal(s).
The largest and best-known animal rights group is PETA. In its past history, PETA has employed tactics that are not within social norms and at times border on illegal. Other groups have employed tactics that are illegal and are damaging to society and property and even ultimately their cause. PETA and other animal rights groups believe that animals, like humans, have certain rights. Conversely, animal welfare organizations have a solid and reputable history, but may not be as well known because of their moderate modus operandi. The ASPCA began when a group of socially conscious people gathered to improve life for working horses and children. Many other similar groups as well as local chapters, mimicked ASPCA’s way of doing business. These groups believe that there are humane ways to treat animals while they are doing their jobs (e.g., movie production, law enforcement, Army support, racing, and ranching and farm production support). Most of their membership are animal owners, who believe that animals are a useful part of our lives, enjoy animal events and believe that humans are the caretakers of animals.
The majority of people who support a ban on horse slaughter are animal welfare advocates and horse owners. While those involved with animal rights groups may be aware of the issue of horse slaughter, they are not actively involved in the fight to end horse slaughter. They are not interested in working with those who race horses, train horses or even own them. Animal rights groups believe that horses should all be “returned” to the wild, while animal welfare advocates believe that certain animals are companion and work animals and that they serve a useful, intended and respected place in society. Specifically, they, along with the American public, admire and revere horses as special to our heritage and culture.
There is a subset of animal welfare groups, those that specifically deal with horses. The majority of these groups supports a ban on slaughter and includes the American Horse Defense Fund, equine rescues nationwide, and numerous other equine interest groups. These groups are specifically interested in the welfare and care of horses and most have day-to-day interactions with horses and are staffed by horse owners. These groups are trained in spotting and protecting equine from abuse and see horse slaughter as a form of equine abuse. They support a ban as a way to end the abuse. Many of these groups are not political and don’t usually get involved with political debate, but they have stepped forward and are active in the fight to ban horse slaughter.
While Congress often gets letters and calls from members of the Humane Society of the US and are often contacted by livestock producers, there is a segment of the population that Congress is hearing from on this issue that don’t fit the normal mode. These people are the average person who has weighed the facts and determined that horse slaughter is inhumane and should be illegal. Classifying them all as animal rights activists is not accurate or fair. This issue is about the few speaking for the silent majority on an issue that is neither well known or sexy, in fact the brutality of the methods used to slaughter horses (different and less humane than that of livestock) is not fit for the evening news nor something that parents want to share with their children about our present society, the one that has a long history of protecting and held in the highest regard.