The Year of the Horse

Guest OpEd by John Holland, president of Equine Welfare Alliance
Intro by R.T. Fitch, president of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

“I had prepared an OpEd for ya’ all, today, but my good friend John Holland, president of the Equine Welfare Alliance, has out done me in more ways than one so we will be publishing his message for New Years, below.

But on the Wild Horse and Burro side I will say this; it is about to become the Year of the Horse in China and what Wild Horse Freedom Federation and Equine Welfare Alliance have in the pipeline is going to make it all come true in 2014.  It WILL sincerely be the Year of the Horse.  Don’t look back, only look forward as this is the year that true change and reform will come.  We are not only working for the horses but we are working with you and for you.  Thanks for your support.  Love ya’ all and keep the faith.” ~ R.T.


A moment of reliefI am constantly reminded of the Chinese curse “May you live in interesting times!” That certainly describes the past year.

 As we enter a New Year, a time which should be one of peace and reflection, we find ourselves in a maelstrom of alarm calls over the imminent opening of the horse slaughter plants. But things are seldom as they seem, and virtually never as the AP reports them. So allow me to give my perspective.

The stories invariably quote Attorney A. Blair Dunn as saying the houses are about to open. First it was to be before Christmas, and this week it is January 1st, or January 15th or some other date.

The fact is, that the main reporter on these stories is usually AP’s Geri Clausing, the very same reporter who insisted on sighting the GAO report long after we had shown her evidence that it was fraudulent. She also repeated claims last summer that the plants would be opening within a week. So remember what Mark Twain said, “If you don’t read the newspapers, you are uninformed. If you do read them, then you are misinformed.”

I cannot assign a motive to the fact that Geri appears to print anything Dunn says without the least bit of fact checking, but she does. For example, when repeating his promise to open before Christmas, she should at very least have asked him how he planned to do this when he will not have a waste water discharge permit until at least February at best. There may be an answer, but the question needed to be asked.

Likewise, another local reporter repeated de los Santos’ claim to have a contract to supply horse meat to a Belgium country when Sanco (the EU food safety agency) has repeatedly confirmed that meat produced in the US and inspected by the USDA would not be eligible for importation into the EU because the USDA does not have an EU approved program for inspection.

So, what is really going on? 

I can only speculate at the answer to that question, but here is my opinion. I believe that Dunn realizes that their dream slaughter plant is fading, and he is focusing instead on establishing damages the proposed operation has suffered as a result of the delays caused by litigation. Remember, FRER/HSUS had to post a bond to continue their injunction that kept the plant closed. Dunn wants that bond money, and to get it he will have to prove damages.

Why do I believe that is the game afoot? In a recent article, de los Santos laid out the number of employees he was hiring, the contracts he had, and most tellingly of all his profit margin ($350/horse). I have been the CEO of one company and served on the board of another, and this kind of forward looking information is highly sensitive in the corporate world. A privately held company would never disclose such information without a good reason.

Knowing this kind of thing would allow one’s customers to know exactly how much they could squeeze the company in pricing negotiations, and it would allow competitors to understand the company’s weaknesses and vulnerability. It would also tell competitors where to send their own sales forces.

Yesterday there was an article quoting Dunn as saying that the New Mexico Attorney General’s suit would be a waste of tax payer money because they would have to pay the company over $400,000 a month in damages.

So all of this is, in my opinion, an attempt to hype supposed damages and recoup some of their investment from the opposing groups. Of course, I must admit that I also recall the maxim “Never attribute to deviousness that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” With Dunn and de los Santos, that is certainly a possibility.

Most recently, an aide has claimed that a “special committee” (presumably a subcommittee of the agricultural budget conference committee) was planning to take the defunding language out of the Agriculture budget. Since this happened to us in 2011, it sounded completely in keeping with the way things have gone in the past.

However, this time, the Agriculture Appropriations committees in the House and Senate have both passed budgets with the defunding language, and both passed by a super majority.

Conference committees have taken almost unlimited powers in the past. For example it was a conference committee that inserted the Burns “Three Strikes” language into the Interior Budget, and another one that brought us the “Monsanto Protection Act”, neither of which existed before the budgets went to conference.

This is all very confusing since we are now dealing with an Omnibus budget which replaces all of the individual agency budgets. I can’t claim to know how everything will work as far as reconciliation, but I am assured that we are OK this time.

 One way or the other, I believe we are near the end of horse slaughter. There are big things in the wings for the New Year and we have never had such powerful and determined allies in high places. So, without taking anything for granted, we at the EWA are already planning for the challenges in a post slaughter country.

I want to close by saying that it has been a great pleasure working with all of you. Your selfless dedication to the plight of our blessed equines has continued to be my personal inspiration.

 Happy New Year,

John Holland


  1. Thank you for all you do and wishing you A Very Happy New Year of the Horse..and to all those with you..two legged and four legged ~ ^_^ ❤


  2. Thanks for the updates on the current standings in these legal challenges. I have often thought to my self that Dunn, who I’m sure is working for a percentage rather than hourly fees (Santos could never afford that) has had something up his sleeve. He wants to make sure he gets something for his time and trouble but I also have had to agree with your quote…

    “Never attribute to deviousness that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” With Dunn and de los Santos, that is certainly a possibility.

    Could a Roswell ambulance chaser and a low-life convicted felon of questionable education really be so deceitful?

    2014 appears to be shining new light on our causes and hope is alive and well and growing.

    Happy New Year of the Horse! 2014


  3. John, thank you for your insight. No surprises here. What really disgusts me is the arrogance of the US Food Industry, Ag industry, the USDA and the FDA in that initially they thought they could hood-wink the global food markets and intelligent discerning consumers of products of all kinds. Now that strategy is backfiring but they continue to (try) bully us into submission and cram down everyones’ throats (pun intended) food and other products that are hazardous to our health.


  4. Thank you for your uplifting narrative. Yes, the conference committees in the past have had unlimited powers. Now it’s the Omnibus budget that we’ll have to watch even though both houses have voted to defund. We can’t let up, but 2014 just might be a Happy New Year and the Year of the Horse!


  5. Thank you so much for this good report, bringing a sigh of relief on this New Year’s Day. The fight has been long but so valuable. Thanks so much for all you do and to all who support the protection of horses in the U.S. from slaughter!!!!


  6. Great to read signs of change on this day of change!

    Could I add to this slaughter issue a new talking point, that being perhaps as a society we need to look at better ways to help people deal with end of life issues for their horses. The biggest issue is not typically the costs of veterinary euthanasia, but burial. As fewer people own enough land individually to do this, what happens (in my county anyway) is either frantically finding a neighbor with equipment and land who will help, or hauling the carcass to the landfill for a fee. Neither of these options is a good one for someone looking for dignity and reverence in the passing of a longtime ally. Some ideas might include finding ways to establish horse cemeteries, which perhaps could be funded through a small voluntary fee or insurance type arrangement. Another might be for folks with some marginal land to find ways to establish pathways to peace for those wanting a final resting place for their horse/s, one which they could visit reverently.

    During this Year of the Horse this would seem to be something we can all consider as a way to honor the horses who share our lives, and also take some of the steam out of the slaughter supply/demand argument. Throwing away horses like so much trash is an old model but not an evolved or ethical one. Can we do better? I challenge everyone reading this to try this year to think of ways we can make better end of life options available for all horses.


    • I was fortunate that the barn where I boarded had enough land that anyone who had to have their horse put down had a place for their grave. But after reading many comments about this – not everyone has that option. Good idea, IceSpots.


  7. ThankYou RT for Bringing This Information To Us. Thanks To John Holland for Explaining, Breaking It All Down. we Will See What This Year Brings.


  8. Thank you RT and John for your calm wisdom. We have come a long way this year and there is still much to do. Many thanks not only to the people in high places who work behind the scenes to get things done but to the thousands of people who educate themselves to the facts and actively spread the word in an intelligent manner. There are many hero in this battle.


  9. Thank you John for once again giving intelligent and competent information on this difficult and often emotional- roller-coaster- issue. Our shared love of horses that drives and inspires us as horse warriors is indeed a force to be reckoned with and respected. I believe in my heart of hearts; my very essence that we will indeed win this battle for our horses. How could we not. We have all that personifies truth and justice on our side!


  10. thank you John Holland for your perspective on what A.Blair Dunn is probably really up to. As one who has clashed often with Clausing of AP as well as Dan Flynn of Food Safety, my conclusion about them was simply that they were bought and sold. I would like to credit fellow horse warriors, particularly Team Lukens, for their adroit popping of propaganda balloons with the pin-point of basic logic ! Janna pointed out one that got past me by lil’ Ricky de Los Santos who doesn’t appear to understand the talking points issued by Stenholm. de Los Santos: “it would be more humane to not transport horses for slaughter to Canada therefore I will import them from slaughter to Roswell “!!!! What ?!!! It isn’t the direction of the transport, li’l Ricky, that is inhumane it is the fact of slaughter anywhere !


  11. Thank you John Holland and R.T. Fitch and ALL who continue to know the difference between what is wrong and what is right for our future generations – be they two or four-legged. The horses and burros have not given up and we will not give up. Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.


  12. My New Years Resolution is to Give My All And when thats Not Enough, I Vow to Dig Deeper in my soul And Give More! The Horses Depend on it! I am bracing cautiously for the prediction a kill buyer gave that when they stop slaughter they will abandon those animals stockpiled to blame the Nation. I hope people are prepared to.keep the Watch so people can be prosecuted for abandonment. When you have business that stockpiles horses to slaughter and the plants dont happen, they dont get a free pass because they cant afford to feed them. Lack of preparedness is Not A Legal argument. Your business should project what ifs ad have sufficent money and feeds to catore for them into a reasonable time frame. So the World in 2014 is Watching, Waiting, What Will Happen Next? We hope to Set the Bar Higher, We Hope to Say This is Where the line is drawn in the sand.


    • Is it not likely that the stockpiled horses, possibly including some of the 50,000 wild horses, will be expediently shipped to Canada and Mexico, when the U.S. slaughter ban becomes law? I wonder….


      • Kathleen, good point. I suggest we all remain vigilant – especially those living near where horses are known to be warehoused – and be prepared to show up and be seen to keep those horses from being “disappeared.” As Steve pointed out earlier someplace, we need to get live cameras at all the holding sites, at a minimum. We need to get the SAFE Act passed, pronto!


  13. I hope you are right that we are coming to the end of this nightmare with horse slaughter. Although I am the type of person to never let my guard down:) Happy New Year and thanks for all you do!


  14. First, let me wish all my horse and equine warriors a very happy new year! Thank you rt for john’s excellent article. Job is always on his games and has the pulse on the issue. Icy spots brings a very valid to the issue of ending our horse(s) life. Like many people out there, I board my horse and do not have enough property to keep them at my home. I have been fortunate though to board in a small private staple. My horse(s) have always been treated like their own. Two are buried their along with several of their pasture mates. But as we spoke there is only so much room unless you have 25 or more acres. In some counties burial is not allowed. I have posed the question to a couple of companies in Illinois regarding some type of prepaid package. The cremation is sometimes priced by the pound. At any rate your arrangements would be in order should the time ever arise because horses can pass at any age. I was not prepared for the loss of my three year old western pleasure colt and was so distraught, I let the clinic take care of the arrangements. I later was saddened because I was not aware of my options. However, when moving my horses the next time I asked the barn owners about that option. They agreed to allow them to be buried if and when the time came. I am still at this same barn and they have always treated my horses as their own. There is something to be said for the small barn owner. I would love to have an indoor arena, but the care of my horses has meant a lot. Again, good point about horses crossing over the rainbow bridge.


    • Gail, maybe we need to consider something like an Arlington for horses who have served us, which could perhaps be a nonprofit funded by a small tax on, say, bags of grain or something similar. The message a place of national honor would bring would speak volumes about how our nation was built on the backs of horses. There ought to be some way to make this happen, if not nationally then state by state. The folks trying to be in the slaughter business might be better put to work digging graves… and if the $350 profit per horse figure above is correct, I think burial fees in that range would be sufficient for a private venture to take this on. It would certainly be more honorable.


  15. de los Santos’ contention that he closed his cattle slaughter to open horse slaughter is illogical, given the drought that across Texas alone closed numerous cattle slaughter factories and turned at least one entire town into a ghost town. He likely closed because of a decline in cattle. His case for “damages” is built on a sand castle.


  16. The EWA is one of many, many organizations in this fight. Teamwork works, and if orgs pool resources, information, and efforts, 2014 can be the year for a big WIN for America’s horses.


  17. THANK YOU, John, R.T. and ALL who continue to take a stand for what is Right.
    I think this essay says it all.
    This is just the first part…
    We Were Made for These Times

    My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

    You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.


    • WOW LOUIE! Magnificent words by one of my favorite thinkers. This message will be forwarded now to many – I will be sending some sparks out thanks to you.


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