Friday, January 17, 2014

Response to the FEI Motion by the AERC Veterinary Committee

Date: January 13, 2014

To: American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) Board of Directors
From: AERC Veterinary Committee
Re: Response to Sponsorship Committee’s Motion: Temporary Suspension of Concurrent FEI Events

The AERC Veterinary Committee understands and is sympathetic to concerns regarding FEI and its apparent inability to enforce its own equine welfare regulations.  However, the Veterinary Committee feels this
concern, while somewhat justified, is misguided, as AERC has its own equine welfare issues to attend to.  The Veterinary Committee feels strongly that separation from FEI will only diminish our collective voice and would in fact weaken AERC, making it appear more of an isolationist group and not interested in constructive dialogue.  AERC has a voice through USEF and on the Equine Strategic Planning Group (ESPG), through Joe Mattingley. To leave now, while there is progress being made would be counter-productive. To participate in the discussion
and lead by example is smarter than leaving the discussion and having no voice.

To lead by example in the early years of this sport was something the AERC was famous for.  The landmark equine welfare reform of “Fit to Continue” passed by AERC in 1990 has become the global standard. However, since that time AERC has not remained progressive, or even current, on equine welfare policies and is sadly lagging behind most other world endurance organizations and federations.  There is such glaring weakness in our own welfare policies that most on the Veterinary Committee in response to the FEI motion used such language as – “he who
lives in a glass house, should not cast stones.”

Many of the Veterinary Committee members are FEI veterinarians as well, and as such have a unique perspective into the workings of FEI endurance.  Their comments were overwhelmingly that unless an AERC member has specific knowledge, experience or a direct working relationship with FEI, then they are lacking the full facts and
information regarding the welfare issues within FEI.  They strongly feel that the proposed “line in the sand” will not affect FEI at all, as AERC has no leverage against FEI directly, but would only serve to damage those AERC members who have worked hard to participate in international riding.

In addition, the danger from radical animal rightest groups should NOT be underestimated.  And as such, we will all be painted with the same brush – AERC, FEI and USEF.  The general public will not take the time to see the intricate separations between our organizations.  Extremist groups rarely make an effort to fully investigate the crusades they take on.  Instead, such groups function using inflammatory platforms designed to appeal to the general public’s reactionary, sympathetic nature.  This motion will do nothing to insulate AERC from the ire of the general public if they suddenly decide riding horses over long distances is somehow cruel and unfair to the equine species.

In summary, the AERC Veterinary Committee voted unanimously, (with two abstentions), against the Sponsorship Committee’s “Temporary Suspension of Concurrent FEI Events.”  We recommend the AERC BOD to stay in the discussion with USEF and FEI, and work together to find constructive means to improve the welfare of horse’s competing in international level endurance.  In addition, the Veterinary Committee strongly urges the AERC BOD to consider a widespread, sweeping platform of equine welfare changes to improve the humane conditions of horses competing in endurance here at home in the USA.  To that end, the Veterinary Committee is currently finalizing such suggestions for the AERC BOD and general membership.

Respectfully submitted for the AERC Veterinary Committee

Jeanette L Mero, DVM
Chair, AERC Veterinary Committee

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