Q&A: John Holland, Equine Welfare Alliance

John Holland, president of the Equine Welfare Alliance with a couple of fillies

John Holland, president of the Equine Welfare Alliance with a couple of fillies

How an electrical engineer once heading up a robotics company servicing the nuclear industry came to be testifying against horse slaughterhouses later in life came down to a news article and a mare.

“It was 2003 when my wife Sheilah brought home an article about PMU mares” whose urine is harvested to create estrogen treatments for women “and that article led to our decision to adopt a PMU mare,” says John Holland. And that decision is what led to what he jokingly refers to as the “downward spiral” into horse-welfare advocacy work, which includes the founding and presidency of 501 (c) 4 organization Equine Welfare Alliance, and many hours spent networking, testifying, and organizing on behalf of the horse.

In this week’s Clubhouse Q&A, Holland discusses his ongoing role in the slaughter debate, and his passion for horses, including his OTTB Honey Rose.

Q: What is the Equine Welfare Alliance?

We formed in 2009 and envisioned we would be getting more into the political arena, but we wound up more in the educational arena instead.

Over the years our membership has grown and we’ve networked, and focused on becoming an information gathering and disseminating organization, which holds yearly conferences, and talks a lot about slaughter.

Q: The Alliance lists 66 pages filled with individual members and 37 pages filled with participating organizations, including the ASPCA and many horse charities. How did the Alliance get so big?

Holland enjoying the company of a treasured horse

Holland enjoying the company of a treasured horse

Interestingly, we do not solicit members, and we don’t charge dues. In fact, we rarely solicit donations unless we have a specific project. We’ve been pretty amazed at the growth ourselves!

I think most of it comes from our insistence on accuracy in the information we present, and the fact that we offer so many resources that have been produced by our various members.

Early on, I was introduced at a conference hosted by the Equine Advocates in New York and co-founder Susan Wagner introduced me by saying, “I have checked them out and they are the real thing.”

Q: What is the goal of the Equine Welfare Alliance?

The goal of the Alliance is to improve the lives of equines worldwide. We are already thinking beyond the end of slaughter in the U.S. and working on strategies to reduce equine abuse and neglect. Considering all the money horses have made for us, all the universities that have equine programs, all the horse groups, the shows, the rodeos, and the indirect beneficiaries, it amounts to $102 billion a year according to the Deloitte Study, The National Economic Impact of the U.S. Horse Industry.

Our goal is to become the gold standard of information on equine welfare. We gather data from a wide range of government sites, from state animal control and veterinary services, etc.

We have different members of the Alliance specializing on certain information gathering. For example, one member tracks weekly slaughter records from the USDA and compiles them on spreadsheets. Another member with a commercial driver’s license is able to find and track trucking violation records (of horse haulers) … each of our members brings his or her own talents to the effort.

Q: Does the Alliance plan to lobby in Washington?

Holland is always at the ready to make the case for horses

Holland is always at the ready to make the case for horses

We do not lobby in the true sense of the word. Instead, we try to provide government officials with information that they can use in the fight to lessen equine suffering, and we try to empower our members to establish relationships with their representatives, through which they can educate their representatives on main issues.

Q: In October you flew to New Mexico to testify as a volunteer expert witness in a hearing related to an effort to bring a horse slaughterhouse online there.

The hearing I went to involved the plant getting a renewal of its discharge permits for waste.

I spoke about the possible impact on the water table, which is only about 10 feet below the surface, and offered my opinion on the plant’s proposal to build a lagoon lined with plastic, like a big coy pond, to handle discharge.

Q: Although a hearing officer in that case has recommended against issuing a permit for the proposed slaughterhouse, you are actually equally encouraged by budget talks in Washington, which could have a larger impact horse slaughter efforts in the U.S.

The larger issue is that Agricultural appropriations committees of both the House and the Senate voted to kill inspections for horse slaughter plants. The president’s proposed budget also called for removing the ante mortem inspections, the before-death inspections, and this would greatly affect horse slaughter.

Moreover, the measure to de-fund meat inspection for horse slaughter passed by a super-majority vote.

Q: You’ve owned horses most of your life, and even own a special OTTB named Honey Rose.

Honey Rose was so unused to life outside her stall that she spent weeks waiting by her paddock gate.

Honey Rose was so unused to life outside her stall that she spent weeks waiting by her paddock gate.

I got Honey Rose when she was 10. Her owner had died, and the horse had been kept in a stall her entire life. Although the rescuers did a great job getting her into good physical shape, she has deep insecurity from her life in isolation.

When she came here, I put her in the yard which has fences bordering three other horse areas. This allows new horses to get acquainted without the danger of fights breaking out. Unlike a normal horse, she was petrified by the vast expanse of a whole acre, so she invented an imaginary stall up next to the gate, and she didn’t leave it for two weeks.

It took her over a month to feel free to wander the entire yard.

I worried she would have a permanent lack of social skills, but the opposite was true. She quickly formed a friendship with another mare, who also had a hard time relating to the other horses. Soon, she was comfortable enough to integrate into the whole herd. She is just now getting trained, in fact, the trainer was here recently working on her ground manners and she is learning quickly.

Off-TrackThoroughbreds.com commends John Holland and members of the Equine Welfare Alliance for their dedication to a better life for our equine friends.

34 responses to “Q&A: John Holland, Equine Welfare Alliance”

  1. ann fox

    Love this man’s tenacity…because that is what it takes to get governments to listen to you! I admire your’s too Susan….thanks for your articles & keeping us informed.

  2. Suzanne Moore

    As a proud member of the EWA, all I can add is that John is truly deserving of the accolades here and everywhere else. The integrity, honesty and knowledge of leaders like John – although I don’t know anyone else quite like John ;)- is what will win against greed, cruelty and LIES.

    Go, John!

  3. Standardbred Horse Fan Club

    Hey ER! That’s the petition campaign that we started too because your petition was so innovative and amazing!

    Thank you JOHN HOLLAND and the alliance for being such an inspiration to Canadians for Horse Welfare also!

    Standardbred Horse Fan Club

  4. Equine Right to a Quality Life (ER) Canada

    We are located in Canada and marvel at the work of the Alliance and John Holland.

    One of our initiaves would see more horses live by providing members of horse councils country-wide with the option to choose whether to have their dues support horse slaughter or support a benevolent charity that helps to keep horses alive.
    The petition is here for anyone interested https://www.causes.com/campaigns/70529-see-horse-councils-give-their-members-a-choice

    Canada slaughters nearly 90,000 horses a year (many also from the USA) so we believe that creative solutions that keep horses alive keep them off the slaughter line.

  5. vicki tobin

    Joy, you can reach us at ewa@equinewelfarealliance.org or you can visit the website for information on what you can do to help.


  6. Betty Beolowski

    Thank you Susan Salk for such a well-written and thoughtful article. Thank you John for all you do, and for your ceaseless efforts to share the truth.

  7. Mustang Man

    A fantastic person, An Organization that always looks for and speaks the truth whether it’s in agreement with the truth or not. You can’t ask for more. Thank you Mr. Holland for all you have and are doing for the benefit of the horse culture and species.

  8. Robynne Catheron

    To John and Sheilah Holland, thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  9. Sue carter

    A Gentleman and a Scholar !

  10. Grandma Gregg

    Listen to John Holland on the radio (archive from Nov 2013)
    Thank you John Holland!

  11. Betty L. Kelly, M.D. (retired) but a long time wild horse-burros advocate/rescurer

    1-8-2014 I’m sure John’s head size has grown with all the beautiful comments said about him. I loved the “Howling Christmas video” and I sent it to others. I have a couple of things to add:

    An Indian legend says: “When a human dies there is a bridge they must cross to enter into Heaven. At the head of the bridge waits every animal that human encountered during their lifetime. The animals, based on what they know of this person, decide which humans may cross the bridge…and which are turned away.”
    Sent by Judy Bishop, jishop_1@msn.com Topeka KS. 785-862-0234-home “Friends of the Animals in Kansas. http://www.joeyshome.petfinder.com Joey’s Home Senior Dog Rescue, Inc

    This is my quote: “A World without God’s creatures, big or small, wild or domestic is a World without a SOUL.”
    Thank you JOhn and the people and animals that surround you.
    Betty in Northern Nevada

  12. Kathryn Webers

    Susan Salk, tx so much for covering John’s efforts for horse welfare and ending horse slaughter. John’s been a personal hero of mine since Barbaro’s Preakness tragedy brought so many of us to the goals of improving horse welfare and ending horse slaughter. John’s an exceptionally capable, generous,and caring man who puts his considerable talents behind the selfless objectives of prohibiting horse slaughter for human consumption, and in improving horse welfare.
    Via their Equine Welfare Alliance, he and Vicki Tobin have proved time and again to be a committed and invaluable resource for those of us who work for a federal ban on horse slaughter. Love ya, John!

  13. Maggie Frazier

    John & Sheila Holland truly are advocates for horses in every way possible. The information that he gives the rest of us who care for horses (and other animals) helps the “cause” so much. I’m not able to do much physically at this point in my life, but sending emails & donating a little to several rescues & other organizations – at least I feel I’m helping a bit. Thank God there is a John Holland, RT Fitch, Vickery Eckoff, Ginger Kathrens & all the other great horse advocates out there.

  14. Terri Russell

    I’ve Known John For About 12 Years Now. First MeT Him On The Yahoo Group Against Slaughter. He’s A truly Compassionate Guy And His Sense Of Humor Is Outstanding. It’s Funny That The Plight Of The Pmu Mares Brought Me To This Fight. I Too Adopted A Pmu Who Is Still With Me, My Personal Horse. I’m Always Happy Too Read Or Watch A Video That Has John Speaking As He Makes A Dry Lecture Easy To Listen To. That Sense Of Humor Keeps You On Your Toes. Love ya John Holland. Thanks For Everything You Do For The Horses.

  15. Laureen Godin

    How can we go about duplicating him one million times? is this possible?? What a compassionate heart!

  16. Lisa Griffith

    Nice article on EWA President but I believe that the NM waste water permit may not be a “done deal”. In fact, a panel has recommended against it and a final ruling is due within the next few months.

  17. Michellle

    You are equine nations’ national treasure. Thankyou for all that you do.

  18. joy coldiron

    please tell me what i can do to help. who should I contact to assist EWA in their endeavor to educate and put an end to horse slaughter.

  19. arleneorlando

    The Horses all Cheer that John is here with them , and we all Cheer him also, Thank You Mr. Holland for making that decision so long ago !!!!

  20. TerryW

    Thank you John for ALL you do for the horses, we are sure glad you came along! And thank you Sheilah for bringing home that article on PMU mares!

    The horse should be the US National Animal – for all they’ve done for this country – and they should be protected as such. The cruelty of greed in the US is a national disgrace.

  21. R.T. Fitch

    John is one of the most intelligent and compassionate individuals that I know, proud to call him my Friend.

  22. Q&A: John Holland, Equine Welfare Alliance | Straight from the Horse's Heart

    […] By Susan Salk as published in Off-Track Thoroughbreds […]

  23. Barbara Grimaldi

    Forgot to add–THANK YOU JOHN AND EWA for all you do for our horses and burros. We all respect and admire you and appreciate all the constant work you do to fight the good fight. It’s an honor and a pleasure to be on the same page with you and with your terrific EWA team.

  24. Barbara Grimaldi

    I started working in the equine advocacy field only 3.5 years ago, and John and his group have been sources of important knowledge for me and for many on my team. I’ve been to all of EWA’s annual conferences where I’ve met so many others throughout the country who are all working to achieve the goals for equines that John describes in this article. John is always available to answer a question or two for a newbie like me in this very complex equine advocacy world, and I am so grateful for his help and ideas. My group, Equi-Army, rescued Honey Rose as well as 10 other horses two years ago who were in jeopardy after their owner died. Unfortunately, she had kept them all in individual stalls and tiny walkouts for too many years–they were imprisoned. Thank you, John, for understanding that about Honey Rose and for giving her a chance to see what the good life can be for a horse. Her great-great-great-great granddaddy, Seabiscuit, must be smiling down on both of you from horse heaven.

  25. Barbara Griffith

    What always got me about these people wanting to start up horse slaughter plants is the fact that the EU has said that they will not allow horse meat from the US sent to their country because of the drugs. But the EU has no problem looking the other way when Canada and Mexico both import US horses by the truck load and ship the meat with almost no inspections of the meat for vet drugs. They also have no problem with allowing the killer buyers to fill out the paperwork on the horses claiming the animals are drug free when they all know better including the EU inspectors. The day horse slaughter is illegal in the US is the day 90% of the slaughter plants in Canada and Mexico will go out of business. They can only stay open if US horses are killed in their plants because neither country has the number of horses needed to keep the plants working at full capacity to make it worthwhile to stay open.

  26. Barbara Griffith

    I am a member off this organization and they are what they claim to be. They have done a lot toward educating the public about the cruelty of horse slaughter. I know I got a update yesterday about Missouri turning away from opening a horse slaughter plant. I’m quoting from the newsletter: Missouri, one of the four states where horse slaughter plants were planned, is no longer on the list. On January 4,2014, the Rains Natural Meats company quietly filed a motion to dismiss their appeal with the Missouri Environmental Department, which had issued the company a discharge permit that excluded equines. This leaves only Valley Meats in New Mexico still fighting to open a plant. The battle in Missouri in Mountain Grove in early 2012 where it was immediately opposed by citizens organized by attorney Cynthia McPherson and other community leaders. The effort led by Sue Wallis, next targeted a shuttered slaughter plant near Rockville, MO. In Rockville, despite early support from some town leaders the effort also amounted to nothing. It goes on to say we are particularly grateful to Front Range Equine Rescue and the HSUS for their incredible legal battle to defeat this attempt to bring back horse slaughter.
    Holland also extended a particular thanks to the influential Busch family, who built the Anheuser-Busch brewing company that has become known for ads featuring its remarkable Clydesdale horses. Andrew, Billy, Adolphus and Peter, used their extensive political and business connections to help turn the state away from becoming the first in seven years to slaughter horses.

  27. Julie

    John is a true hero for the horses!!

  28. Anne Fullam Goeke
  29. Elizabeth Dana

    one small footstep in the right direction can be the beginning of a mission to end a war. Mr. Holland was armed with the shield of compassion and the sword of truth , all with the passion of St. Francis of Assisi …God bless

  30. Anne Fullam Goeke

    Thank you John for your insistence on accurate information in a sphere filled w hyperbole! Do-gooders often do themselves in by overstating their case and by not knowing much about the subject. Passion alone is not enough. People who can work the levers of government and public opinion need facts, and you provide them. Thanks again!

  31. SusanA

    Thank God for John Holland!

  32. R.A.C.E. Fund, Inc.

    A very intelligent and gentleman who is a true advocate for the horses.

    1. Dr. John E Radosevich

      Yes 50,000 BLM horses get fed every day at a cost of 5.00 per head per day while hundreds of babies die daily for the lack of good safe protein which horse meat can supply. One 1000 pound horse can yield 800 pounds of edible product which would be enough to feed 1600 young humans each day for a year. John Holland is not an angel but Lucifer in disquise.

      1. Anne Fullam Goeke

        The horsemeat is not safe. Feeding it to humans of any age is dangerous. Horsemeat is full of banned substances. Studies have been done on the effects of feeding horsemeat to zoo animals. Why? Because the animals were dying in record numbers and from previously unknown cancers. Horsemeat was found to be the culprit.

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