Racehorses are impressive, and it would be hard not to be awed by their power and grace. But there’s an important power they lack: unlike other athletes, they have no control over the drugs administered to them. That’s why groups such as The HSUS and HSLF and concerned legislators and citizens must be their voice.
The House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade heard that voice today during a hearing on H.R. 2012, the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, a bill introduced by Reps. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., and Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., to protect horses from pervasive race-day doping and other inhumane practices. (A companion bill, S. 973, is sponsored by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M.). The legislation would safeguard both the animal and human athletes who participate in the sport, as well as help the racing industry’s reputation recover from bad publicity about cheating and unfair advantages.
Five of the six witnesses who testified before the subcommittee this morning—including a former Minnesota Racing Commissioner, the CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), the founder and director of the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation, and HSUS president and CEO Wayne Pacelle—spoke eloquently in favor of the bill. They explained that drugging is a serious problem that puts racehorses and jockeys at risk, and puts the integrity of the entire industry, including owners, trainers, and veterinarians, at risk as well. H.R. 2012 is a pro-animal, pro-industry measure that can wipe out the cheating by relying on the USADA, an independent body that has helped root out doping in other professional sports, to oversee and enforce new rules.
The sole opponent of the bill downplayed the existence of doping in horseracing, and argued for the status quo. But it’s clear that the status quo is not working, with an average of 24 horse deaths on racetracks around the country every week. There are 38 pari-mutuel racing jurisdictions in the U.S., with about 100 racetracks, and each state sets up its own rules with respect to medicating of horses, while horses and their trainers routinely move between the states for races. Imagine if the NFL had different rules in each of the 32 professional football stadiums, or the NHL in 30 different hockey arenas? It would be chaos with no national standards or consistency.
Almost all other professional athletes are subject to uniform safety and anti-cheating regulations, whether it’s the NFL, the Olympics, or professional bicycling. The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act would require that any racetrack choosing to offer “simulcast” wagering, where the industry finds most of its profits, must first have an agreement with USADA. That agreement would include covering the costs of the anti-doping measures, with no additional cost to taxpayers. The bill calls for stiff penalties for cheating, including a “once and done” lifetime ban for the most severe doping violations, a “three strikes” rule for other serious violations, and suspensions for minor violations. It also bans race-day medication with a two-year phase-in to give the industry time to transition.
The rampant use of both legal and illegal drugs—not to get horses healthy, but to get them to the gate by masking painful injuries—consistently puts injured, sick, and worn out horses on the fast track to terrible injury or death during the race and after. The cheaters in the industry are known to experiment with anything that might give them an edge, including Viagra, blood-doping agents, stimulants, cancer drugs, cocaine, “pig juice,” and last year’s new craze—“frog juice,” an amino acid found naturally in certain species of frogs. “Frog juice” (dermorphin) is 40 times more powerful than morphine and is used to mask an injured horse’s pain. Doping injured horses to get them to race, when coupled with the recent trend of breeding horses for speed rather than durability, contributes to the increase in breakdowns, and to the epidemic of “castoffs” from the tracks who end up in the cruel horse slaughter pipeline.
As Chairman Lee Terry, R-Neb., pointed out at the start of the hearing, horseracing has been around for a long time—maybe almost as long as the deep human relationship with horses has existed. But if the industry continues to discount animal welfare and allow dishonest and misleading practices, it will continue to see its popularity erode. The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act will create more confidence in the sport of racing and a level playing field for competitors, while creating a safe culture for equine athletes.
Source: Humane Society Legislative Fund
HELP BAN PERFORMANCE ENHANCING DRUGS FOR RACE HORSES!
Please contact your U.S. senators and representative and urge them to cosponsor & support The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (H.R. 2012 / S. 973). Click Here to take action!
Princess Anne wants her fellow Britons to chew on the idea of including horse meat in their daily diets.
The royal caused a stir Thursday after advocating the public consumption of the meat while speaking at a conference hosted by World Horse Welfare, a charity in which she serves as president.
"Our attitudes towards the horse meat trade, I think might, and the value of horse meat, may have to change," the princess said.
Anne, the daughter of Queen Elizabeth, suggested that the number of abuse cases would drop if horse owners saw future worth in the animal. "Would that reduce the number of welfare cases if there was a real value for horse meat in the public sector?" she asked the audience. "I think it needs a debate."
Horse meat is regularly consumed in other European countries like France, Italy and particularly Belgium, but there is a social stigma against it in Britain.
"As I was reminded, not so long ago by somebody who traveled in France, the most expensive piece of meat in the local butcher was a filet of horse meat," Anne said. The princess also made reference to the horse meat scandal, which rocked many parts of Europe earlier this year, when horse DNA was discovered in an array of food products sold throughout the U.K.
"The scandal was that that was food that was improperly marked, not that it had horse meat in it," Anne argued, "And that if you'd put the correct label on it and put it back on the shelves, that would've been the correct answer, for everybody."
After her comments sparked headlines, Roly Owers, chief executive of World Horse Welfare, came out in Anne's defense. "Around 7,000 horses are currently at risk of abandonment and neglect and charities like ours are struggling to cope as winter approaches," Owers pointed out. "The economic downturn has driven prices for horses and ponies to rock bottom, and the sad fact is that from a purely economic perspective, they can now be worth more as meat."
"Our president has been brave enough to say this openly in the hopes of generating a thought-provoking debate," he added.
Source: CBS News
Obama Administration Allows America's War Horses To Fall Into Slaughter Pipeline
Today we mark the service and sacrifice of our veterans, as well as our commitment to look out for them once they return to civilian life.
Lately we've been reminded that this commitment extends to the military's service animals, like the dogs who are now placed in good homes after being retired from tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Unfortunately, one group of animal veterans has been forgotten. These are America's War Horses -- the horses who were used as cavalry mounts and who nobly served our country -- often giving their lives. Right now, the federal government is complicit in a shameful violation of our responsibility toward these historic and cultural icons.
The remote and rugged northwest corner of Nevada on the California-Oregon border is called "Mustang Country" because of the wild horses that have roamed there since the 1800s. Wild horses are deeply entrenched in the history of the area; on the backs of their ancestors, the West was won.
Wild horses captured from the lands that are now the Sheldon Refuge were captured and shipped overseas to serve in battle, including in the Spanish-American War and World War I. These historic animals -- whose presence on the Sheldon lands predates the creation of the refuge by at least half a century -- played a critical role in America's past.
The decedents of America's War Horses should be honored and protected. Instead, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has turned its back on these horses, disregarding and literally disposing of them.
Historically, pressure from ranchers wanting to graze cattle on federal lands in and around Sheldon, led to an endless series of roundups that often ended tragically for Sheldon's mustangs. In 1971, the Congress unanimously passed the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act, but it only applied to wild horses on Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service Lands. Sheldon's horses were left out in the cold.
In the early 1990s cattle grazing was eliminated from the refuge and the Sheldon range rebounded. Today, forage is lush and plentiful, the antelope population (the primary species that the refuge was created to protect) is larger than ever, and the wild horses and burros are fit, healthy and strong.
But the roundups continue. In 2012, despite thousands of Americans sending in comments urging protection of the Sheldon wild horses and burros, the FWS turned their backs on the public and America's War Horses by pushing forward with a new plan to eradicate these animals within five years.
A year later, the assault on Sheldon's wild herds began. Between September 9 to 14, a helicopter stampede captured 415 wild horses. Despite public opposition and a federal lawsuit, refuge officials proceeded to turn 252 of these horses over to a government contractor, Stan Palmer of J&S Associates in Mississippi, who is supposed to find them "quality" and "long-term" homes.
The problem is, the FWS's government contract with Palmer is vague and today the FWS is unable to verify the whereabouts of as many as 202 of 262 wild horses previously placed with Palmer between 2010 and 2012. The agency's own investigation found that "a bunch" of these horses were sold at a livestock auction, where kill buyers often purchase horses for shipment to slaughter.
As one legitimate Mississippi horse rescue person put it, "You can't even find a home for a good riding horse in Mississippi. What do you think Stan Palmer is going to do with hundreds of wild, untamed Nevada mustangs?"
The answer appeared in a Facebook post by one of Palmer's employees stating:
"we do government contacting (sic) to take in wild horses and give them homes. These are not branded or tattooed mustangs. They are simply wild horses. We are not aloud (sic) to sell them. you show up with your trailer and load em up... when they leave my house they are no longer my business."Days later, horses were hauled away by the trailer load.
It's the kind of situation that fuels cynicism about government spending and waste. Since 2010, the federal government has paid Palmer nearly $1 million in taxpayer dollars to take wild Nevada mustangs and give them away in Mississippi. This benefits the government in one way: by laundering the horses through a middleman, the FWS avoids the political heat that would result from taking them directly to a slaughter auction.
Sadly, the arrangement does not benefit American taxpayers or these defenseless horses, who just over two months ago, were roaming wild and free. Nearly 20,000 citizens have contacted Interior Secretary Sally Jewell about this travesty, and thousands have written to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which has direct oversight over FWS refuges. But Washington does not seem to care.
On this Veterans Day, while Washington looks the other way, America's War Horses are literally being sent into the slaughter pipeline.
The Obama administration and Congress have turned their backs on America's War Horses despite polls that show Americans reject horse slaughter and support protecting and preserving wild horses on the western range. This Veterans Day please remember the sacrifices of all veterans, including the tens of thousands of horses who tirelessly served this country, and their descendants, who today are forgotten and literally thrown away.
Source: The Huffington Post by Suzanne Roy, Campaign Director for American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign
Gov. Martinez’ Claims to Oppose Horse Slaughter Plant Are False, Says One Thing and Does Another to Mislead Voters, Reward Donors
(Albuquerque, NM) – New Mexico Governor Martinez claims she opposes the controversial opening of an industrial facility to slaughter horses for processing into meat for human consumption, but her recent actions in the case demonstrate that she is being dishonest with voters about her position. The Governor’s appointees at the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) have tried repeatedly to weaken horse slaughter opponents’ case against the facility in recent State court proceedings; she accepts large campaign donations from the backers of the horse slaughter project, and her closest political associates are representing the horse slaughter industry in the case.
“The Governor is not being forthright about her actions to weaken citizens’ efforts to block the establishment of a commercial horse slaughter industry in New Mexico, and that is cynical,” said Gary King, candidate for Governor. “She apparently instructed her appointees at the NMED to try to prevent the Attorney General’s office from representing the public interest of New Mexico citizens at the Roswell environmental hearing, where we challenged the granting of a wastewater discharge permit for the proposed facility. The Governor’s staff filed motions repeatedly to block us.”
The Governor’s appointees also tried to block retired NMED employee and top New Mexico water expert Bill Olsen from testifying on behalf of the Attorney General’s at the Roswell hearing. Both attempts were thwarted by the Roswell hearing officer who ultimately allowed the Attorney General’s office to participate and testify, as shown by the official record of the public hearing.
“Despite the federal government’s decision to legalize horse slaughter for human consumption, I believe creating a horse slaughtering industry in New Mexico is wrong and I am strongly opposed,” Gov. Martinez – 4/13/12
Gov. Martinez wants to maintain a public posture of being anti-horse slaughter – while working to undermine efforts to block a horse slaughter facility – because public opinion in New Mexico is strongly in favor of animal protection.
She also has been accepting campaign funds from big corporate agricultural interests who are bankrolling the effort nationally to reinstate horse slaughter in the U.S. after a six year ban, despite the documented destructive, adverse environmental damage done to small town wastewater treatment facilities in Illinois and Texas before the practice was stopped in 2007.
Leonard Blach, a veterinarian and significant financial supporter of the Governor, testified at the Roswell hearing in favor of the horse slaughter plant when almost the entire veterinarian medical community opposes it. Blach has given nearly $3,000 to the Governor’s campaign and PAC during 2010 – 2013.
Pat Rogers, a top political advisor to Gov. Martinez, represents a pro-horse slaughter party in the federal court case where Attorney General King and others have litigated to prevent the Roswell plant opening due to serious environmental concerns which have been ignored by the USDA.
Source: Press Release, Gary King for Governor
The U.S. Department of Agriculture should be able to dispatch inspectors to
meat processing facilities in Iowa, Missouri and New Mexico that would allow them to begin to slaughter horses for meat for the first time since Congress ended a four-year ban on the practice in 2011, the Justice Department argued in a court filing Thursday.
U.S. government lawyers asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit to lift a temporary injunction it imposed Monday at the request of animal welfare activists who contend that horse slaughtering poses potential environmental and health risks that the federal government has not adequately considered.
The litigation, pursued by the Humane Society of the United States as well as a Colorado group, Fort Range Equine Rescue, contends that the horses are more likely to have dangerous drug contamination than other types of animals and that the contamination could be released in both meat and groundwater.
A U.S. District Court judge ruled against the opponents last week, clearing the way for the facilities to begin slaughtering horses. But the 10th Circuit temporarily blocked the slaughter again Monday in order to consider whether it should or should not be allowed to go forward as the activists appeal.
"Front Range paints a gory picture of 'horse blood in their faucets' and a 'meat supply [that] has been contaminated by adulterated horse flesh'...but fails to present any scientific evidence of contamination in local waters or in other meat products or any reasonable expectation that such contamination will occur," the brief filed by DOJ's environmental lawyers says.
"FSIS [the Food Safety and Inspection Service] has set forth detailed regulations and directives for the inspection, testing, handling and labeling of livestock, including equines. At bottom, Front Range's argument is that slaughtered horses might be contaminated, that this contamination might reach nearby waters, and that this contamination might enter those unidentified lakes and streams at which Front Range's members might be recreating. These attenuated, speculative allegations of harm are insufficient to establish irreparable injury," the Justice Department lawyers argue in their filing (Click Here to view doc).
The companies affected by the injunction filed their own brief Thursday (Click Here to view doc). They called the litigation a "manufactured charade" and asking the appeals court to lift the temporary ban which they said could drive them into "insolvency" if continued.
"For this Court to find that appellant’s face a threat of irreparable harm, the court must turn a blind eye to the science that contradicts their assertion that all horses going to processing represent a toxic dangerous source pollution to the environment. Frankly, to find such an assertion to be credible, the court would have to ignore the very manure that issues from these animals which would undoubtedly have to contain the same toxic substances with absolutely no regulation as it enters the natural environment," the companies' lawyer A. Blair Dunn wrote.
Source: Politico, by Josh Gerstein
Curb the rampant soring and sadistic abuse of animals that has made Tennessee the epicenter of horse abuse in the world
A Congressional hearing is scheduled in Washington next week for a federal bill (HR 1518) that is aimed in a very direct way at the scandalous Tennessee Walking Horse industry. The bill, along with one called S 1406 in the Senate, seeks to strongly curb the rampant soring and sadistic abuse of animals that has made Tennessee the epicenter of horse abuse in the world and will hopefully strengthen the now-toothless federal Horse Protection Act of 1971.
Thus far a whopping 216 members of Congress – 152 Democrats and 64 Republicans -- have stepped forward to co-sponsor the bill, called the PAST (Prevent All Soring Tactics) Act, that was introduced By Ed Whitfield (R-Ky) and Steve Cohen (D-TN). The Senate bill, sponsored by Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), now has 26 co-sponsors but what is unfathomable is the lack of Tennessee politicians who have come forward to support the bills.
Perhaps they are ashamed that there is even a need for federal legislation but the better notion is that the “Dirty Lick” crowd in Shelbyville has used its political sway to make such men as our two Senators – Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker – join those wretched souls who turn a blind eye on animal abuse in order to win a blue ribbon. Why else wouldn’t Lamar and Bob jump at the chance to rid their own state of such a hideous cancer?
Further, a check on a government website shows that of Tennessee’s nine members of the House, only Rep. Cohen has had the courage to stand up for the bill. The other state representatives are David “Phil” Roe (R-Johnson City), John “Jimmy” Duncan (R-Knoxville), Scott DesJarlais (R-Jasper), Charles “Chuck” Fleischmann (R-Chattanooga), Jim Cooper (D-Nashville), Diane Black (R-Gallatin), Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood), and Stephen Fincher (R-Frog Jump, in Crockett County).
It is widely-known that Rep. DesJarlais has deep ties to the seedy Shelbyville-based crowd. He was given a fundraising party at last year’s world Celebration and has hounded the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, on behalf of the Dirty Lickers who are responsible for the now-sullied reputation of a breed that was once considered among Tennessee’s greatest treasures.
It is also widely known the Dirty Lickers have been lobbying in Washington since the bipartisan bill was introduced but with an all-star cast of over 100 veterinary, equine and other animal advocates in solid support of the legislation, even the dumbest politicians can recognize those who elect them are overwhelmingly in favor of eradicating horse abuse in Tennessee and neighboring states where soring takes place.
An informal but carefully conducted poll of the Breeders Association recently revealed that 65 percent of its active members supported the PAST Act, this despite a Board of Directors that includes some who have actually been cited for soring their horses with abrasive chemicals in hopes of an unnatural high-stepping gait that is, in a word, “grotesque” to true horsemen around the world.
Since an undercover tape of former Hall of Fame trainer Jackie McConnell viciously beating and torturing horses appeared in 2011, the Walking Horse industry – and the state of Tennessee – has been put under a microscope for its indifference to horse abuse. Both senators and every member of the state’s Congressional delegation are well aware that the notoriety gave way to the fact the state’s horse industry is a national embarrassment that badly reflects on their constituency. The vast majority of Tennesseans are not amused by the Dirty Lickers and their ongoing misdeeds.
But now that Congress is on the brink of passing the bill – only 240 votes are needed – where are Tennessee’s representatives? All are up for reelection in 2014, along with Senator Alexander, and only a fool wouldn’t realize how they vote on the PAST Act will carry over to the polls. People will not only notice how the state’s representatives will vote but they will also be reminded by opposing candidates during next year’s campaigning for votes.
It is curious that in the one state of America where leadership to stop horse abuse is most needed, it is discovered to be most lacking. Curious indeed.
Source: The Chattanoogan, by Roy Exum firstname.lastname@example.org
PROTECT HORSES FROM THE CRUELTY OF SORING!
The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act (S. 1406 / H.R. 1518) will amend the Horse Protection Act to end the industry’s failed system of self-policing, ban the use of devices implicated in the practice of soring, strengthen penalties, and make other reforms needed to finally end this torture. Click Here to contact your legislators: Urge them to cosponsor and support the PAST Act!
There is nothing preventing a northwest Missouri horse slaughter plant from opening, a lawyer for the facility's operator said Monday, despite a host of legal challenges and a question about the facility's wastewater disposal permits.
A federal judge in New Mexico last week cleared the way for equine slaughterhouses to resume operating in the U.S., dismissing a lawsuit by the Humane Society of the United States and other animal protection groups against the federal Department of Agriculture over planned plants in New Mexico and Iowa. The groups, along with the state of New Mexico, quickly filed an appeal on Friday as well as an emergency injunction request.
Rains Natural Meats, which was preparing to open the plant in Gallatin, could face yet another hurdle; a restriction by a Missouri Department of Natural Resources wastewater disposal permit issued on Oct. 29 that limits Rains to the processing of non-equine animals.
"It appears to us that the Missouri wastewater permit effectively doesn't allow Rains to process horses," said Clayton attorney Stephen Jeffery, who represents a Daviess County resident and two horse rescue groups that challenged the state's permitting process in a Jefferson City lawsuit.
But Albuquerque attorney Blair Dunn, who represents Rains along with the Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, N.M., said his client was in negotiations with the Missouri DNR and the city of Gallatin, which has provided its own discharge permit that would allow Rains to operate the plant as long as it sends its wastewater to a municipal disposal plant.
"There is nothing prohibiting the plant from beginning operations, nor the government from sending in inspectors," Dunn said Monday.
Horse slaughterhouses last operated in the U.S. in 2007 before Congress banned the practice by eliminating funding for plant inspections. Federal lawmakers restored those cuts in 2011, but the USDA has been slow in granting permits, citing the need to re-establish an oversight program.
The debate over a return to domestic horse slaughter centers on whether horses are livestock or companion animals and what is the most humane way to deal with the country's horse overpopulation, particularly in the drought-stricken West. Supporters say it is better to slaughter unwanted horses in regulated domestic plants than to ship them to sometimes inhumane plants in Mexico. The companies want to ship horse meat to countries where it is consumed by humans or used as animal feed.
Source: KMOV, by Alan Scher Zagier
Secretary Jewell seems to be willfully ignoring a report by the National Academy of Sciences. Why?
Nearly seven months into her tenure as Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell last Thursday at last made her first extended public comments about one of the most controversial and under-reported aspects of her portfolio as steward of the nation's public lands. Speaking at the National Press Club, she addressed in detail a question about the nation's beleaguered wild horses, which in the past few years have been rounded up by the tens of thousands from those public lands and dispatched to vast holding facilities at great cost to the American taxpayer (and to the great benefit of the ranching and livestock industries).
It was not an auspicious debut. Jewell did not directly answer the question posed to her. And the affirmative statement she did make about the herds was unsupported by key facts revealed in June in a report by the National Academy of Sciences that was sharply critical of Bureau of Land Management's practices and policies toward the horses. She offered a series of platitudes—e.g. "So we are working on it. And we are going to work on it"—while wild horses are being sold to slaughter in contravention of federal law and policy. Time is of the essence here but there was no hint of urgency in the Secretary's remarks.
There are two explanations for the Secretary's performance and neither can be seen as encouraging for wild horse advocates (or fans of good governance in general, for that matter). The first is that, despite her extensive scientific background, Jewell does not grasp the essence of the scientific criticism the NAS has offered about the BLM's work. And the second is that she does grasp the extent of the problem the NAS identified—she has done her homework—but that she has neither the political desire nor the bureaucratic will to implement the reforms the scientists suggest. Either way, from an Obama Administration official who talks a great deal about conservation and the environment, who says she is a friend to animals and no tool to corporate interests, it doesn't bode well for the federally-protected horses.
The National Academy of Sciences Report
It has been exactly five months since the National Academy of Sciences released its long-awaited report titled "Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program." In it, some of the nation's leading scientists were direct and unambiguous about the failures of the BLM to administer the horses: "The Wild Horse and Burro Program has not used scientifically rigorous methods to estimate the population sizes of horses and burros, to model the effects of management actions on the animals, or to assess the availability and use of forage on range lands," the scientists concluded.
In other words, after years of speculation and debate, the NAS concluded that the BLM was using both bad math and faulty science to justify one of its most controversial (and expensive) wild horse management practices. Wild horse advocates have long argued, for example, that the herds don't have nearly the negative impact on range lands that cattle and sheep do. Nor, advocates have long claimed, has the BLM accurately counted the number of wild horses on public lands or properly evaluated ways in which more horses can safely be kept there.
The NAS Report in June did not prove these allegations to be true. But at the very least it cast serious doubt on the arguments the BLM (and the ranching and livestock industries) have made in support of the current practices. It raises profound questions, in other words, about whether the advocates are right about the BLM and the need for its overhaul. Also relevant to Thursday's public comments by Jewell was this part of the NAS Report that explained what the BLM was doing wrong and how federal officials could remedy the problem:
Promising fertility-control methods are available to help limit this population growth, however. In addition, science-based methods exist for improving population estimates, predicting the effects of management practices in order to maintain genetically diverse, healthy populations, and estimating the productivity of rangelands. Greater transparency in how science-based methods are used to inform management decisions may help increase public confidence in the Wild Horse and Burro Program.
Since June, I have repeatedly asked Secretary Jewell, through her spokeswoman, to respond to the National Academy's work. I have asked the secretary, again through a spokeswoman, to respond more generally to the plight of the nation's wild horses as they become more and more vulnerable to mistreatment or slaughter. Over and over again those requests have been declined. I was told to be patient, that the secretary was working through the NAS Report, and that the time would come when there would be a substantive response. Evidently, that time has come.
July On Capitol Hill
To put into better perspective last week's comments by Secretary Jewell, I need to briefly digress. First, Secretary Jewell said she wanted to wait for the results of the NAS Report before commenting upon the plight of the wild horses. Then, on July 17th, she appeared at a hearing on Capitol Hill just a few weeks after the NAS Report was issued. At the time, she had an exchange with Rep. Raul Grijalva, a Democrat from Arizona with a long history of sense and sensibility toward the nation's wild horses. He framed his question to her the following way:
Madame Secretary, the Wild Horse and Burro program managed by BLM has been a persistent source of criticism, controversy, and I believe in need of serious reform and an overhaul. And much of that criticism that has been leveled at the program was reaffirmed by an independent review by the National Academy of Sciences.And so in light of that independent review, do you see a need to restructure the program in order to both save money and, just as importantly, guarantee humane treatment of Wild Horses and Burros in that program?
USDA is not required to conduct an Environmental impact Statement or Environmental Assessment in order to grant equine inspection services to businesses planning to pack horsemeat for export, U.S. District Court Judge Christina Armijo ruled Friday.
The judge denied the request by animal groups for a permanent injunction and dismissed the case challenging USDA’s authority. The decision is a massive loss for the Humane Society of the U.S., which largely funded the lawsuit and enlisted 15 other groups and individuals to join it as plaintiffs.
And it was a defining victory for the Department of Justice attorneys who re-affirmed USDA powers contained in the Federal Meat Inspection Act that go back more than 100 years. It means horse slaughter for human consumption could resume shortly under USDA inspection for the first time since 2006.
“Valley Meat Company, LLC and Rains Natural Meats are both very please with the decision of Judge Armijo, sai Albuquerque attorney A. Blair Dunn. “This is a very well reasoned and through opinion. Valley and Rains are very grateful for the hard work and thought that Judge Armijo put into this decision. Both companies will now focus on final preparations to open and begin work.”
Both Valley Meats and Rains Natural Meats, along with Iowa’s Responsible Transportation, obtained grants of inspection from USDA. The two businesses Dunn represents are now going forward with their plans, while the Iowa firm’s intention now are
Armijo, the chief federal judge in New Mexico, sided with USDA’s historic interpretation of its governing law, namely that it has
little or no discretion over whether to issue a grant of inspection. Instead, she ruled USDA has a duty to inspect meat and meat products even of the unpopular equine variety.
At one time, she noted, the Secretary of Agriculture was given the “discretion” to provide inspectors, but Congress
changed that to “the Secretary shall provide such inspectors.” Click Here to view court ruling document.
Since the horse and animal welfare groups sued USDA four months ago, nationally known animal law attorney Bruce A. Wagman argued inspection decisions fell under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Administrative Policy Act (APA). But the federal court found these only apply to discretionary agency actions, not to those mandated by law.
Other federal laws and rules enforced by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) also apply to horse slaughter houses, including requirements for hazard and sanitation plans, humane animal handling and proper sanitary conditions. The three equine packing houses had met those requirements as part of the USDA grant of inspection process.
While horsemeat is a source of protein for consumers in Asia and Europe, no issue involving animal agriculture stirs emotions more in the U.S than does horse slaughter.
Through a spokesman, the HSUS is promising to “not only appeal the decision but also to work with the states to block the plants from opening in Iowa, Missouri and New Mexico and step up efforts in Congress to stop the slaughter of American horses—in the states and also in Canada and Mexico.”
“Our legislative and legal activities have prevented horse slaughtering on American soil since 2007, “ added Wayne Pacelle, HSUS president and CEO. “ With today’s court ruling and the very real prospect of plants resuming barbaric killing of horses for their meat in the states, we expect the American public to recognize the urgency of the situation and to demand that Congress take action. Court fights and state legislative battles have been important, but this is an issue of national importance and scale, and Congress should have an up-or-down vote on the subject.”
In the now dismissed case, both sides agreed to allow the judge to hear it on an expedited basis. An appeal would likely go to the 10th Circuit in Denver.
Source: Food Safety News by Dan Flynn
Help Make Horse Slaughter illegal in the United States! Contact Congress in support of the SAFE Act. Passage of the SAFE Act will not only ensure that predatory horse slaughterers cannot reopen their doors here in the U.S.— it will
also stop the trafficking of horses to slaughterhouses over American borders. Click Here to Take Action!