Congress' latest budget bill blocks the resumption of horse slaughter in the U.S. by cutting funding for inspections of the process. The prohibition on spending by the Department of Agriculture is included in the $1.1 trillion budget bill that Congress sent to President Obama on Thursday, January 16, 2014.
Animal protection groups applauded the vote.
"Americans care for horses, we ride horses, and we even put them to work. But we don't eat horses in the United States. And we shouldn't be gathering them up and slaughtering them for people to eat in far-off places," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, one of a number of groups involved in litigation that has blocked proposed horse slaughterhouses from opening in New Mexico, Missouri and Iowa.
The last domestic horse slaughterhouses closed in 2007, a year after Congress first cut funding for the inspections in an attempt to shutter the industry.
Funding was restored in 2011, and Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, N.M., has been fighting since to convert its small cattle operation to horse slaughter. Last year, Valley and plants in Iowa and Missouri received federal permits to open, but the efforts have been blocked by a series of court orders.
Valley's efforts ignited an emotional, national debate over whether horses are companion animals or livestock, and sparked divisions between rescue groups, Indian tribes and politicians over the most humane way to deal with neglected and abandoned horses.
Proponents argue it is better to slaughter unwanted horses domestically than have them shipped thousands of miles to Canada or less humane facilities in Mexico.
"The message from Capitol Hill is loud and clear on this issue: Our horses deserve better, and this abhorrent industry will not be tolerated," said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of ASPCA Government Relations.
Despite the growing government action to keep horse slaughter from resuming, an attorney for Valley and Rains Natural Meats of Gallatin, Mo., said Thursday his group will continue to fight to produce horse meat.
Blair Dunn said the companies would be looking at filing a claim that the funding ban violates provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Source: AP by Jeri Clausing
WASHINGTON— U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., today announced that the bill funding the government for FY2014 includes a ban on domestic horse slaughter. The ban prohibits the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from using federal funds to inspect horsemeat intended for human consumption, effectively banning domestic horse slaughter and protecting the public from toxic horse meat. The provision, coauthored with Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., is expected to pass both the House and Senate this week before going to the President for his signature. Sen. Landrieu added the language to the FY2014 Appropriations bill in June that funds the Department of Agriculture, which was part of today's funding bill.
“I am relieved that horse slaughter is now banned in the United States, protecting the American public from the very serious health and safety risks posed by horse meat. Slaughtering horses is inhumane, disgusting and unnecessary, and there is no place for it in the United States.
I appreciate Sen. Graham's partnership to ban this cruel practice, keep our food supply safe and save taxpayer dollars,” Sen. Landrieu said. “I will continue to push for the passage of the SAFE Act, which aims to permanently ban the slaughter of horses in the United States and prohibits the transport of America’s horses to other countries for slaughter.”
The ban included in the FY2014 Agriculture Appropriations bill would last for the duration of the bill. To permanently ban horse slaughter, the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act would permanently prohibit horse slaughter operations in the U.S., and end the current export and slaughter of more than 150,000 American horses abroad each year. The SAFE Act has the bipartisan support of 28 Senators. A companion bill has been introduced in the House by Reps. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. and has the bipartisan support of 163 congressmen.
Press Release: Mary Landrieu, U.S. Senator for Lousiana
Tomorrow, New Mexico Attorney General Gary King will be back in court seeking to block the opening of a horse slaughter plant in his state because of unresolved questions about waste disposal and unsafe chemicals in the meat. We hope he prevails. Attorney General King—joined by The HSUS and Front Range Equine Rescue—made similar arguments in the federal courts, which have produced a series of red and green lights for horse slaughter plant proponents over the last five months. Both King, as the state’s top law enforcement official, and the state’s Republican governor, Susanna Martinez, oppose the opening of a horse slaughter plant, so the state has hardly rolled out the welcome mat for the would-be horse butcherers and traders.
Taking a step back from the legal wrangles in the state and federal courts, I am amazed that the people behind horse slaughter continue to proceed with their thoroughly unpopular gambit, given the impossibly difficult regulatory and social environment they find themselves in. The only explanation for their perseverance must be that they have some financiers willing to bear the costs in their attempt to march healthy horses onto slaughterhouse floors. There’s just no way to view horse slaughtering as a viable business in the current environment, and its future, from a strictly economic perspective, is bleak as bleak can be.
You don’t find too many people seeking to open up whale processing facilities, or cockfighting arenas, on American soil, because any sane investor knows it’s a fool’s errand. There are just too many practical obstacles—legal, political, and social—in the way, even if the proponents had unfailing enthusiasm about the idea of killing whales or fighting roosters. The enterprise depends not only on the enthusiasm of the handful of boosters, but on society’s broader acceptance of the enterprise.
> First, as the operators of proposed slaughter plants in Iowa, Missouri, and New Mexico have learned, there is major local opposition to their enterprises. They will have to contend with a battery of regulatory challenges, protests, and public criticism if they wish to operate.
> Second, Congress is likely to shut the door on the industry, at least for the coming year. Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have language in their 2014 spending bills that forbids USDA from spending any money to inspect the plants, and that means the plants won’t be able to operate. Now that a budget agreement has been reached, Congress is expected to act on that legislation by January 15th. All along, this prospect has been looming, and it defies easy explanation that these slaughter plant operators would go the expense of setting up plants and hiring staff even as Congress acts to put a stop to it all.
> Third, there is a highly uncertain market for their product. While there’s never been any demand in the U.S. for horse meat, the industry has relied on markets overseas, principally in Europe. But demand there has been in decline, and according to Animal People, per capita consumption is more than a pound per year in just four of 28 EU nations. Since the scandal that saw horsemeat mislabeled and sold as beef in several countries, per capita consumption rates has declined further still, due to concerns about food safety and the changing tastes of consumers.
Some big money player is probably backing the horse slaughter plants, and allowing them to make totally irrational business decisions. But it’s an economic dead end. One way or another, Americans won’t let these plants operate, just like we wouldn’t allow dog and cat slaughter plants, whale processing, or cockfighting arenas to operate. We have a great entrepreneurial spirit in America, but we also have core values. Horse slaughter just doesn’t make the cut as a legitimate business in our great country.
Source: The Humane Society of the United States, by Wayne Pacelle
Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young (R-FL-13), the longest serving Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, passed away on October 18, 2013. His death was due to complications related to a chronic injury.
A member of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, Young was a great legislative ally for animals, including horses. In June 2013 he and Rep. Jim Moran introduced an amendment to the FY14 Ag Appropriations bill to defund Horse Slaughter inspections..
In 2014 he also Co-Sponsored the SAFE Act (H.R. 1094) to illegalize horse slaughter in the U.S. and the PAST Act (H.R. 1518) to protect horses from the cruelty of soring.
Young was the only Republican to sign & endorse Rep. Raul Grijalva’s letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, calling for reforms of the Wild Horse Program.
In May 2013, Young was honored for his animal welfare leadership from the Humane Society of the United States. Upon accepting the award, Young said, “I am honored to receive this award and will continue to advocate for the protection of animals as I have throughout my career".
There will be a public funeral for Rep. Young on October 24th in Largo, Florida.
Navajo Nation President, Ben Shelly
Among many issues President Ben Shelly lobbied for on his trip to Washington D.C. this week, was asking congressional leaders not to support a provision in the 2014 Agricultural Appropriations Bill that would reinstate a ban on horse slaughtering. The prospects aren't good, but meanwhile, the owner of a proposed horse slaughterhouse says he'd be willing to locate on the Navajo Nation - whose sovereign status may exempt it from the ban. In 2011, Congress removed a ban on horse slaughtering that had been in place since 2006. Even though the Obama Administration is against horse slaughtering, the U.S Department of Agriculture issued permits to Valley Meat Inc., of Roswell, N.M. and Responsible Transportation in Iowa in June to begin horse slaughter operations.
On Aug. 2, Shelly wrote to U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, and other congressional leaders about the Navajo Nation's growing problems with feral horses, including his support for horse slaughtering from a land manager perspective. From his experience from driving across the reservation, especially driving to and from his home in Thoreau, N.M. to the tribal capital in Window Rock, the president said he would tell congressional leaders what he sees first-hand.
"They are starving and dying of thirst," he said about the estimated 75,000 feral horses on the reservation in an Aug. 16 interview with the Navajo Times. "I feel sorry for them," he added. "They're skinny, they're mustangs and they're small." In the letter to Grisham and also in his interview with the Navajo Times, Shelly said the range of the land - about 27,000 square miles - is suitable for only about 30,000 horses, and not 75,000. Shelly said the overpopulation of feral horses has resulted in the imbalance of the Navajo landscape, with the rangeland being depleted, water sources damaged through feces and urine contamination and even fatal car-horse collisions on the highways. He also said that the thousands of free roaming feral horses are competing with other livestock and wild game for resources to survive, which he claims has changed the migratory processes for wild game.
He cited the Navajo Department of Agriculture's statistics about how much of an impact these horses have on the landscape, saying a single feral horse consumes 5 gallons of water per day, or 1,825 gallons of water per year. These feral horses also consume 18 pounds of forage per day, or 6,570 pounds per year. "Removing 159 from the Navajo Nation would save 290,175 gallons of water per year and 1.1 million pounds of forage," the president said. On his trip, Shelly said he would also meet with officials from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and challenge them about helping tribes with managing their lands, considering
the agency has a history of Indian policy like the 1930s Navajo Livestock Reduction.
"We now have an overstock of horses," he said. "Why are they not here? The BIA should be in charge of this. What happened to that federal policy? That's what needs to be said in Washington, D.C." Though he favors the idea of slaughtering horses to help restore the land back in balance with nature, the president also said he's "open" to other ideas, such as adoptions, before the horses go to slaughter. "I'm open," he said, before adding that if the feral horses couldn't be sold or adopted, slaughter is "the only thing you can do."
Shelly will need to do some major convincing. According to a June 13 press release issued by the House Appropriations Committee, the appropriations bill passed the committee's floor with several amendments. One of those amendments,
sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-Virginia), prohibits government funding for inspections of horse slaughter facilities in the U.S. - which effectively shuts down the industry. The amendment has bipartisan support. The appropriations bill, which totals about $19.5 billion in discretionary funding, now proceeds to the full House floor for consideration. It is $1.5 billion below the fiscal 2013 bill enacted into law and approximately equal to the current funding level caused by automatic sequestration spending cuts, according to the appropriations committee.
"Horse meat also poses significant food safety issues that make it dangerous for human consumption," she said. "I urge Congress to pass this Agriculture Appropriations bill that will prevent horses, a majestic fixture of the American West, from being methodically and inhumanely put to death."
Like Grisham, New Mexico Attorney General Gary King opposes horse slaughtering. He is an intervener in the U.S. Humane Society's case against the U.S Department of Agriculture for its alleged failure to conduct the proper environmental review before placing inspectors in horse slaughter plants, including at Valley Meat Inc.
"I think horses that have been wild or horses that are undernourished are not horses amenable for human consumption," King said, adding that in the U.S. horses are not perceived as food animals like pigs, chickens or cattle. King said the issue in the case is about the way in which the USDA issued the permit, without environmental review, to have federal inspectors inside Valley Meat Inc.'s operations. "This is something that hasn't been done in a number of years," he said. "It is a major federal action. That is what triggers an necessity for the environmental impact."
The U.S. Humane Society was contacted for an interview, but according to Stephanie Twinning, public relations manager for the organization, lawyers encouraged her not comment on the matter because it's in litigation. The Humane Society has maintained that Armijo's temporary restraining order, which prevents Valley Meat Inc. and other horse processing plants from operating for 30 days, is a step toward ending the inhumane treatment of horses at slaughterhouses.
Armijo has at least until Sept. 3 to decide whether to extend the order to a preliminary injunction, which could put Valley Meat Inc., out of business for at least six months to a year. Valley Meat Inc. owner Rick De Los Santos, however, remains optimistic about how Armijo will rule, because the Humane Society, King and other horse advocate plaintiffs have the burden of proof.
"The Humane Society has burden of proof to prove this to the judge they're correct in what they're saying," De Los Santos said. De Los Santos, whose plant was a cattle slaughterhouse for 22 years, said his company is exempt from the environmental clearance.
In late July, an arsonist set fire to the plant. He is waiting for an October hearing to renew a discharge permit for his operation, which was requested by the New Mexico Environment Department after more than 450 comments were filed against his operation becoming a horse slaughterhouse.
De Los Santos contends that most of the comments are from people from out of the U.S. and state of New Mexico, adding that there were no comments from residents of Roswell, known as a farming community. He also noted that the plaintiffs posted a $495,000 bond, ordered by U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Hayes Scott, because Valley Meat Inc., and Responsible Transportation (which has since dropped plans to slaughter horses) would suffer damages and losses from being inoperable.
The Humane Society objects to the bond and challenged it in hearings on Wednesday. The outcome of that hearing was
unavailable as of press time. De Los Santos added that if he could get the Navajo Nation's support to set up a slaughterhouse on the reservation, he would jump at the opportunity. "It would be something that would benefit the Navajo Nation," he said, adding that China and Mexico are the largest consumers of horsemeat. "I'd be willing to talk to President Shelly."
As for the state legislature, representatives Sandra Jeff and Sharon Clahchischilliage, who are both enrolled members of the Navajo Nation, share Shelly's concerns about the feral horse issue on the reservation and have come out in favor of slaughtering.
Source: Navajo Times by Alastair Lee Bitsóí
Source: Humane Society Legislative Fund
Though the work is far from done, this is shaping up to be a very encouraging year for animals on the appropriations front. We already reported on the House Appropriations Committee’s approval of solid funding levels to support USDA’s enforcement of key animal welfare laws, as well as its inclusion of much-needed language to stop horse slaughter plants from operating in the U.S. The Senate Appropriations Committee followed suit with parallel language de-funding USDA inspections att horse slaughter plants.
Now we’ve learned that the Senate Appropriations Committee has also come through with terrific news on funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s enforcement and implementation of key animal welfare laws. Thanks to the strong leadership of Chairman Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and Ranking Member Roy Blunt, R-Mo., the Committee bill contains the full amounts requested by President Obama in his recommended budget for Fiscal Year 2014—which include substantial increases for several programs, notwithstanding the pressure to cut spending overall. The committee understood that it’s possible to achieve macro-level cuts while still taking care to ensure that specific small and vital accounts have the funds they need.
Here are details of what the Senate committee approved:
•$893,000 for USDA’s enforcement of the Horse Protection Act to end the cruel practice of “soring” show horses (deliberately inflicting severe pain on the horses’ legs and hooves to make it hurt for them to step down, so they will exaggerate their high-stepping gait and win prizes). This is well above the current funding level of $678,510, as well as the House committee bill’s level of $500,000.
•$28,203,000 for USDA’s enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, which sets basic standards for care of animals at almost 28,000 sites across the country—commercial breeding facilities (including puppy mills), laboratories, roadside zoos, circuses, and airlines. Current funding of AWA oversight is $26,406,304 and the House committee bill provides $27,087,000.
•$16,350,000 for USDA’s Investigative and Enforcement Services division, whose responsibilities include investigation of inspectors’ findings regarding alleged violations of federal animal welfare laws and the initiation of follow-up enforcement actions. Current funding is $15,866,009 and the House committee bill provides $16,275,000.
•$89,902,000 for USDA’s Office of Inspector General, which covers many areas including investigations and audits of the agency’s enforcement efforts to improve compliance with the Animal Welfare Act, Horse Protection Act, Humane Methods of
Slaughter Act, and regulations to protect downed animals. The Senate committee report specifically flags the OIG’s work to address animal fighting violations under the AWA, in coordination with state and local law enforcement. Current funding for the OIG is $86,779,028 and the House bill provides $86,779,000.
•Helpful committee report language directing the Food Safety and Inspection Service to ensure that funds provided for Humane Methods of Slaughter Act enforcement will be used to ensure compliance with humane handling rules for live animals as they arrive and are offloaded and handled in pens, chutes, and stunning areas. Similar language is in the House committee report and was included last year for FY13 Agriculture Appropriations.
•$4,790,000 for the veterinary student loan program that helps ease the shortage of veterinarians practicing in rural communities and in government positions (such as those overseeing humane slaughter, AWA, and HPA rules), by repaying student debt for those who choose to practice in one of these underserved areas. Current funding is $4,669,627 and the House bill provides $4,790,000.
Whether an animal welfare law will be effective often turns on whether it gets adequately funded. Having legislators seek that funding is crucial, especially when there are such strong competing budget pressures. We are grateful to Senators Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and David Vitter, R-La., who reached out to their colleagues and mobilized a broad showing of 34 Senators voicing bipartisan support for these animal welfare funds, as did Reps. Chris Smith, R-N.J., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., marshaling the support of 164 Representatives in the House. Their collective efforts set the stage for positive committee action,
which in turn has put us in a strong position for good outcomes in the House-Senate negotiations.
We will continue to watch the appropriations process closely and press for the highest possible amounts when the House and
Senate reach agreement on the final legislation. Proper enforcement of these laws not only helps animals but benefits people, too—for example, by protecting consumers from disreputable puppy mills and from mishandling of pets on airlines, reducing food safety risks associated with poor management at slaughter plants, and reducing the risk of bird flu transmission via cockfighting. Our fortunes are intertwined with those of animals, and doing right by them is good policy for all of us.
Source: Time Magazine by Caroline Kelly
The traditional view of American horse slaughter was best captured in a 2007 federal circuit court ruling. “The lone cowboy riding his horse is a cinematic icon. Not once in memory did the cowboy eat his horse,” wrote one judge in a decision that permitted a state ban on the practice. That same year, under pressure from animal welfare groups, the U.S Congress cut all federal funding for the inspection of horsemeat processing plants. The domestic practice of killing equines for human consumption came to a halt.
But the change was not permanent, and a backlash from horse owners ensued. Now, just six years later, horse slaughter has returned to the American landscape, thanks to the efforts of a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers, a Wyoming horse poet Congresswoman and a retired Texas Democrat at a powerful lobbying firm. The pro-slaughter contingent argues that a ban on horse slaughter is actually worse than the alternative, decreasing the value of horses, shifting slaughtering to outside the U.S. and increasing the chances that horses will be mistreated in their old age.
Congress lifted the ban on horsemeat plant inspection in 2011 despite the objections of President Obama and 70% of Americans, who told pollsters they oppose the practice. In recent weeks, two small companies have been granted inspection
permits. Fuming animal welfare groups are doing everything they can to hold off plant inspections until another temporary or permanent ban is put in place, starting with lawsuits against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society, told TIME that he hopes a semipermanent fix can be found when Congress passes 2014 appropriations bills, drafts of which already include a renewal of the 2007 ban. “There’s just no point in a business opening up for a month or two to kill horses,” he said. “We hope that they delay their plans until the congressional funding issue is sorted out.” Pacelle is also pushing another bill that would impose an unequivocal ban on domestic slaughter and the export of live horses.
But success is by no means certain. The current face of the horse slaughter lobby is Rick de los Santos, a man from Roswell, New Mexico who wants to convert his beef processing plant into a horse butchering facility. De los Santos says
economic opportunity was the reason for his application for USDA inspection, filed just days after the ban was lifted and granted on June 28th. Horsemeat is considered a delicacy in many countries, and since the 2007 ban, Mexico has been
enjoying the product’s healthy profit margin. “Why continue to outsource?” Rick’s wife Sarah asked CBS this year. “I mean, this whole election is going to be about jobs.”
The de los Santos family enjoys the support of a number of members of Congress, some of whom commissioned the Government Accountability Office report that helped lift the ban on inspecting horsemeat processing plants in 2011. The
report estimated that the average per head price of a horse in the lowest price category—the kind of horse that could once be sold to a slaughterhouse for between $400 to $600—decreased by nearly 21% when horsemeat processing stopped.
It also cited 17 state veterinarians who claimed that the cessation of domestic slaughter was one of the two most significant factors contributing to the decline of horse welfare between 2007 and 2011. “While we all love horses and their contribution to our culture, the ban led to unintended consequences and increased inhumane treatment of animals,” said Rep. Jack Kingston, a Georgia Republican who commissioned the report alongside Democrats Herb Kohl and Sam Farr and Republican Roy Blunt.
Members of Congress fighting for horse slaughter still cite the report’s conclusions. “I have serious concerns that measures like [a federal ban on horse slaughter], while well-intentioned, would create a set of unintended consequences with the potential to negatively affect many aspects of the horse industry,” said Rep. Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican who is vice chairman
of the House Agriculture Committee.
Goodlatte’s view has been supported by the lobbying efforts of ranchers and slaughterhouses. Former Democratic congressman Charles Stenholm of Texas—“the main mouthpiece for the horse slaughter industry” in Washington, according to
Pacelle—works on the issue just a few blocks from the Capitol at the lobbying firm of Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz PC. “It prevents the immediate creation of hundreds of good, American jobs,” said Stenholm in one of his critiques of a horse slaughter ban. His clients have included the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and the Livestock Marketing Association, both of which endorse the practice.
When asked about the new ban promoted by the Humane Society, Stenholm told TIME that the issue is not as black and white as animal welfare groups make it out to be. In his opinion, this is a simple matter of private property. “Why should the United States Congress feel it is their best interest to prohibit horse owners from ending the life of their horse in a humane way?” he said. “I don’t think it is going to be nearly as simple once the Congress has to start facing up to the actual language of that legislation and how it should be done.”
Outside Washington, United Horsemen is the most powerful pro-slaughter interest group. Founded by Sue Wallis, a conservative representative from Wyoming’s 52nd with a knack for writing poetry about horses, United Horsemen’s stance is
that owners should be able to make their own decisions about managing their stables. United Horsemen President Dave Duquette claims that the horse rescue centers championed by the Humane Society do not manage equine populations in a
healthy way. A number of centers have been charged with animal abuse and cruelty because their facilities cannot handle the volume of horses that need to be rescued.
“The animal rights groups have had six years to come up with a solution to this problem and they haven’t. And we told them they weren’t going to,” Duquette told TIME. He cited Senator Mary Landrieu as an example of a congressperson who devotes time and money to eradicating unwanted pig populations but ignores the horses wreaking havoc on her own state.
But horse slaughter remains a risky issue to publicly promote, given the romantic reputation of horses and the dearth of horse-eating cowboys in Hollywood westerns. It remains too soon to say which side will finally be able to declare victory. “Everybody’s worried about re-election,” said Duquette, who claims that many of his Washington prefer to remain in the shadows. “It’s
politics as usual.”
July 2, 2013 | Press Release
Congressman Jim Moran, Northern Virginia Democrat and co-chair of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, released the following statement on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) approval of an application for federal inspections at a horse slaughter facility in New Mexico.
“I am deeply disappointed in today’s decision by the USDA to approve a permit for federal inspections at a horse slaughter facility in New Mexico.”
“It’s troubling, particularly given that over the last two weeks, the Senate and House Appropriations Committees amended their fiscal year (FY) 2014 Agriculture Appropriations bills to eliminate all funding for the inspection of horse slaughter facilities, consistent with USDA’s budget request. As Congress completes consideration of this legislation in the coming months, I plan to redouble my efforts to defund horse slaughter inspections and shut down any facilities that may open.”
In FY 2006, Congress passed a prohibition on the use of appropriations for the inspection of horses intended to be slaughtered for human consumption. Without meat safety inspections, no horse meat can be sold to the public, effectively ending the slaughter of horses in the United States. This defund language was removed from the FY 2012 appropriations bill, allowing horse slaughter facilities to once again request USDA inspections. Moran has spearheaded efforts in the House to reinstate the ban on horse slaughter for human consumption.
According to the USDA, each horse slaughter facility opened in the U.S. would cost U.S. taxpayers over $400,000 per year in operation costs. Requiring USDA inspections of horse slaughter plants would even further decrease funding available for beef, chicken, and pork inspections - meat actually consumed by Americans.
Horses are not raised as food animals and are routinely given substances, including the anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone, which the FDA requires to be labeled “not for use in animals that will be eaten by humans.”
In addition to fiscal and public health concerns, public polls have consistently shown that nearly 80 percent of Americans oppose horse slaughter for human consumption.
An Iowa facility has been cleared to slaughter horses for human consumption, the second such operation approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in a week. The agency said it was forced to act under the law when the company, Responsible Transportation of Sigourney, Iowa, met all the requirements to be inspected. A facility near Roswell, New Mexico, on June 29 was granted approval to become the first to slaughter horses for human consumption since 2007.
A third application, from a company in Gallatin, Missouri, is pending.
The last U.S. horse-meat plant closed six years ago after Congress banned funding for inspections for such facilities. That ban lapsed in 2011 and measures to renew it are before lawmakers.
The USDA said in a statement that, unless Congress renews the ban, the agency is required to issue a grant of inspection and provide inspectors that would enable the facilities to operate.
“The Administration has requested Congress to reinstate the ban on horse slaughter,” said USDA spokeswoman Michelle Saghafi, in an e-mail. “Until Congress acts, the Department must continue to comply with current law.”
Horse slaughter has been an emotional issue among animal-welfare advocates in the U.S., where eating of horse meat is rare and surveys show most Americans oppose the practice. Many farmers and ranchers say humane slaughter is necessary
to dispose of unwanted animals.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture granted an inspection permit to a discredited horse slaughter plant operator inNew Mexico, bringing the nation closer to its first horse slaughter operation since federal courts and state lawmakers shuttered the last three U.S.-based plants in 2007. The USDA has let it be known that it may also approve horse slaughter plants in Iowa and Missouri in the coming days. Meanwhile, U.S. House and Senate appropriations committees voted in June to halt all funding for horse slaughter in FY 2014, which means that the federal government could spend millions of taxpayer dollars to start up inspections at horse slaughter plants, only to have Congress terminate the process in the coming months.
Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation at The HSUS, said: “Horse slaughter plants pollute local water bodies with blood and offal, permeate the air with a foul stench, diminish property values and put horses through misery. USDA’s decision to visit these horrors on the citizens of New Mexico, Missouri, and Iowa – without even
conducting an environmental review first – is irresponsible, and a clear violation of federal law.”
Hilary Wood, president of Front Range Equine Rescue, said: “The USDA has failed to consider the basic fact that horses are not raised as a food animal. Horse owners provide their horses with a number of substances dangerous to human health. To blatantly ignore this fact jeopardizes human health as well as the environment surrounding a horse slaughter plant. The negative consequences of horse slaughter will be felt immediately and over the long term if allowed to resume in the U.S. America’s horses are not food.”
Allondra Stevens, founder of Horses For Life Foundation, said: “The USDA’s decision to grant horse slaughter inspections is an outright insult and a betrayal to the overwhelming majority of Americans who are against horse slaughter, to the welfare of the animals themselves, and to consumer and environmental safety. With the environmental and food safety risks of horse slaughter operations, the FSIS is leading the USA down a reckless and dangerous path due to the toxic byproducts of horse slaughter. As a nation of horse lovers, our time and resources will be better spent thinking outside the slaughterbox, working to implement more programs and infrastructures that assist with horse rescue, retention and retirement solutions.”
Neda DeMayo, president of Return To Freedom, said: “We join 80 percent of Americans in their opposition to horse slaughter. America is the original home of the horse and has never been a horse eating culture. Horses have been our companions, fought battles with us, worked from sun up to sun down by our side. They have never abandoned us and we will not abandon them now. We will not have their blood on our hands.”
Any facility slaughtering thousands of horses will necessarily be processing the blood, organs and remains of animals whose tissues and blood may contain significant amounts of dangerous substances, which are either known to be dangerous, or which have never been tested on humans and therefore present completely unknown dangers. At least six applications for horse slaughter inspections have been filed with the USDA.
The plaintiffs are represented in the case by Schiff Hardin, LLP and attorneys within The HSUS’ Animal Protection Litigation section.
- Last month, the U.S. House and Senate Appropriations committees voted to block funding for inspections of horse
slaughter plants. President Obama’s proposed FY 2014 budget also included a request for Congress to prevent tax dollars from supporting horse slaughter.
- The federal government could potentially spend millions of taxpayer dollars to start up inspections at horse slaughter
plants, only to have Congress terminate the process in the coming months.
- The HSUS and FRER also filed petitions with USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to declare horsemeat unfit for human consumption. USDA denied that petition.
- According to a national poll conducted last year, 80 percent of Americans disapprove of horse slaughter.
- “Kill buyers” gather up horses from random sources and profit by selling healthy horses for slaughter that bring the best price per pound for their meat. USDA reports show that approximately 92 percent of American horses going to slaughter are healthy and would otherwise be able to go on to lead productive lives.
- The methods used to kill horses rarely result in quick, painless deaths, as horses often endure repeated blows to render them unconscious and sometimes remain conscious during the slaughtering process. When horse slaughter plants previously operated in the U.S., the USDA documented severe injuries to horses in the slaughter pipeline, including broken bones and eyeballs hanging from a thread of skin.
- The Safeguard American Food Exports Act, H.R. 1094 / S. 541, introduced this year by U.S. Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Reps. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., is a bipartisan measure that would outlaw horse slaughter operations in the U.S., end the current export of American horses for slaughter abroad, and protect the public from consuming toxic horsemeat.
HSUS – Stephanie Twining, 240-751-3943, email@example.com
FRER – Hilary Wood, 719-481-1490, firstname.lastname@example.org
Marin Humane Society – Cindy Machado, 415-506-6209 email@example.com
Horses for Life Foundation – Allondra Stevens, firstname.lastname@example.org
Return to Freedom – Neda DeMayo, 805-737-9246, email@example.com