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
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) made revisions to Directive 6130.1, the "Ante-mortem, Postmortem Inspection of Equines and Documentation of Inspection Tasks", which was originally released on June 28, 2013.
The Directive provides instructions to inspection program personnel (IPP) on how to perform ante-mortem inspection of equines before slaughter and post-mortem inspection of equine carcasses and parts after slaughter.
It also instructs Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) Public Health Veterinarians (PHVs) making ante-mortem and post-mortem dispositions of equines how to perform residue testing, verify humane handling, verify marking of inspected equine products, and document results using the Public Health Inspection System (PHIS).
On December 18, 2013, FSIS reissued Directive 6130.1 Revision 1, to include minor changes to the instructions to IPP how to record equine in the PHIS plant profile. FSIS is also making other changes to reflect the implementation of Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS)-Direct and to clarify instructions concerning increased sampling for “repeat violators.”
A. The Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) provides that there is to be an inspection of horses and other equines, among other species, to assess whether the carcasses of these animals are not adulterated, can be passed for human consumption, and are eligible to bear the mark of inspection (21 U.S.C. 604).
B. The FMIA requires that the slaughter or preparation of products of equines be conducted under inspection. FSIS regulations require that horse slaughter and preparation of products of equines be done in establishments that are separate from any establishment in which cattle, sheep, swine, or goats are slaughtered or their products prepared (9 CFR 305.2 (b)).
C. The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act of 1978 and 9 CFR Part 313 require that all livestock, including horses, slaughtered under inspection be handled humanely. Equines must be rendered insensible to pain (i.e. unconscious) before being shackled, hoisted, thrown, cast, or cut.
An agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) lacks discretion to deny requests to inspect horse slaughter facilities if they meet requirements under the Federal Meat Inspection Act, rendering an environmental review essentially meaningless, government lawyers argue.
Citing the failure of the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to follow the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), animal welfare groups—including Front Range Equine Rescue, Horses for Life Foundation and Humane Society of the United States among others—have sued the agency in federal court.
The lawsuit has at least temporarily thwarted the plans of three facilities in Iowa, Missouri and New Mexico to slaughter horses for human consumption. The controversial practice has infuriated animal rights groups and divided Native American tribes.
In a brief filed last month, Justice Department lawyers argue NEPA doesn't apply to its horse slaughter oversight because FSIS lacks the authority to impose environmental conditions or deny a proposal for inspection on environmental grounds.
Since federal law requires FSIS to grant inspections to facilities that meet eligibility requirements under the Federal Meat Inspection Act, "environmental considerations pursuant to a NEPA analysis could not have changed FSIS' decision," the government lawyers wrote.
The animal rights groups that have sued FSIS vigorously disagree, and a federal judge is leaning in their favor. In temporary restraining orders that enjoin FSIS from dispatching inspectors to the horse slaughter facilities, Chief U.S. District Judge Christine Armijo has found plaintiffs are likely to prevail on their claims. The judge is expected to make her final decision—whether to grant a permanent injunction—by the end of October. A final ruling is likely to be challenged before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.
Plaintiffs have challenged FSIS's decisions to grant inspections and a directive that relates to a drug residue testing program for equines. FSIS Directive 6130.1 provides instructions to government personnel on how to inspect horses before and after they are slaughtered, including instructions for drug residue testing.
In the lawsuit, plaintiffs cite a number of environmental hazards associated with horse slaughter facilities before three plants closed six years ago.
"As described in the record, individuals in the vicinity of previous horse slaughter plants were forced to endure a noxious stench, dealt with blood in streams, and sometimes even found blood and horse tissue running through their water faucets," plaintiffs wrote in a brief.
"Whether this will happen again is precisely the question that should be explored in a properly prepared NEPA document."
NEPA typically requires federal agencies to assess the environmental consequences of a proposed action through an "environmental assessment" (EA) and/or a more comprehensive "environmental impact statement" (EIS). FSIS has
conducted neither an EA nor an EIS in connection with the horse slaughter facilities or the agency's drug residue testing program.
NEPA's requirements don't apply to a federal agency if a proposed action will not have a "significant" impact either individually or cumulatively on the human environment. Regulations excuse FSIS from preparing an EA or EIS unless the agency's administrator, Al Almanza, decides "an action may have a significant environmental effect," according to a memo from FSIS that granted federal meat inspection services to Roswell, N.M.-based Valley Meat Company, LLC.
FSIS's action "is purely ministerial" since it must grant federal inspection if a facility has met statutory and regulatory requirements, the agency concluded in the June 27 memo. "A grant of federal inspection likewise does not and will not allow FSIS to exercise sufficient control over the commercial horse slaughter activities at Valley Meat such that the grant will constitute a major federal action that triggers NEPA requirements," the memo declared.
The agency explained it only has authority to regulate a facility to the extent necessary to verify that meat produced for human consumption is properly labeled, packaged and wholesome.
Plaintiffs have expressed fears that the horse slaughter plants are potentially dangerous in part because drugs that are administered to horses are not safe for human consumption and have the potential to contaminate "local ecosystems and water and soil supplies."
Between 1996 and 2006, when FSIS tested horses for drugs before funding for horse inspections was withdrawn, few equines tested positive, according to the agency. But plaintiffs contend FSIS failed to test the animals for many drugs that are commonly administered to horses.
Documents submitted to the federal government have listed 115 drugs and categories of drugs that have been approved for use in horses and have been known to cause problems for humans, according to Bruce Wagman, an attorney representing a number of plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
The Attorney General of New Mexico has expressed similar fears, pointing out in a letter to Valley Meat that horse meat containing such dangerous substances as the anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone (PBZ) would be considered "adulterated" in violation of state law.
FSIS has defended the drug testing program, citing a number of safeguards—including random tests of horses after they are slaughtered—that are intended to protect the public from exposure to harmful chemicals and pesticide residues.
State agencies and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigate companies whose meat has tested positive for unpermitted drug residues, and FDA has authority to prosecute a business and take other enforcement action, FSIS pointed out.
Although FSIS has acknowledged it will conduct fewer samples under its new program, the agency said it will analyze them for a larger number of chemical compounds. But plaintiffs gripe the new program "ignores several dozen other substances commonly given to horses that may be harmful to humans."
Source: Food Product Design by Josh Long
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!
In response to the emergency motion filed on September 19, 2013, Federal Judge Christina Armijo has suspended Horse Slaughter operations at Rains Natural Meats until October 4, 2013.
Judge Armijo furthered ordered that this matter be referred to the Honorable Robert H.Scott for an evidentiary hearing to determine if her order should be extended beyond October 4th.
Judge Scott will also be ruling on the request from Rains Natural Meats to be included on the bond, which he granted to Valley Meats and Responsible Transportation on August 8, 2013. Our attorneys continue to contest this bond, as this case is against the federal government (USDA) and its permitting process, not the companies that were recently given permission to begin slaughtering horses.
Today our lawyers filed an emergency motion to expand the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against horse slaughter to include Rains Natural Meats located in Gallatin, Missouri.
Rains Natural Meats recently met all the statutory and regulatory requirements and has now demanded that the USDA send inspectors to their facility by as early as September 23rd so they can begin slaughtering horses.
If federal Judge Christina Armijo agrees, the TRO filed today will put an immediate halt to operations at Rains Natural Meats (Missouri). Valley Meat Company (New Mexico) and Responsible Transportation (Iowa) are currently under the TRO granted to us in court on August 2nd.
The backbone of the case is that the USDA hasn’t conducted the requisite NEPA analysis for opening commercial horse slaughter operations. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires federal agencies to integrate environmental values into their decision making processes by considering the environmental impacts of their proposed actions and reasonable alternatives to those actions.
>>> Click Here to View the Emergency Motion
Help Ban Horse Slaughter Nationwide! 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!
A third business has met all the statutory and regulatory requirements to require USDA to provide inspection services when it begins processing horsemeat for human consumption.
Department of Justice (DOJ) attorneys representing USDA have informed the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico that it may want to expand its temporary restraining order against horse slaughter to include Rains Natural Meats in Gallatin, MO.
That restraining order currently only prevents USDA from providing inspection services to Valley Meat in New Mexico and Responsible Transportation in Iowa, the first two businesses to qualify since a five-year ban on spending federal money on horse slaughter inspections ended in 2012. “When this court entered its temporary restraining order, Rains Natural Meats had not yet met the requirements for a grant of inspection, and thus the temporary restraining order expressly applies only to FSIS’s (Food Safety and Inspection Service’s) inspection of the Valley Meat and Responsible Transportation facilities,” the DOJ attorneys wrote, adding, “But circumstances have changed, and Rains Natural Meats is now eligible and requesting a grant of inspection.”
The government attorneys said that, while they were not waiving any of their earlier objections to federal Judge M. Christina Armijo’s order, they understood that she may want to amend it in light of the new reality.
Rains Natural Meats is a small meat and poultry slaughter and processing facility with about 5,300 square feet. Built in 1998, it has been a USDA-inspected facility for various meat and poultry processing since it was built, but the business has had difficulties due to the slow economic recovery.
Owner David Rains opted to file for an equine grant of inspection on Jan. 13. While waiting for the application to be approved, he told local media outlets that he’s been driving a school bus to pay his bills.
In its “Decision Memo,” USDA said the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) requires government inspectors to conduct ante-mortem inspection of all amenable species, including cattle, sheep, swine, goats, horses, mules and other equines, including a post-mortem inspection of “carcasses and parts of all amenable species.”
“Horses, mules, and other equines have been among the livestock species that are amenable to the FMIA since it was amended by the Wholesome Meat Act in 1967,” wrote Philip S. Derfler, FSIS deputy administrator.
FSIS is required to conduct an examination and inspection of the methods of slaughter to ensure they are in compliance with the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, which calls for prevention of needless livestock suffering.
In the USDA memo, Derfler says the decision to provide inspection services under the FMIA “is purely ministerial because if a commercial horse slaughter plant meets all of the statutory and regulatory requirement for receiving a grant of federal inspection, FSIS has no discretion or authority under the FMIA to deny the grant on other grounds or to consider and choose among alternative ways to achieve the agency’s statutory objectives.”
“Therefore, a grant of federal inspection services under the FMIA is not a major federal action that is subject to NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) requirements,” he added.
Horse rescue and animal-welfare groups have sued in federal court in New Mexico, charging that NEPA requires USDA to conduct environmental reviews before granting inspection services for horse slaughter. Judge Armijo granted a temporary restraining order just ahead of the start dates for Valley Meat and Responsible Transportation.
In a separate proceeding, a federal magistrate has ruled that a plaintiff’s bond of almost $500,000 per month might be required to cover potential losses by the defendants while the case is argued. The bond is intended to compensate the defendants if the plaintiffs lose.
Government attorneys then suggested the case be accelerated and the plaintiffs agreed. Both sides are now preparing briefs that should frame the issues for the judge to decide by about Oct. 10. After she rules, the losing side will likely appeal to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.
About 175,000 horses from the United States are exported for slaughter each year to Canada and Mexico. New USDA-inspected horse-slaughter facilities in the U.S. would export horsemeat for human consumption to areas of the world where
there is a demand, mainly Europe and Asia.
Source: Food Safety News by Dan Flynn
>>> Click Here to View the Department of Justice's Legal Notice regarding grant of inspection for Rains Natural Meats in Gallatin, Missouri.
There will be no horse slaughter for human consumption, and no federal inspection of horse slaughter plants, until at least the end of October. District Judge Christina Armijo in Albuquerque says she will decide by the end of next month whether a New Mexico horse slaughter plant can open.
The attorney representing Valley Meat Co. of Roswell says U.S. District Judge Christina Armijo put the case on an expedited schedule Tuesday.
Attorney Blair Dunn says both sides will file briefs over the next month and Armijo says she'll issue a final ruling by the end of October. Armijo last month issued a restraining order blocking Valley and an Iowa company from proceeding with plans to become the first plants to slaughter horses domestically in more than six years.
But the Humane Society of the United States and other groups sued the Department of Agriculture, contending it failed to do the proper environmental studies before issuing the companies permits.
Help Ban Horse Slaughter Nationwide! 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.
The parties suing USDA to stop horse slaughter before it can start up again in the U.S. agree with the government on one thing: they, too, want to get the court case they brought over as quickly as possible. Bruce A. Wagman, attorney for the plaintiffs, has filed a motion with the U.S. District Court in New Mexico supporting the government’s request for an expedited hearing and briefing
on the merits.
Wagman, who represents the Humane Society of the U.S. and several other animal welfare and horse rescue groups, has suggested a schedule that could put the issue in the hands of Federal District Court Judge M. Christina Armijo by Oct. 10. New Mexico Attorney General Gary K. King joined in Wagman’s motion, which was filed Tuesday.
Judge Armijo has scheduled a Sept. 3 status conference, which attorneys can access by telephone.Wagman still wants Armijo to rule on his motions to change the Aug. 2 temporary restraining order that blocks two companies with grants of inspection for horsemeat packing from starting those operations unless permitted by the court and to reduce or eliminate the costly bond plaintiffs must come up with for the case to proceed.
On the TRO, Wagman wants it to only prohibit USDA from providing equine inspection services to Valley Meat in New Mexico and Responsible Transportation in Iowa. Currently, it also prohibits those companies from operating horse-slaughter businesses, even though the plaintiffs are not suing them. As long as USDA is barred from doing inspections, horses cannot be slaughtered for human consumption.
That became a big concern for the plaintiffs after a federal magistrate imposed a bond against them of nearly $500,000 a month to cover the possibility that USDA wins the case. In other words, it’s meant to cover the economic harm imposed by the plaintiffs if they lose.
Government attorneys representing USDA’s top three food-safety officials say it’s time to end the court battle that has temporarily banned horse slaughter in the U.S. They’ve asked the U.S. District Court in New Mexico to move immediately
to an expedited hearing and ruling on the merits of the case.
This would eliminate the next step that had been anticipated in the case – a hearing on whether to grant the plaintiffs a preliminary injunction. They already won a temporary restraining order.
Source: Food Safety News by Dan Flynn
Government attorneys representing USDA’s top three food safety officials say it’s time to end the court battle that has temporarily banned horse slaughter in the U.S. They’ve asked the U.S. District Court in New Mexico to move immediately to an expedited hearing and ruling on the merits of the case.
This would eliminate the next step that had been anticipated in the case – a hearing on whether to grant the plaintiffs a preliminary injunction. They had already won a temporary restraining order.
And, in another motion, Robert G. Dreher, acting assistant U.S. attorney general, has asked the court for permission to file a so-called “surreply” to respond “to Plaintiff’s numerous accusations that Federal Defendants and the United States have acted in bad faith in opposing Plaintiffs’ motion to modify the temporary restraining order and objections to Magistrate Judge Scott’s imposition of a bond requirement ….” In his request, Dreher cites a dozen specific instances where the plaintiffs, led by the Humane Society of the United States, made accusations that he claims are “unfounded and untrue, and easily refuted. In one, the Plaintiff’s say the U.S. hopes to divert funds from ‘important animal rescue and sheltering’ and ‘other public interest cases challenging federal agency abuses.’
“Since the sole focus of the Plaintiff’s reply brief is to make new accusations that attack the motivations and integrity of the United States, Federal Defendants should be afforded the opportunity to set the record straight by filing a surreply,” Dreher’s motion continues.
The federal defendants are U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Under Secretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen, and Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) Administrator Al Almanza.
They were sued by HSUS and other animal and horse protection groups for giving “grants of inspection” to two small horse meatpacking plants, one in Iowa and the other in New Mexico, that planned to open during the first week of August. However, a federal judge in New Mexico issued a temporarily restraining order on Aug. 2 stopping both companies from going forward.
While winning the temporary retaining order, the plaintiffs have strenuously objected to the bond imposed on them by a federal magistrate. The bond, almost $500,000 a month, is intended to reimburse the horse-slaughter companies if the plaintiffs lose the case.
The assistant AG says an expedited hearing on the merits will reduce the “burden and exposure” of both the plaintiffs and the two companies. While a hearing on the preliminary injunction was promised within 30 days of the Aug. 2 temporary restraining order, a date has not yet been made public.
Source: Food Safety News by Dan Flynn