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!