“The killing of the horses is so brutal, I don't care whether it's in Oklahoma or it's in Mexico where they take them...There's other uses for the horses, other than just taking them to the slaughterhouse." ~ Senator Randy Bass
State Senator, Randy Bass, has filed legislation giving Oklahomans control over whether to allow horse slaughter plants in their communities. Senate Joint Resolution 66 (SJR66) would require proposed equine slaughter facilities to be approved by a majority of qualified voters in the county where the facility is to be located.
“When Governor Fallin signed legislation into law last year legalizing horse slaughter, she issued a statement saying it was important for towns to be able to block horse slaughter plants if that was their will,” said Bass, D-Lawton. “This legislation would simply give counties the option to decide for themselves whether they want these facilities in their jurisdictions or not.”
Opponents of horse slaughter facilities point to statistics from around the country showing the plants have a negative economic impact on nearby communities, including lower real estate values. Other problems associated with horse slaughter plants include increased crime, such as horse theft. Critics also warn the plants have been tied to air and groundwater contamination which poses a public health risk.
A survey conducted by Sooner Poll last year revealed that the majority of Oklahomans did not want a horse slaughter facility in their community.
“What’s interesting is the fact that it didn’t really matter if you were talking about people living in a rural area or a large city, and it didn’t matter if they were a Democrat or a Republican, conservative or liberal—the overwhelming majority did not want a horse slaughter plant in their community,” Bass said. “This legislation reaffirms our citizens’ right to block such a facility if that’s what the majority of qualified voters decide.”
Source: Press Release, Oklahoma State Senate
For more information contact:
Sen. Bass: (405) 521-5567
Four months into litigation aimed at preventing horses from being legally slaughtered in the United States, animal law attorney Bruce A. Wagman is already citing Front Range Equine Rescue v. Vilsack as one of the “illustrative representations” of his experience.
Others might just call it a win. M. Christina Armijo, chief U.S. District Court judge for New Mexico, has already granted Wagman’s clients a temporary restraining order in the case. He wants a permanent injunction against USDA inspecting any horse-slaughter facilities in the U.S.
Wagman and Rocky N. Unruh, an expert in complex trials, are San Francisco attorneys from the national Schiff Hardin law firm, which has 400 attorneys based out of Chicago. Among the 15 plaintiffs Wagman and Unruh represent is one definitely large enough to pay their fees, the Humane Society of the United States.
With prestigious offices on L Street in Washington, D.C., and annual revenues that were approaching $200 million when last reported two years ago, HSUS is a nonprofit that can easily keep Wagman and Unruh in its legal stable.
In addition to more than two decades of experience litigating animal law cases, Wagman literally wrote the book on the subject. His “Animal Law: Cases and Materials” is in its fourth edition as a law school textbook.
Wagman’s job this time is to stop three small businesses located in rural areas of Iowa, Missouri, and New Mexico that saw an opportunity two years ago when the federal government’s ban on horse slaughter was lifted. All three went through an extensive process in requesting a so-called “grant of inspection” from USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).
Plaintiffs filed to block that from happening just as USDA decided to provide inspection services to the three businesses, Responsible Transportation in Iowa, Rains Natural Meats in Missouri, and Valley Meats in New Mexico. All three planned to pack horsemeat for export.
That’s when Wagman won the temporary restraining order. Department of Justice (DOJ) attorneys for the three named defendants in the case — Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Under Secretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen and FSIS Administrator Al Almanza — then suggested speeding up the case by skipping all preliminary arguments.
Wagman and Unruh agreed. For the past six weeks, there’s been a flurry of motions and arguments going back and forth. And while there has been no scheduled or target date announced for Armijo’s ruling on the merits of the case, Wagman seems to be winning the preliminary decisions.
For example, Armijo ruled against the government when USDA sought to have the Declaration of Dr. Daniel L. Engeljohn entered as a supplement to the administrative record. Engeljohn is arguably USDA’s top expert on horse slaughter and was the official directly in charge of the administrative process.
Also, the magistrate judge responsible for processing requests for injunction bonds denied the request of Rains Natural Meats. Valley Meats and Responsible Transportation, which were both included in the original injunction, did require bonds, but Rains was not because it came later.
However, since USDA was enjoined by additional court action from providing inspection services to Rains, that business faces similar jeopardy.
In addition to the plaintiffs represented by the Schiff Hardin attorneys, the State of New Mexico has intervened on their side of the case. Assistant Attorney General Ari Biernoff is representing New Mexico.
DOJ attorneys Alison D. Garner, Andrew A. Smith and Robert G. Dreher are representing USDA. Dreher is the Acting Assistant Attorney General of the U.S. for environment and natural resources.
The three business and numerous others have intervened on the government side. The most active attorney among several for those interests is A. Blair Dunn of Albuquerque.
Meanwhile, the law the Oklahoma Legislature passed last May to permit horse slaughter in that state takes effect on Friday, Nov. 1. Under the new law, any horse-slaughter facility would require approval from USDA, and officials say there are no applications in the works at this time.
Source: Food Safety News by Dan Flynn
Surveys conducted by Lake Research Partners in New Mexico, Missouri and Iowa confirm that an overwhelming majority (70%+) of voters in all three states disapprove of horse slaughter for human consumption and would oppose the opening of horse slaughter facilities in their states. Opposition to horse slaughter for human consumption in these three states is broad and deep, extending across every demographic, regional and partisan group.
Unfortunately, meat processors in at least five states—the three surveyed, as well as Oklahoma and Tennessee—are currently trying to get horse meat plants up and running. The New Mexico processor, Valley Meat Company, passed a USDA inspection in April and its permit to begin slaughtering horses for meat could come through as soon as the end of June.
There has been no slaughter of horses for human consumption in the U.S. since 2007, but there is no federal law against it. But with your help, we can fix that! Please join us in advocating for Congressional passage of the SAFE Act, a bill that would ban horse slaughter in all 50 states, as well as the transport of our horses over our borders for slaughter in other countries.
Source: Huffington Post, by Tim Talley
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma's 50-year-old ban on horse slaughtering was lifted Friday when the governor signed a new law that will allow facilities to process and export horse meat, despite bitter opposition by animal rights activists.
Supporters argue that a horse slaughtering facility in Oklahoma will provide a humane alternative for aging or starving horses, many of which are abandoned in rural parts of the state by owners who can no longer afford to care for them. Gov. Mary Fallin also noted that horses are already being shipped out of the country, including to facilities in Mexico, where they are processed in potentially inhumane conditions.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 166,000 horses were sent to Canada and Mexico last year alone.
"In Oklahoma, as in other states, abuse is tragically common among horses that are reaching the end of their natural lives," the Republican governor said. "Those of us who care about the wellbeing of horses – and we all should – cannot be satisfied with a status quo that encourages abuse and neglect, or that rewards the potentially inhumane slaughter of animals in foreign countries." She noted that law strictly prohibits the selling of horse meat for human consumption in the U.S.
Similar efforts are under way in other states, but not without controversy. In New Mexico, a processing plant has been fighting the U.S. Department of Agriculture for more than a year for approval to convert its former cattle slaughter operation into a horse slaughterhouse. In Nevada, state agriculture officials have discussed ways to muster support for the slaughter of free-roaming horses, stirring protests.
The Oklahoma legislation received bipartisan support and was approved by wide margins in both the state House and Senate. It also was backed by several agriculture organizations including the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association and American Farmers.
But animal rights groups fought hard against the plan, including the Humane Society of the United States. Cynthia Armstrong, the organization's Oklahoma state director, said she was disappointed.
"It's a very sad day for Oklahoma and the welfare of the horses that will be exposed to a facility like this," Armstrong said. "It's very regrettable."
Source: Sooner Poll, by Bill Shapard
A strong majority (66 percent) of Oklahoma likely voters opposes passage of
proposed legislation allowing for the slaughter of horses here in Oklahoma, and
of those that oppose, 88 percent strongly oppose the legislation, according to a
The Oklahoma legislature is currently considering two bills, House Bill 1999 and Senate Bill 375, which would allow for slaughter of horses here in Oklahoma for human consumption in other countries but would maintain a ban on the sale of horsemeat in the state.
A strong majority, 65.1 percent, of respondents in rural counties opposes the
legislation, despite claims by the horse slaughter proponents that rural
communities support it. Counties within the Tulsa MSA, 69.6 percent, and counties within the Oklahoma City MSA, 64.3 percent, also have high levels of opposition to horse slaughter.
Significant majorities of all political parties also oppose horse slaughter: 72.5 percent of Independents oppose this legislation, followed by 67.6 percent of Democrats and 63.4 percent of Republicans. Another strong majority, 60.5 percent, of conservative respondents, who make up more than half of all likely voters, is opposed to the horse slaughter legislation, as well as 74.7 percent of moderates.
When asked about having a horse slaughter operation in their community, an overwhelming majority, 72.3 percent, of likely voters is opposed, with 91.9 percent of these likely voters in strong opposition. Sixty-eight percent of rural likely voters oppose having a horse slaughter facility in their local community, followed by 74.6 percent of likely voters in the Tulsa metro area and
75.8 percent in the Oklahoma City metro.
A majority of likely voters, 54.1 percent, would be unlikely to vote to re-elect their senator or house representative if he or she voted in favor of this horse slaughter legislation regardless of whether or not it becomes law.
Voters were also asked about particular organizations. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and The Humane Society of the United States, two groups opposed to horse slaughter, received combined favorability (strongly and somewhat favorable) of 69.5 percent and 64.4 percent, respectively, from likely voters. The Oklahoma Farm Bureau, a group advocating for horse slaughter, had combined favorability among 63.4 percent of respondents.
SoonerPoll.com, Oklahoma’s public opinion pollster, designed and administered this telephone survey, which was commissioned by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the Humane Society
of the United States (HSUS). This study was conducted March 16-21, 2013 using live interviewers, with 452 likely voters in Oklahoma selected to participate at random using a dual frame of landlines and cell phones. Respondents in the
landline sample were selected by randomly asking for the youngest adult male or female who was at home. In the cell sample, the person who answered the phone, provided that person was an adult 18 years of age or older, was asked the survey
questions. The study has a margin of error of ± 4.61 percent. The full Call Dispositions and Rate Calculations were calculated by SoonerPoll.com
Source: Food Safety News
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told reporters Wednesday Congress should come up with a better solution for handling unwanted horses than slaughtering the animals for meat for human consumption.
His comments came as USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has five at least partially completed applications to slaughter horses for human consumption, probably only for export, under active review.
Rather than offering a specific alternative, Vilsack seemed to be thinking
outside the box, saying horses might help veterans who’ve returned from war or be used for equipping prison inmates about to be released with job skills.
Vilsack said there needs to be “a third way” to deal with the nation’s horse problem, instead of relying on just killing the animals or slaughtering them for human food.
Just as they are required by federal law to provide continuous inspection for beef, pork, lamb and poultry slaughtering and processing, USDA’s meat inspectors are required to provide the same service for qualified equine businesses.
Since Congress and the Obama Administration lifted the ban on horse slaughter for human consumption, five pending applications have been filed and one has appealed USDA’s delay into federal court. USDA prefers renewing the ban instead.
Vilsack said that since the last inspected horsemeat slaughterhouse closed in 2006, science has improved on monitoring equine drug residues, a consideration which is getting attention in the current application process.
After the ban was imposed, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) of Congress studied the issue of unwanted horses in the U.S. and found sharp increases in starving and abandoned horses after the domestic slaughterhouses went out of business. It is a burdensome trend for many tribal and county governments. A brisk business exists, however, for exporting live horses to Mexico and Canada for slaughter.
The five applicants for horse slaughter are:
1. Valley Meat of Roswell, NM;
2. Oklahoma Meat Co. of Washington, OK;
3. Rains Natural Meats of Gallatin, MO;
4. Trail South Meat Processing of Woodbury, TN;
5. Responsible Transportation of Sigourney, IA.
Source: Food Safety News, by Dan Flynn
UPDATE: Since originally published this morning, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) public affairs staff have provided Food Safety News with copies of the applications for equine inspection services. The FSIS officials did so in part to illustrate that most of the applications are not complete in the sense that items are missing or not filled out correctly, meaning, an official says,
they “are not even close to having a walk through with FSIS.” From those applications, some additional information has been added to this story. One thing is certain. The future of horse slaughter in the U.S. is being fought out mostly in small towns.
From Larkspur, Colorado the anti-slaughter Front Range Equine Rescue group Thursday disclosed the names of four more horse slaughter applicants.The four are in addition to New Mexico’s Valley Meat, which is located outside Roswell (pop. 48,386). The five in total have applied for federal meat inspection services under the “equine” option on USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service forms.
Valley Meat’s application, filed Dec. 13, 2011, has been known for months both because Front Range Equine Rescue has been opposing it, and because the business has gone into federal court in hopes it can get a federal judge to order FSIS to provide inspection services.
The others are managed to stay beneath the radar, until now. They are:
- Rains Natural Meats, Gallatin, Missouri (pop. 1,791). Located in rural Northwest Missouri, Rains is a division of Pro Show Enterprises Inc., also based in Gallatin. In its Jan. 15, 2013 cover letter, manager David Rains writes:
“We area already starting the changes in our HACCP Plan to address drug residue in horses.”
- Trail South Meat Processing in Woodbury, Tennessee (pop. 2681). Trail South is listed in one foreign trade directory as a
supplier of boxed frozen horsemeat to Asia and Europe. Founded in 2012, Stanley Dobson is listed as chief executive officer.
It is owned by Trail South LLC based in Auburntown, TN. Its application is dated June 1, 2012.
- Oklahoma Meat Co. in Washington, Oklahoma (pop 520). Ahsan Amil is listed as the owner/manager on the May 18, 2012
application. Washington is just 30 minutes south of Norman, home of the University of Oklahoma.
- Responsible Transportation, Sigourney, Iowa (pop. 2059). Work is reportedly underway in Southeast Iowa to turn the old Louis Rich Plant north of town into a horse slaughter facility. Responsible Transportation LLC wants to be up and running by late spring or early summer 2013. It has the editorial support of the local newspaper, the Sigourney News-Review. Keaton Walker is president and chief executive officer for Responsible Transportation LLC.
USDA’s Des Moines district office wrote Responsible Transportation on Dec. 26, 2012 to advise the firm that it “cannot begin
operations until a Conditional Grant of Inspection is issued, and provided a worksheet that needed to be completed“before or during” a walk-through.
Valley Meat is owned by Sarah and Ricardo de los Santos, and was previously a beef plant that ran into financial problems and
was forced to cutback operations. Some of Oklahoma’s top lawmakers have been moving legislation to lift the state ban on horse slaughter as long as the meat is processed for export only.
At the same time, new efforts are underway in Congress to re-impose the ban on horse slaughter that was lifted more than a year ago after being in place for about five years.
Originally, USDA declined to provide copies of the applications outside of the formal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)process, but since the request filed by the Colorado horse rescue group was approved, FSIS opted to provide them to Food Safety News.
With no domestic “sale barn” option for disposing of horses since the last legal horse slaughter plant closed down in 2007,
some experts say the “unintended consequences” have been more cruelty to the animals now than before.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) of Congress documented those concerns in a report two years ago, and the Obama Administration and Congress opted to lift the ban a year
Tom Persechino, executive director of competition and breed integrity for the American Quarter Horse Association, released the following letter in support of Oklahoma Rep. Skye McNiel's bill to allow horse slaughter facilities in Oklahoma:
Representative Skye McNiel
Oklahoma State Legislature
2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 433B Oklahoma City, OK 73105
Dear Representative McNiel,
The American Quarter Horse Association continues to increase its role in public policy and advocacy concerning the American Quarter Horse and all horses. In addition to increasing advocacy of the American Quarter Horse in public policy, AQHA continues to keep the horse as its foremost concern by providing programs to members promoting the health and wellbeing of their America Quarter Horses.
AQHA believes it is the owner’s responsibility and, ultimately, their choice regarding decisions concerning the welfare of their horse(s). The Association encourages responsible ownership practices and management that will reduce the number of unwanted horses and recognizes that federally regulated, humane processing of unwanted horses is a necessary aspect of the equine industry because it provides a humane euthanasia alternative for horses that might otherwise continue a life of discomfort and pain, or inadequate care or abandonment. This position was supported in a United States Government Accountability Office study that was released in June of 2011, entitled “Horse Welfare Action Needed to Address Unintended Consequences from Cessation of Domestic Slaughter.”
Obviously, the option of horse slaughter is one that is unthinkable by many horse owners, and AQHA respects these owners’ beliefs. However, AQHA’s Public Policy Committee and ultimately Board of Directors continues to advocate that for certain horses, federally regulated processing provides a humane alternative to additional suffering or possibly dangerous situations. Over the years, AQHA has actively supported legislation to ensure the safe and humane transportation of horses that are bound for processing facilities and backed guidelines for how horses must be treated at facilities. The Association also supports other choices for unwanted horses, including euthanasia by injection, life in an equine retirement facility, donation to a college or university, or other options.
The Association has been monitoring Oklahoma’s SB 375 and HB 1999. Should Oklahoma’s Legislature pass these bills and the Governor sign them into law, given AQHA’s previously stated position of support for the option of processing, the Association would not (nor are there any plans to) move either the American Quarter Horse Association World Championship Show or the American Quarter Horse Youth Association World Championship Show from Oklahoma.
Since 1976, the AQHA World Show has had a successful history in Oklahoma, and we are currently in negotiations with Oklahoma’s State Fair Park and Oklahoma Convention & Visitor’s Bureau to extend our relationship. The Youth World Show contract was recently extended in Oklahoma, and exhibitors continue to tell us how much the enjoy coming to the state to compete for a coveted world title.
I hope the above information is helpful to you and accurately characterizes AQHA’s position relative to humane, federally regulated horse processing, and the Association’s relationship with the state and city of Oklahoma City.
If at any time I can answer questions for you, please do not hesitate to contact this office.
Executive Director of Competition and Breed Integrity
KEEP HORSE SLAUGHTER, AND ANYTHING TO DO WITH IT, OUT OF OKLAHOMA
PLEASE HELP | TAKE ACTION
Oklahoma House Bill HB1999 would make it legal to slaughter horses and sell their meat as long as it was out of state or the country and all without repealing Oklahoma’s current horse meat law.
Oklahoma Senate Bill SB375 would revoke the state’s 1963 law banning the sale of horse meat. That would mean that there would be NO state prohibition on horse slaughtering or the sale of horse meat.
Sign the petition:
Call, Email, Fax your legislators:
-Find your local senator: http://tinyurl.com/ck7be
-Find your local representative: http://tinyurl.com/3dqxrqm
-OK Governor Mary Fallin: http://www.ok.gov/governor/
Thank you, horse advocates!
~ Horses For Life