European Parliament urges Commission to act on food safety audits
HSI has renewed calls for the European Union to issue a moratorium on the import and sale of North American horsemeat following the adoption of a strong and wide-ranging European Parliament report entitled, "The food crisis, fraud in the food chain and the control thereof."
About 20 percent of horsemeat sold in the EU is exported from Canada and Mexico, but a significant proportion of this derives from horses born and raised in the United States.
The Parliament’s own-initiative report comes in the wake of last year’s horsemeat scandal that shook EU consumer trust in the food system. Amongst other things, MEPs call for the Commission to follow up more vigorously on FVO reports and recommendations.
Joanna Swabe, HSI’s EU Director, said:
“During the past three years, Humane Society International has repeatedly raised concerns that the Commission has turned a blind eye to a series of FVO audits in Canada and Mexico. The FVO found that safety measures in both countries to meet EU horsemeat import requirements are fundamentally flawed. It has unequivocally stated that it is impossible to verify the reliability and veracity of veterinary treatment history statements for US origin horses.
Nevertheless this horsemeat continues to be placed on the EU market to this day. It beggars belief that the Commission has consistently ignored the findings of its own veterinary inspectorate, and we are pleased to see the Parliament taking the Commission to task. We urge the Commission to act now and exclude from the EU food chain horsemeat from North America or any other country that does not meet EU import requirements.”
The Parliamentary report urges both the “Commission and Member States to act on the findings of FVO audits with regard to fraudulent medical treatment records of animals destined for slaughter for export to the EU, and to exclude meat and other animal products from third countries, which cannot be guaranteed to be compliant with EU food safety requirements from being placed on the EU market”.
A New Mexico hearings officer says the state should deny a wastewater discharge permit for Valley Meat in Roswell, and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources says it will get back to Rains Natural Meats in Gallatin once it decides if horses are livestock.
These state regulatory barriers now face the two companies planning to slaughter horses after the Dec. 13 decision from the Tenth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Denver gave USDA permission to provide equine inspections for the two businesses.
The professional water quality staff in the New Mexico Department of the Environment wanted to give a water discharge permit to Valley Meat, but the hearing officer assigned to hear the case, Felicia Orth, recommended that the application be denied due to the company’s previous environmental violations when it was a cattle slaughterhouse.
Valley’s past history, Orth stated, shows a “willful disregard” of New Mexico’s water quality provisions, a question of law and fact that justifies denial. Her recommendation, along with the 49-page decision, now goes to Ryan Flynn, New Mexico’s Secretary of the Environment.
Blair Dunn, attorney for both Valley Meat and Rains Natural Meats, said the Roswell facility requires either a discharge permit for up to 8,000 gallons a day into underground holding tanks, or else it will have to rely on a pump and haul operation, which apparently does not require a permit.
Dunn has 15 days to file a response to the hearing officer’s decision, and Flynn then has 30 days after that to make his decision.
In Missouri, where top state officials claim to be staying out of regulatory decisions, the state DNR says it has to decide if horses are included in the permit it already issued to Rains to slaughter livestock. Dunn says horses have long been deemed livestock under Missouri’s laws and regulation.
A spokesman for Gov. Jay Nixon says the governor’s office is not involved in the decision-making.
Finally, in the ongoing legal action involving possible horse slaughter, the Santa Fe District Court’s family law judge will entertain oral arguments on Monday on whether to continue a restraining order against Valley’s operation until a civil suit brought by Attorney General Gary King plays out.
Both Valley and Rains want to produce horsemeat for human consumption, but only for export. An estimated 158,000 U.S. horses were slaughtered in Mexico and Canada in 2012. No USDA-inspected horse slaughter has occurred in the U.S. since 2007, but the practice could resume under existing USDA budget authority.
Source: Food Safety News by Dan Flynn
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will help determine the fate of a proposed horse slaughter plant later this month, as state officials weigh a permit application that would allow the facility to begin processing equines in Gallatin.
With the deadline for a decision looming, officials with the company, Rains Natural Meats, say they are worried that political pressure will influence the process.
Rains' company representatives say DNR officials have already misinterpreted Missouri regulations in dealing with the horse slaughter issue.
But Gena Terlizzi, a DNR spokeswoman, said the agency has strictly adhered to state procedures. And she noted that Rains initially signaled it would not be slaughtering horses at the facility.
In November, the natural resources agency granted Rains a general operating permit to begin slaughtering livestock, except for horses. "DNR granted the permit they requested," said Terlizzi.
But attorneys for Rains say the state has never excluded horses in granting such permits, and they objected to the exclusion of equines. "Horses have always been considered livestock under Missouri law and code," said Blair Dunn, a New Mexico-based attorney representing Rains. But now, DNR officials have "got it into their heads" to treat horses differently, he said.
He suggested the decision was political. "The resistance in Missouri seems to come from the agency and therefore the governor," Dunn said. The Humane Society of the United States "screams so loud it makes politicians nervous. They don't want to get crosswise with them for fear of being attacked."
Scott Holste, a spokesman for Gov. Jay Nixon, did not respond to questions about whether Nixon supports horse slaughter for human consumption. He referred questions to Terlizzi, the DNR spokeswoman, who said the matter was being handled in accordance with Missouri regulations and with no involvement from the governor's office.
Bruce Wagman, an attorney for Front Range Equine Rescue, a horse advocacy group that has been fighting Rains' efforts to secure a permit, said DNR was right to make the distinction between horses and other livestock. Cows, pigs, and other animals are raised in a regulated environment with the knowledge that they will eventually be consumed by humans.
"The big difference with horses is they're raised as our companion animals, or work animals, or race horses," he said. Over the course of their lives, they're often given "a whole bunch of drugs" without their owners thinking "this is going to be meat," said Wagman.
Rains Natural Meats officials scoffed at this, saying any horses they purchase for slaughter will be tested for drugs, following federal guidelines. "We only work through certified horse buyers, and they will not get their money for those horses until they have a clean test," said David Rains, vice president of the company. And he said it would be "bad business" for him to sell meat with traces of pharmaceuticals.
In November, Rains amended its application and asked for a new permit with no exclusions. The state has until Jan. 26 to rule on the new application.
"If the new general operating permit issued to Rains by DNR in late January contains language prohibiting equine processing, it will be a clear indication to many that Jay Nixon and (Attorney General) Chris Koster are not friends of farmers, ranchers and the agriculture business in Missouri," said Dan Erdel, another attorney representing Rains.
David Rains has said he thinks there will be a significant domestic and foreign market for his company's horse-meat products. "There's going to be a surprising domestic market, and there is an export market," he said in a June interview. "There's some interest on the zoo side, too."
If Rains and the other companies open their doors, it will be the first time horses have been slaughtered for human consumption since 2007. Congress paved the way for the resumption of horse slaughter in 2011, by lifting a ban first enacted in 2006 that barred the Agriculture Department from using federal funds to inspect any meat processing plants that slaughter horses. Plants that are not inspected by the USDA cannot ship meat across state lines, so that 2006 provision effectively ended domestic horse slaughter.
In the wake of Congress' move to lift the ban, the Humane Society and other groups quickly mounted legal challenges and began lobbying Congress for a permanent ban on horse slaughter. A federal court recently lifted an emergency injunction blocking Rains and two other companies - one in Iowa and the other in New Mexico - from processing horses for meat.
Animal-rights groups have argued that slaughtering horses is inhumane and unnecessary. But supporters say slaughter is a good end-of-life option for horses whose owners no longer need or want them. They say the ban led to an increase in abandoned and neglected horses in Missouri and elsewhere.
Rains is also waiting to receive a federal permit from the USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service. A spokeswoman for the USDA did not return a message asking about the status of Rains' federal application.
Source: News-Leader by Deirdre Shesgreen
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