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 United States, Front Range Equine Rescue, Horses For Life Foundation and others in the federal lawsuit, 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
Supporters of horse slaughter put forth many arguments to support their position. But if you look at the facts, you'll see the truth: The slaughter of horses for meat is not only unnecessary and inhumane but it is also harmful in many ways.
Once you learn the truth about horse slaughter, you'll understand why you should work to ban the cruelty of horse slaughter in the United States.
Here are the facts:
Is it possible to conduct commercial horse slaughter in a humane manner?
No. Horse slaughter, whether in U.S. or foreign plants, was never and cannot be humane due to the nature of the industry and the unique biology of horses. Slaughter is a brutal and terrifying end for horses and is not humane. Horses are shipped for more than 24 hours at a time without food, water, or rest in crowded trucks in which the animals are often seriously injured or killed in transit. Horses are skittish by nature due to their heightened fight or flight response, which makes accurate stunning difficult. As a result, horses often endure repeated blows and sometimes remain conscious during dismemberment; this is rarely a quick, painless death. Before the last domestic plant closed in 2007, the USDA documented in the slaughter pipeline rampant cruelty violations and severe injuries to horses, including broken bones protruding from their bodies, eyeballs hanging by a thread of skin, and gaping open wounds.
Additionally, border pen inspections conducted from 2010–2012 show further proof of the cruelty and lack of oversight that exists throughout every step of the slaughter process. The USDA documented dead horses and severe injuries to horses in border pens, including broken legs, head trauma, and eye lacerations. The answer is not to return to subjecting our horses to abuse and unacceptable conditions at plants in the U.S., but to ban horse slaughter and the export of horses for slaughter altogether and provide our horses with a decent life and, when necessary, a humane death.
Will horse slaughter have a negative financial impact on American taxpayers?
Yes. Subsidizing horse slaughter cruelty will divert precious financial resources away from American products and food safety. The authority to fund horse slaughter inspections was restored last year, and the USDA has been asked to process horse slaughter applications to provide inspection of horse slaughter facilities. The many millions of tax dollars necessary to conduct horse slaughter inspections would be diverted away from food safety programs in place to protect Americans, to enable a practice that 80% of the American public opposes. The EU is on the verge of tightening requirements for lifetime regulation of horses sent to slaughter, due to overwhelming evidence that drugs administered to American horses are dangerous to humans. The EU food safety regulations would require onerous and ever-evolving USDA oversight – at additional taxpayer expense – to ensure compliance. At a time when funding for many vital programs for Americans is being cut, it is outrageous that Congress
would spend tax dollars on horse slaughter.
Unlike animals raised for food, the vast majority of horses destined for slaughter will have ingested, or been treated or injected with, multiple chemical substances that are known to be dangerous to humans, untested on humans, or specifically prohibited for use in animals raised for human consumption.
Because of growing concern about the health threats of drug-laced American horsemeat, the European Union (EU), a primary importer of American horsemeat, may soon require that American horses presented for slaughter at EU approved plants be accompanied by lifetime medical records verifying that the animal was never administered toxic drugs. Horses are gathered from random sources at various stages in their life, and there is no system in the U.S. to track medications and veterinary treatments given to horses to ensure that their meat is safe for human consumption.
Can the federal government ensure the safety of horsemeat?
No. The USDA has no system in place to track horses’ lifetime medical histories, and the reputation of the entire U.S. meat industry is at risk. Testing random samples of horsemeat overlooks the fact that every single horse has a unique, unknown past. Unlike animals raised for food, horses do not spend their lives being prepared for the food chain. Every horse is a pet, riding companion, race horse, show pony, or work partner. Each may be a single patient to any number of vets, transferred by any number of owners, and has a unique life story. Relying on random-sample testing of horsemeat is inadequate at best and dangerous at worst.
Has ending domestic horse slaughter damaged the U.S. horse market and led to fewer options for disposal of horses, causing neglect and abandonment?
No. Horse neglect and abandonment cannot logically be attributed to the closure of U.S slaughter plants because the number of U.S. horses sent to slaughter has not decreased since domestic slaughter ceased in 2007. The same number of horses are still being sent to slaughter, across our borders in Canada and Mexico. The slaughter option still exists, so any increase in neglect or abandonment can only be attributed to other economic factors. Any downturn in the horse market is clearly related to the economic downturn that began the same year that the last slaughter plant closed and continues today. Historically, all animals—dogs, cats, horses, and even farm animals raised for food—face greater chances of neglect in a poor economy.
But most horses in slaughterhouses are not unwanted; rather, they have wound up in the hands of kill buyers because they are in good health and will bring a better price per pound for their meat.
Are there any other ways to address an overpopulation of horses?
Yes. There are several ways to address homeless horse issues. We can limit overbreeding, provide shelter, and expand adoption work. More than 160,000 horses went to slaughter last year alone, but not every horse going to slaughter needs to go to rescue; the vast majority could be given new homes. The USDA documented that 92.3 percent of horses sent to slaughter are in good condition and are able to live out a productive life. These horses could be sold, donated, or otherwise rehomed; however, kill buyers regularly outbid legitimate horse owners and rescues at auctions. Based on the USDA’s own finding, fewer than 1 percent of the U.S. horse population may require the help of rescues or euthanasia.
There are countries who consume dogs, cats, and other pets as food, but the U.S. does not allow dogs and cats to be exported for food purposes—even though there is a well-documented overpopulation issue regarding these animals. The idea of slaughtering companion animals is unacceptable to the American people and will never be embraced. Our attitude toward horses is not so different: A 2012 national poll found that 80 percent of Americans support a ban on horse slaughter for human consumption.
Horse slaughter enables and perpetuates overbreeding, neglect, and irresponsibility. As long as slaughter is an outlet for breeders to sell their excess horses, they will be rewarded—and continue to overbreed. Horse slaughter is purely a function of supply and demand, not a disposal service.
Will horse slaughter plants stimulate the local economy?
No. Horse slaughter plants have proven to be economic and environmental nightmares for the communities that host them. These plants pollute local water, decrease property values, permeate the air with a foul stench, drain local economies, and damage the environment. The last three horse slaughter plants in the U.S. offered only a few low-income, dangerous jobs that did nothing to bolster local economies.
Long before the plants closed in 2007, they had worn out their welcome. For example, in 2005, the city council of Kaufman, Texas, home to the Dallas Crown facility, voted unanimously to implement termination proceedings against the plant. Paula Bacon, mayor of Kaufman stated, “As a community leader where we are directly impacted by the horse slaughter industry, I can assure you the economic development return to our community is negative.”
Attracting new business was difficult for communities burdened with the presence of a horse slaughter plant because of the related negative stigma. Real estate values also plummeted. The minimal financial contributions of horse slaughter facilities are vastly outweighed by the enormous economic and development-suppressing burden they present.
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.
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