Today, President Obama signed into law an omnibus $1.1 trillion, 1,582-page spending bill that contains some very good news for horses and those of us who love them.
Most immediately, the Act ensures that horses will not be slaughtered for human consumption in this country for the time being—restoring a ban on using any Federal dollars to inspect horse slaughter facilities. Without those government inspections, slaughterhouses are not legally able to comply with Federal Meat Inspection Act standards.
Although no horse has been legally slaughtered for food on U.S. soil since the remaining plants were finally shut down in 2007, last year three facilities in New Mexico, Iowa & Missouri were granted permits to start slaughtering horses again—after one plant sued the USDA to allow the killing to begin. This was only possible because Congress’s previous inspection funding ban expired in 2011, demonstrating that targeting inspections is at best a temporary and tenuous tool in the effort to permanently protect American horses from harm.
Indeed, letting this provision lapse has led a tumultuous, high-stakes battle this past year—with the USDA initially issuing permits to slaughter horses, animal advocates suing to stop them, courts imposing injunctions to halt the process (and then rescinding them), local and state agencies denying permits, and even current and former Governors weighing in publicly to try and stop the killing. It has been a massive drain of time, resources, and energy for all involved.
Thankfully horse slaughter has again been derailed, but just for the moment, as this renewed ban lasts only through September 30, 2014, the end of the fiscal year. In order to truly bring an end to this abhorrent practice, it is time to urge your members of congress to pass the Safeguard American Foods Export (SAFE) Act S. 541 and H.R. 1094. This bill would permanently ban the domestic slaughter of horses and halt the export of American horses for slaughter abroad by prohibiting the “sale or transport of horses in interstate or foreign commerce for purposes of human consumption.” Please make a call today.
But wait, that’s not all… Today’s enacted spending bill also restored protections for wild horses as well. Using the same funding ban tactic, the bill prohibits the expenditure of Federal funds on “the destruction of healthy, unadopted, wild horses and burros…or for the sale of wild horses and burros that results in their destruction for processing into commercial products.” This helps fix a 2004 spending amendment that removed 34-year old protections and allowed the Bureau of Land Management to sell wild horses for slaughter if they were over ten years old or had failed to be adopted at least three times.
Additionally, today’s bill grants the U.S. Forest service authority to spend or transfer funds to help adopt wild horses and burros from National Forest System lands, and also for the BLM to enter into 10-year agreements “for the long-term care and maintenance of excess wild free roaming horses and burros” on private lands.
All-in-all a great day for American horses…but there is still much work to be done.
Now let’s get the SAFE Act passed and make these protections permanent.
Source: Animal Legal Defense Fund by Chris Green
Today the U.S. House of Representatives voted to prohibit the use of tax dollars to inspect U.S. horse slaughter facilities, reinstating a ban on domestic horse slaughter for the 2014 fiscal year.
Congress regularly included a similar spending prohibition each year from 2005 to 2010, but failed to include the language in the 2012 budget, opening the door for a return of horse slaughter in the U.S., despite broad opposition to the practice. Several applications to open horse slaughter facilities have recently been filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in New Mexico, Missouri and Iowa.
“I am incredibly proud that the omnibus appropriations bill includes a provision banning USDA inspections at horse slaughter plants, effectively prohibiting horse slaughter in the U.S.,” said Rep. Moran.
“These incredible companion animals don’t deserve to be callously slaughtered for human consumption. We fought hard for the past three years to reinstate this ban to prevent slaughter facilities from reopening on American soil. This achievement would not have been possible without the support of numerous federal, state and local officials, animal protection organizations, and dedicated citizens across the country.”
In a national poll it was revealed that 80 percent of American voters are opposed to the slaughter of U.S. horses for human consumption. Horse slaughter is inherently cruel and often erroneously compared to humane euthanasia. The methods used to slaughter horses rarely result in quick, painless deaths, as horses are difficult to stun and often remain conscious during their butchering and dismemberment. Whether slaughter occurs in the U.S. or abroad, these equines suffer incredible abuse even before they arrive at the slaughterhouse, often transported for more than 24 hours at a time without food, water or rest, and in dangerously overcrowded trailers where the animals are often seriously injured or even killed in transit. The majority of horses killed for human consumption are young, healthy animals who could go on to lead productive lives with loving owners. Last year, more than 160,000 American horses were sent to a cruel death by a grisly foreign industry that produces unsafe food for consumers.
While the FY 2014 spending bill protects American communities from the devastating environmental and economic impact of horse slaughter facilities, it does not prohibit the transport of U.S. horses for slaughter across the border to Canada and Mexico. To address this issue, Sens. Landrieu and Graham, and Reps. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), introduced the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act (S. 541/H.R. 1094)—bipartisan legislation that would end the current export of American horses for slaughter abroad, and protect the public from consuming toxic horse meat.
SANTA FE, N.M.—A request by New Mexico Attorney General Gary King to prevent a horse slaughter plant from opening is "nothing more than political grandstanding" by an official who is seeking to become the next governor of the Land of Enchantment, A. Blair Dunn, an attorney representing Valley Meat Co. LLC, wrote in court papers.
King, who is running for governor in 2014, has moved in state court to prevent Valley Meat from opening a facility that intends to process horses for human consumption in Asia and Europe.
Matthew Wilson, a state judge who normally hears family law matters, barred the business from opening under a temporary restraining order. A hearing is scheduled for today, Jan. 3 at 1 p.m. on whether the order should be extended.
On Dec. 19, King filed a lawsuit in the First Judicial District against Valley Meat, its owner Ricardo De Los Santos and two related companies, Dairyland Packing, Inc., and Mountain View Packing LLC. (Click Here to view filing)
The complaint was filed because Valley Meat said it planned to operate without the required regulatory approval, according to King's office in a news release.
Valley Meat has been accused of repeatedly violating environmental requirements and federal food-safety laws, including dumping "the remains of hundreds of dead and/or slaughtered animals on the grounds of the Slaughterhouse, in what became massive piles of rotting flesh and bones."
Dunn, Valley Meat's attorney, denies that Valley Meat intends to operate unlawfully. The business has been working with the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) for authority to discharge wastewater into another entity's facility while its application for a renewal of its own groundwater discharge permit remains pending, he said in a phone interview with Food Product Design.
NMED Secretary Ryan Flynn will determine whether to issue a water discharge permit to Valley Meat, although a decision is not expected until at least February, NMED spokesman Jim Winchester said, adding that NMED has not received an application from Valley Meat for a separate "pump and haul permit".
King's lawsuit characterizes Valley Meat's plan as an attempt to circumvent regulations
by discharging wastewater to underground permeable tanks, potentially exposing the groundwater to contaminants. The business cannot lawfully discharge wastewater without an NMED-issued permit, the lawsuit contends.
In court papers, Dunn argues Wilson lacks authority to hear King's lawsuit because claims based on the Water Quality Improvement Act (WQA) are under the jurisdiction of the Water Quality Control Commission (WCQQ).
"And a party or agency dissatisfied with the decision of the WQCC may only appeal the decision to the New Mexico Court of Appeals," Dunn wrote. "The New Mexico Legislature has made it abundantly clear that jurisdiction over these issues rests only with the WQCC and the Court of Appeals, nowhere in statute or precedential case law does a District Court achieve subject matter jurisdiction over issues of compliance or alleged anticipated violations of the WQA."In a letter to a state senator, the New Mexico Attorney General's Office previously raised concerns that horses destined for the slaughterhouse might have been treated with drugs that are harmful to humans, rendering the meat adulterated in violation of state and federal laws.
Opponents of horse slaughter, ranging from animal rights groups to King, maintain the practice is inhumane and poses food-safety risks.
"Commercial horse slaughter is a new, untested enterprise that poses health and environmental risks to New Mexicans. Horses in America are not raised to be eaten, and are widely administered drugs that are forbidden for use in food animals," King's office stated in the Dec. 31, 2013, news release.
The state lawsuit alleges Valley Meat's operation would violate the New Mexico Food Act, New Mexico Unfair Practices Act and the WQA and regulations as well as constitute a public nuisance.
In a response filed with the court, Dunn challenged King's conclusions that horse meat is unsafe and declared that even if such meat was adulterated, it would fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). "This court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over issues which fall squarely in purview of federal law under the FMIA [Federal Meat Inspection Act] and not under state law," Dunn wrote.
A lawsuit challenging horse slaughter in federal court was dismissed on Nov. 1, 2013. Plaintiffs had argued that USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by issuing grants of inspection and adopting a related equine directive. Christina Armijo, U.S. District Judge, agreed with FSIS that NEPA didn't apply to its granting of inspections because the agency's actions were not discretionary.
The case was appealed and a temporary restraining order (TRO) was initially granted, further delaying Valley Meat's plans. In a ruling last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit lifted the TRO, holding that the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Front Range Equine Rescue and other groups challenging horse slaughter failed to meet their burden of proof for an injunction.
Circuit Judges Gregory Phillips and David Ebel found the plaintiffs are not likely to succeed on their appeal and cited a lack of evidence that they would "suffer irreparable harm" if FSIS allows the plants to begin slaughtering horses.
"Reliance upon environmental damage arising out of previous, unrelated, and limited instances of equine slaughter is too speculative and does not show a significant risk to establish irreparable harm," the judges wrote in the Dec. 13, 2013, order.
Plans to Process Horse Meat
Dunn said Valley Meat plans to process 120 horses each day for human consumption mostly in China, Japan, Russia and Europe. American horses already are slaughtered today in Canada and Mexico and being shipped to those countries, he said.
According to court documents, Valley Meat will yield a profit of $180 per animal, or $435,000 in one month, based on the slaughtering of 2,420 horses.
Dunn also represents another company that intends to slaughter horses, Rains Natural Meats in Gallatin, Dunn said Rains is seeking a wastewater discharge permit from the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and a hearing is scheduled for Jan. 20 on whether horses should be excluded from the permit. Although the agency issued a permit that excluded horses, Dunn argued horses have always been considered livestock under Missouri law. (A spokesperson for the state DRN did not return a phone call).
Rains, which previously processed cattle, goats, sheep and ostriches, plans to sell process for human consumption in the United States if it is able to secure a permit for horse slaughter, it, Dunn said. Rains' owner, David Rains, is currently driving a school bus, he said.
"They have a market for it here for people who want it [horse meat]," Dunn said. "They have been ready to go for a year as well absent these new hurdles that keep" occurring.
Responsible Transportation LLC is another business that applied for a horse slaughter permit. The Iowa-based firm reportedly converted to a beef operation last year. When asked if Responsible Transportation plans to convert to a horse slaughter plant if it can overcome legal hurdles, Pat Rogers, a New Mexico lawyer representing the business in the federal litigation, said he wasn't sure of its plans and referred the question to Responsible Transportation's CEO Keaton Walker, who did not return a phone call seeking comment.
In 2011, Walker and two other University of Iowa graduates raised $1.5 million from 22 local investors to start up an equine-processing facility, according to a July 19, 2013, affidavit from Walker that was filed with the federal trial and appeals courts. Late in 2012, the company purchased a vacant meat processing plant in Sigourney, Iowa, for $650,000 and subsequently invested more than $1 million to renovate the facility.
According to Walker's affidavit, Responsible Transportation and the founders have invested roughly $2.9 million over three years to open the plant and meet state and federal requirements. Walker wrote in his affidavit that Responsible Transportation was bleeding $60,000 a month in overhead expenses with no revenues.
Source: Food Product Design by Josh Long