Source: Public News Service by Renee Blake
ROSWELL, N.M. - Valley Meat Company, Roswell, is one of six operations around the nation applying for a permit to slaughter American horses for food. However, 70 percent of registered voters polled in New Mexico this month expressed opposition to horse slaughter.
Nancy Perry, senior vice president of government relations, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), said slaughter of American horses for food could create many health problems in the U.S. Perry pointed to a situation reported in the European Union earlier this year. "Horse meat was improperly labeled and co-mingled with beef," she said. "Some major food outlets were caught up in this. And as a result of that, the frozen burger sales in the U.K. dropped by 43 percent."
Attorney Bruce Wagman, a representative of Front Range Equine Rescue and a partner in the Schiff Hardin law firm, has been filing legal documents to prevent horse slaughter in the United States. He contended that horse meat is toxic to humans. "The drugs that horses are given are not regulated," he charged. "Out of the 115 drugs on our chart, 50 of them are specifically mentioned in federal law that says 'Do not give this drug to horses intended for human consumption.'" Wagman added that concerns about horse slaughter extend beyond the food supply, into slaughterhouse runoff and cruelty to animals, stating there is no such thing as humane slaughter of horses.
One response to the issue is the Safeguard American Food Exports (S.A.F.E.) Act, a proposal to ban the slaughter of horses and the transport of American horses to slaughter. That bill is sitting in committee in Congress. Another response is to rescue, rehabilitate and protect American horses.
The argument that slaughter is an option for horses that have no others is completely false, Perry said. A USDA survey found that more than 92 percent of horses going to slaughter were in good condition. Although these horses had other options, Perry said, they faced the cruelty of the butchering process. "Horses frequently are not properly stunned and will frequently be alive and kicking during dismemberment," she said. "It's really a predatory industry, based on the demand of foreign gourmands." The only reassurance Americans have that they will not be eating burgers with beef and horse co-mingled is that horses are not slaughtered in the United States, Perry explained. Take that away, she warned, and the final firewall against co-mingling would crash down.
Phil Carter, equine campaign manager, Animal Protection of New Mexico (APNM), said the three-year-old Equine Protection Fund has so far helped nearly 400 horses stay out of sale barns. He added that several bills benefiting horses passed the 2013 New Mexico Legislature. One of them, the Horse Shelter Rescue Fund, allows taxpayers to donate their state tax refunds to help horses, he said.
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