From the Horse Lover’s Mouth

From the Horse Lover’s Mouth


WeMakeItNews.com Speaks with Congressman Jim Moran about Ending the Slaughter of American Horses & Recent Move by White House to Defund Inspections of Horse Meat

By Debra Zimmerman Murphey

For the first time on the policy front, and through the Obama White House, the United States Department of Agriculture’s proposed upcoming budget supports an initiative to defund horse meat inspections in the United States.

Previously, this kind of action had not been initiated by the executive branch, according to U.S. Congressman Jim Moran’s office. But as news of horse slaughter starting again in America intensifies, a public backlash has triggered grassroots and national attention. The announcement regarding the USDA’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget request, which does not include future funding for horse meat inspections, came last week.

“The USDA’s inclusion of language to defund horse slaughter inspections in the Fiscal Year 2014 budget request is an important step in the right direction. This decision reflects the food-safety concerns inherent to horse meat and is consistent with the 80 percent of the American people who oppose this inhumane industry. It is now up to Congress to do the right thing and vote to approve this language in the Fiscal Year 2014 Agriculture Appropriations bill,” Moran said.  

But Moran also points out that Congress has the “power of the purse” and there will be a battle regarding approving the defunding policy. He acknowledges that the pro-slaughter lobby is strong, but is hopeful that members of the public will let their elected officials know that horse slaughter is inhumane and that they do not want to financially support this kind of business sector.

Moran (D-Va.), a vocal opponent of horse slaughter, had requested just weeks ago in a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack that the USDA include defunding language in its upcoming budget as a way of stopping horse slaughter in our country. In that letter, Moran raised several concerns about horse slaughter resuming in America and the meat from butchered horses being shipped abroad and sold for human consumption. His reservations include public-health issues, such as people eating potentially toxic horse meat, and pressing budget matters.

2-minutes with the Congressman — LISTEN to an excerpt from the Moran interview
Word from the White House — LISTEN to Part 1 of the Moran interview
The Meat of the Issue — LISTEN to Part 2 of the Moran interview

Indeed, Moran’s push now is even more urgent as the horse slaughter landscape has drastically shifted in recent months:
  • Oklahoma passed legislation that ends a 50-year ban on horse slaughter.
  • There are pending applications with the USDA for horse meat inspections at proposed horse slaughter plants in Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma and Tennessee, and one for a facility in New Mexico which filed a lawsuit and whose owner is awaiting the go-ahead to open the first horse slaughter operation in the United States since 2007 (sources: Bloomberg, The New York Times and Front Range Equine Rescue).
  • The horse slaughter debate takes on a new intensity in light of a mounting controversy in Europe over mislabeled meat products, including those containing trace amounts of horse meat, and what creeps into the global food-chain.
Horse Slaughter in Headlines

While the gritty dialogue about domestic horse slaughter for human consumption in foreign countries gains momentum and increasing exposure, the mainstream and business media often frame the anti-slaughter faction’s responses as emotional and the perspectives they provide in their news coverage and editorials are sometimes narrow. However, in an exclusive audio interview with WeMakeItNews.com, Moran explains why banning the slaughter of American horses for human consumption is a logical and needed step.

In taking a position against ending the slaughter and transport of American horses for human consumption, Moran notes: 
  • American horses are routinely given products and medications, such as the anti-inflammatory phenylbutazone, that are banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in animals destined for human consumption;
  • In our culture, horses (though categorized as livestock) are not commercially raised to be eaten by humans and both regional and national polling shows that a wide majority of Americans are against horse slaughter for human consumption; and
  • Because Americans do not eat horse meat, reopening horse slaughter facilities in our country will result in taxpayers supporting an industry that does not benefit them during an era of fiscal constraints and dwindling federal funding.
Moran, who is serving his 12th term as a representative from Virginia’s 8th District, has been a longtime advocate for animal protection and a policy pioneer in helping pen and endorse legislation that will end the “heinous practice” of slaughtering American horses for human consumption. He is co-chair of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus.

For several years, Moran drafted an Agriculture Appropriations bill amendment, that was consistently approved, which defunded USDA inspections for horse meat. However, in 2011 that language was pulled in a closed conference, thus setting in motion the possibility for horse slaughter facilities to reopen in our country.

Speak Up Against Horse Slaughter

It is paramount for those who want to stop horse slaughter to take a few moments to reach out to their local representatives and senators in the U.S. Congress and request that they support a ban on the transport and slaughter of American horses for human consumption, including the USDA/White House’s recent policy move and the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act. The latter is bipartisan legislation introduced this year that focuses on food safety as a route to permanently stop the slaughter of American horses for human consumption.

“Every dollar spent at horse slaughter plants would divert necessary resources away from beef, chicken, and pork inspections – meat actually consumed by Americans. … [Additionally], contrary to the claims of slaughter proponents, these [slaughter] horses are not old and unwanted, with USDA statistics showing that 92 percent of all horses sent to slaughter are in good condition,” Moran wrote to Vilsack.

“It is regrettable that Congress allowed the prohibition on federal funding for horse slaughter inspections to lapse. While I work to restore this ban, I strongly urge you to exercise all available options to prevent the resumption of this industry. I also stand ready and willing to work with you in developing a responsible plan for handling unwanted horses,” Moran concluded.

You can call the White House [202-456-1111 or TTY/TTD 202-456-6213] to help permanently stop horse slaughter, as well as ask for an end to transporting American horses to slaughterhouses in other countries.
Below is contact information for senators and congressmen/congresswomen in Maryland and Virginia or you can visit The Humane Society of the United States’ website to locate and contact elected officials in other states to share your opinion about horse slaughter and to ensure that the American people are heard regarding their stances against horse slaughter. Click here to access information from the Humane Society.
Please remember that horse slaughter is not humane chemical euthanasia, will only exacerbate the suffering of horses, and goes against American values. Slaughter ensures a horrific fate for horses – including racehorses, ponies, former dressage and show competitors, and pleasure, companion, working and wild horses – that are sold into the slaughter pipeline at auctions where kill buyers lurk.
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European Commission May Force U-Turn On Horse Passports Database

European commission may force U-turn on horse passports database

Government ended funding for national database last September and now leaves recording to 75 different bodies
David Heath
David Heath, the minister for agriculture and the environment. Photograph: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images
Britain may have to make an embarrassing U-turn over a decision not to fund a national database for horse passports as the EU seeks to tighten controls in the wake of the horsemeat scandal.

As UK ministers announced a review of the government's handling of the crisis, it emerged that the European commission wants every country to have a central database of horse movements, including through abattoirs.

Britain had a national database until ministers ended funding last September, and now leaves recording to 75 different bodies. The commission plans to introduce new EU rules on the identification of horses, ponies and donkeys within months. These will make a central database mandatory and cut the number of bodies empowered to issue passports.

David Heath, Britain's minister for agriculture and the environment, promised a wide-ranging review of the government's response over the past three months "to help restore confidence", but did not say what its response would be to the commission's plans.

He said only that a meeting of experts across the EU last week had been "a useful exchange of views in advance of further discussions at official level later this week".

The charity World Horse Welfare has previously said ministers have been aware of the weaknesses in the UK passport system and that a good central IT system is needed.

The Guardian revealed last week that 2% of all carcasses of horses sent for slaughter are found to contain the veterinary medicine bute – although since February they have not been allowed to leave abattoirs until test results have been delivered.

Details of the government's review will be published by the environment secretary, Owen Paterson, soon. Heath said police investigations into "completely unacceptable" food fraud were continuing, and said it was right that "any weaknesses in our food system and the controls it is subject to are identified and dealt with".

Mary Creagh, Labour's environment spokeswoman, said the present passport system was a mess and ministers' "short-sighted and reckless decision" to scrap the database last year had made it harder to track horses intended for the human food chain.

"Any new database must be compatible with Ireland and France if we are to have horses moving freely between our three countries," she said.

Last week Asda reported that its smart price corned beef had tested positive for very low levels of bute, which is banned from the human food chain. The corned beef had previously been found to contain horse DNA, and is the only product to test positive for bute since the scandal began.
Officials have said horsemeat containing bute at very low levels presents a very low risk to human health. Twenty-four products in the UK have been named as containing more than 1% horsemeat.
Last week the Netherlands recalled 50,000 tonnes of meat sold across Europe as beef over a two-year period which may contain horsemeat. A small number of UK businesses may have received products from a trading company selling the meat.
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"From my earliest memories, I have loved horses with a longing beyond words." ~ Robert Vavra