USDA Approves Horse Slaughter, Despite Overwhelming Opposition

USDA Approves Horse Slaughter, Despite Overwhelming Opposition

Today, in a mystifying and infuriating decision, the U.S. Department of Agriculture granted an inspection permit to a discredited horse slaughter plant operator in New Mexico, bringing the nation closer to its first horse slaughter operation since federal courts and state lawmakers shuttered the last three U.S.-based plants in 2007. The USDA has let it be known that it may also approve horse slaughter plants in Iowa and Missouri next week.

Consider these facts, each of which should have been sufficient to dissuade the USDA from proceeding with this inspection permit for New Mexico.

  • The USDA granted the permit even though Republican Governor Susanna Martinez and Democratic Attorney General Gary King oppose the opening of the facility in their state. 
  • The department took this action even though Congress, in its 2014 agriculture spending bill, is poised to forbid the USDA from spending money on horse slaughter inspections. In June, both the House and Senate appropriations committees approved amendments to defund any horse slaughter plants.
  • The USDA is moving ahead even though the Obama Administration, in its 2014 budget proposal to Congress, recommended a defunding of horse slaughter plants. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has called for a “third way” in dealing with unwanted horses and expressed opposition to horse slaughter.
  • Approval was granted even though The HSUS submitted a petition to the USDA that provides incontrovertible evidence that horses are routinely fed or dosed with more than 100 different drugs unfit for human consumption. 
  • The USDA pursued this course of action just months after Europeans learned the hard way that horse slaughter operators and meat traders substituted their product for beef, throwing the European beef market and consumer confidence in the safety and integrity of the food supply into a tailspin. 
  • Horse slaughter is being approved in spite of polling information indicating that an overwhelming majority of the American public – to the tune of 80 percent – opposes slaughtering American horses for human consumption.
I’ve been asked why the Administration would take this action, contradicting its own stated goal to end horse slaughter. And I cannot explain it, other than the lawyers at the USDA driving the train and offering a highly legalistic view of the controversy, given that Valley Meat has sued the USDA for unreasonably delaying action on its application. We seem to have a case where the decision-makers have decided they are obligated to grant the permit when there is a fact pattern that screams at them from every angle that they should not grant that permit.
Horses bound for slaughter
Kathy Milani/The HSUSHorses held in
 export pens before transported for slaughter.
The Administration wouldn’t grant an inspection permit for a dog slaughterhouse even if the application for the permit was properly filled out and the operator hired a lawyer to compel action. Local and national opposition to such an idea would be more than convincing in compelling the USDA to keep any plant from opening up and sucking dogs into the slaughter lines.
The HSUS will work with state authorities to block this plant from opening, and will join Front Range Equine Rescue in taking the USDA to court on this issue
Horse slaughter is not humane euthanasia and is a betrayal of our trusted companions. The entire pipeline of horse slaughter, including auctions and transport in crowded trailers in freezing cold or oppressive heat, is abusive. The slaughter process itself is horribly cruel and many horses suffer during the misguided and often repeated attempts to render them unconscious. 
Sensible policy makers don’t want to see a bloodbath in the United States resume. Let’s hope we can hold off slaughter until the defund language, expected to take effect in a few months, becomes law.
Now is the time to express your concern to your members of Congress and urge them to pass the Safeguard American Food Exports Act to shut the door on horse slaughter once and for all.

Well, folks, I guess it really is time to kill all the lawyers. I'm just kidding - aren't I?
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Study of Equine Abuse and Neglect Patterns Produces Surprising Findings

Study of Equine Abuse and Neglect Patterns Produces Surprising Findings - Press Release - Digital Journal

Study of Equine Abuse and Neglect Patterns Produces Surprising Findings

PR Newswire

CHICAGO, June 24, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- (EWA) - The Equine Welfare Alliance today released a statistical study on the rates of equine abuse and neglect across the US since 2000. The research examined equine abuse statistics from Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Maine and Oregon.
Historical records of the number of cases of equine abuse and neglect from these states was correlated with three potential causes; the rate of equine slaughter (or lack of it), unemployment and the cost of hay.
Surprisingly, the researchers found that the rate of abuse has been in decline in four of the six states since 2008. Five of the six states had shown a spike in abuse and neglect around 2008 and two have shown a significant increase in the past two years.
The dominant factor the analysis produced in every state was the price of hay. "My assumption was always that unemployment was the dominant factor," admitted EWA president John Holland. "In fact, the analysis showed that the rate of unemployment in the state was the least important predictor of the level of abuse and neglect."
The analysis showed the second most important correlation was the rate of slaughter, but the analysis found more slaughter consistently correlated with more abuse and neglect.
"Correlation is not proof of causation," explained Holland, "but it certainly contradicts the theory that slaughter decreases neglect by culling "unwanted horses."
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) have long urged Congress not to ban horse slaughter on the basis that to do so would increase abandonment, abuse and neglect.
This study follows on the heels of a peer reviewed paper in the Kentucky Journal of Equine, Agricultural, and Natural Resources Law by Holland (EWA) and Laura Allen (Animal Law Coalition). That paper documented enormous increases in the cost of horse ownership between 2000 and 2011. The paper demonstrates, among other pressures, that a shift of land use from hay to corn for ethanol has reduced the hay available to horse owners, cattlemen and dairy farmers.
Severe drought in some states has made an already insufficient supply of hay all but collapse. In 2011, Congress ended the long standing subsidy for ethanol in gasoline and removed tariffs on sugar cane. EWA hopes this will put a downward pressure on hay prices in coming years.

Contact: John Holland 540.268.5693  john@equinewelfarealliance.org

SOURCE Equine Welfare Alliance
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Why Not Horse Meat?

HorsesThere was a thought provoking blog published by The Huffington Post – Marc Vetri: Humanity And Justice For All regarding the topic of horse meat.  Disappointingly the current massive Horse Meat Scandal has put horse meat in the spotlight with curious foodies considering it for their next meal.  While I find the topic repugnant, as a meat eater, it would be hypocritical of me to dismiss it without careful regard.

The relationship humans have with horses is rooted in history.  Those roots grow deep.  Horses became our partners.  Much like dogs, they provided us with opportunities that we wouldn’t have had without them.  We could travel farther and faster while carrying heavy burdens.  We could till ground that would have been impossible without them.  We could travel in weather that would previously leave us housebound.  They provided us with sport and entertainment.  They provided us with the ability to round up other animals to raise for food.  While working together, deep relationships were born.  Yes, they are stunning to watch but the bond we share with them goes far beyond basic aesthetics.

Chances are at some point, just about everyone has enjoyed a horse in one respect or another.  Movies, horse races, grand prix event or rodeos – all would share the joy of horses.  Many have gone further by owning, riding, competing or working with horses in some way.  Ask someone about their horse and brace yourself for a deluge of proud stories.

How could we possibly eat these noble beasts?  If you take the emotional attachment out of it, technically we should.  They’re herbivores like cattle.  Horses aren’t that different.
Two key differences: Horses are not raised for food and our food system is not geared to handle them.

Not Raised For Food

Marc Vetri stated “If I were to find a livestock farmer who was raising them humanely, I would consider it.” However it goes far beyond simply raising them humanely.

Why not raise horses in the same manner as cattle?  In general, they’re harder to handle.  Unhandled horses bite and kick not only each other, but people as well.  They are a fight or flight animal and are very good at both.  Round ups of horses are much more difficult due to their speed, far beyond any cow.  Add their strength, power and height, handling them isn’t easy and accommodating them isn’t possible on every farm.  They’re harder on property and harder on fences.  ”Hard keepers” by cattle standards, the vast majority of horses need supplemental feeding to stay in good condition.  By their very nature, horses aren’t good candidates for food production animals.  There are easier more placid stock to raise.

Horses are currently handled from birth, halter broke, trained to accept grooming, leading, farriers, veterinarians and eventually a rider or to drive.  No one with the intent of sending an animal for meat wants to invest this much personal time or emotion.  While it would make them easier and safer to handle, the logistics of time and costs are not feasible.  With the average herd size of cattle in Canada being 61 head, imagine the time demands on keeping that many horses regularly handled and socialized.  It cannot be done.

During the process of horse ownership they are often medicated.  Horses tend to be exposed to more illnesses and injury due to their work.  Drugs used for fertility, performance, pain killers, illness or other medical issues are common.  The vast majority of these drugs would never be used in food producing animals.  Due to horses having various roles of work, the introduction of these medications should be assumed.  Severe adverse reactions in humans, cancer causing agents and hormonal therapies should never enter our food chain.  There is never the intent to send a horse for meat, so the drugs chosen are never considered for human consumption safety before they are administered.

Phenylbutazone is a common anti-inflammatory drug administered to horses that is not safe for humans.  It can cause “…severe adverse effects such as suppression of white blood cell production and aplastic anemia.”  This drug has also been found in some of the horse meat scandal samples.
There are only so many carcasses tested.  Of those, only so many tests can be run.  Considering the amount of ecoli and salmonella cases found in recent years, do we really want to trust our health regarding an unknown cocktail of drugs that may or may not be tested for?

“Nobody has established when it is safe to eat meat that has been treated with phenylbutazone….”

Food System Not Geared Towards Horses

Horses enter the food chain via auctions.  When a cow enters an auction, they’re being purchased either by meat buyers (in which case they go to slaughter) or to other farms for breeding programs and eventual slaughter.  Either way, their intent for food and treatment as such remains intact.  Horses however come from every walk of life (racing, pleasure riding, competitive jumping, draft, companions, etc.), at every age, in various levels of health.  Hay Shortage Victims, many horses are landing in auction that would typically be home safe in a barn.  Other horses have failed to respond to medical treatments and are being given up on.  Many times, the money has simply run out.  It is safe to say that no horse in North America is born with the intent of going for meat.

In order to garner the highest price, many are drugged in hopes of covering obvious lameness, behavioural issues or due to their alien surroundings simply just to calm them.  Well behaved, good looking, sound animals are hopefully picked up by new owners who take them home to their barns.  Those owners pay more so they are catered to.  For sellers, there is a financial impact of not drugging.  Sometimes a horse might show a bit of a spark in some way, in which case they’ll be purchased, a little TLC given so that they can hope to raise a better price in another auction.  Horses in poor condition, injured, not eye catching, excessively shy or even aggressive have little hope of going to a home.  Those horses are sold to meat buyers for bottom dollar, intended for slaughter.  Any other meat animal would be banned from entering the food chain if they had these same drugs administered to them.  However, the people sending the horses to the slaughter houses wouldn’t have administered the drugs or necessarily have any knowledge of them.

This is the criteria of your possible dinner meat: ill, poor condition and quite possibly drugged.  In a society of demanding the highest of quality, free range, antibiotic free, grass and grain fed meats, this source doesn’t qualify in the least.  There is no quality control on selection at all.

Food animals are transported in large groups via stock trailers in order to decrease costs.  Again, by their very nature as fight or flight animals, groups of horses in close quarters are dangerous.  Stress is a key factor.  They kick, panic, slip and will fall without proper support.  Injuries are often severe.  These trailers don’t have provisions for food or water and many will collapse from exhaustion or dehydration or even arrive dead.  Due to their very nature, they require a more refined mode of transportation in order to ensure their welfare.  In general, the largest safe horse trailers only carry up to 6 horses.

The slaughter system is tailored to cattle and swine.   Again, the nature of the horse causes undue stress and panic.  Kill methods approved for horses (generally) are either via gunshot or captive bolt.  Horses are ‘head shy’, meaning they don’t handle close handling of their heads or things being held by their heads without a fight.  Gunshots miss the mark.  Captive bolt often requires to be ‘stunned’ several times due to their panic levels.  Horse advocates suggest that due to their nature, horses cannot be slaughtered humanely.

No.  I would not advocate horse meat.  Horses cannot be accommodated humanely at a commercial level for food either by transport or slaughter.  The meat itself is not safe for human consumption due to the routine drugs administered to them. Without a sustainable method taking effort, cost and safety to both horse and human to raise them purely for food, there is not a feasible food production model for them.

There is no shortfall of meats available for human consumption.  Simply because we physically can does not mean we should.  At some point, the line needs to be drawn.  Even with the emotional attachment to horses taken out of the equation, horse meat has no place on our dinner plates.
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ASPCA Commends House Appropriations Committee for Voting to Eliminate Funds for Inspection of U.S. Horse Slaughter Facilities

Duchess Horse Sanctuary
Duchess Horse Sanctuary (Photo credit: Marji Beach)

ASPCA Commends House Appropriations Committee for Voting to Eliminate Funds for Inspection of U.S. Horse Slaughter Facilities

Approved amendment would protect horses from cruel practice in the U.S.

June 13,2013

ASPCA Media Contact

NEW YORK—The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) commends the members of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee for approving an amendment to its fiscal year 2014 Agriculture Appropriations bill that would prevent the use of taxpayer dollars by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to inspect horse slaughter facilities. The Moran-Young Amendment, introduced by Reps. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and Bill Young (R-Fla.), would effectively shut the door to the grisly horse slaughter industry on U.S. soil.

A similar spending prohibition was put in place in 2005; however, in the 2012 budget, the language preventing horse slaughter inspections was not included, 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 already been filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including one in Roswell, N.M. and another in Sigourney, Iowa.

"Horse slaughter is a cruel practice that only benefits foreign interests," said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of ASPCA Government Relations. "Using taxpayer dollars to fund this abhorrent industry is irresponsible and wasteful. We are grateful to Representatives Moran and Young for their strong leadership in advocating to protect our nation’s revered equines."

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.
"Horses hold a special place in our nation's history and they deserve better than to be slaughtered for the benefit of foreign consumers," said Rep. Moran. "The Committee's vote today will not only save taxpayers' money, but it will help protect these iconic creatures from suffering a cruel fate."

While the Moran-Young Amendment in the appropriations 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, U.S. Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), 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.

In a recent national poll commissioned by the ASPCA, it was revealed that 80 percent of American voters, including the vast majority of horse owners (71 percent), are opposed to the slaughter of U.S. horses for human consumption. To learn more about the ASPCA’s efforts to ban horse slaughter, please visit www.aspca.org.
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Citizen Cosponsor Project

Citizen Cosponsor Project

Please follow the above link to the  Citizen Cosponsor Project and cosponsor H.R, 1094, the SAFE ACT which will ban horse slaughter in the US and prohibit the transfer of horses across borders for the purpose of slaughter.
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"From my earliest memories, I have loved horses with a longing beyond words." ~ Robert Vavra