Trojan Horse Slaughter

Trojan Horse Slaughter

As Americans watch Europeans condemn the discovery of horsemeat in their Ikea meatballs, we can take some solace in the fact that, for once, we’ve sidestepped an industrial food-related travesty. Our complacency, however, could be short-lived. Although less dramatic than horse DNA adulterating ground beef, another horse-related scandal is about to implicate U.S. citizens in a scheme that will send tainted horse meat into foreign markets while enriching U.S. horse slaughterers with taxpayer dollars.

The last U.S.-based horse slaughterhouse closed in 2007. The phasing out of horse slaughter in the United States ended the exportation of U.S.-produced horse meat to Canada, Europe, and Japan. This development, among other accomplishments, spelled the decline of a niche business that profited from a product that American taxpayers financially supported (through USDA inspection of horse slaughterhouses) but were loathe to consume (plus, it’s illegal to sell horse meat in the U.S.).
Over the past six years, though, a small cohort of national lobbyists and state representatives has worked to reopen U.S. horse slaughterhouses. Five states—Oklahoma, Montana, New Mexico, Tennessee, and Iowa—have already taken legislative steps in that direction. Their collective justification for doing so is that U.S. slaughterhouses are better for the welfare of horses. Without them, they argue, an endless stream of retired race horses will inevitably head to Mexico for slaughter, a terrifying prospect for animals who, advocates further contend, will meet an especially gruesome south-of-the-border death.

On the surface, this argument seems to make sense. Why slaughter horses abroad when we can do so at home? A closer look, however, reveals three problems, each of which suggests that any claim to reinstate horse slaughter on welfare grounds is simply a cynical ploy to dupe Americans into supporting a business most of us find abhorrent.

First, advocates of U.S. horse slaughter—the very people who insist they care about shortening the distance a horse travels for slaughter—opposed legislation restricting the distance horses could travel in the aftermath of the American closings. Sue Wallis, a Wyoming state representative and the most vocal proponent of reopening slaughterhouses (they call her “Slaughterhouse Sue”), wrote in 2009 that, “A key early initiative is to muster resources to oppose bills now pending in Congress that would ban the transportation of horses to other countries for the purpose of slaughter.” The intent here was as simple as it was sinister: to normalize long horse hauls to foreign soil and then highlight its inherent cruelty, thereby buttressing the case for a more “humane” local option.

Second, the claim that Mexican slaughterhouses are comparatively inhumane is equally problematic. Plants where U.S. horses have been slaughtered in Mexico are owned by the same European Union companies that once owned horse slaughterhouses in the United States. Supporters of local slaughter suggest that U.S. horses are being killed in an especially cruel and unregulated manner in Mexican-owned slaughterhouses, mainly by stabbing them in the spine. In fact, EU companies deploy standard procedures, using (most notably) captive bolt guns to stun horses before bleeding and processing them, just as they do in Europe and once did in the U.S. Ironically, the only documented cases we have of horse slaughterhouse cruelty and abuse come from the U.S. (back when slaughterhouses were legal).

Third, advocates of U.S. horse slaughter insist that, without the re-institution of slaughter at home, an unmanageable number of horses will continue to suffer the indignities described above. But the numbers don’t support this claim. Nearly 90 percent of U.S. horses die of natural causes or are euthanized at home. Bill Bullard, a California state representative and supporter of U.S. horse slaughter, says that the horse industry is desperate for “a way to dispose of our old, diseased, lame horses.” In fact, that problem has already been solved for the overwhelming majority of horses. They die the way our pets die—more often than not with quiet dignity.

Duplicity is one thing. But the upshot of this manufactured crisis is even worse: an impending public health disaster of global proportions. What supporters of U.S. slaughter never tell us is that the 150,000 or so U.S. horses that are annually slaughtered for export are bombarded daily with a hit list of toxic drugs, most notably phenylbutazone (“bute”), a common painkiller. While innocuous for horses, bute can cause, even in trace doses, aplastic anemia, agranulocytosis, thrombocytopenia, leucopenia, pancytopenia, and hemolytic anemia in humans. Eating U.S. horses, according to Tufts Veterinary professor Nicolas Dodman, “is about as healthful as food contaminated with DDT.”  The USDA currently has no program to regulate these substances.

In other words, lost in all the discussions about horse slaughter and horsemeat is a fundamental point: horses are not raised for food. They are, in essence, an industrial product. For Americans to recycle them into an edible but toxic by-product for foreigners to eat, doing so with taxpayer dollars and through an underfunded USDA, would be bad for everyone involved, most notably the 150,00 horses a year who’d be much better off not being used as Trojan horses to hide the profits of those who claim to care about them.
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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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Equine Welfare Alliance: US Horsemeat Banned in EU!

If Meat Plant Opens, Europeans Would Not Accept U.S. Product | Horse Back Magazine
If Meat Plant Opens, Europeans Would Not Accept U.S. Product
March 20, 2013

Mar 20, 2013 21:00 America/Chicago

Equine Welfare Alliance: US Horsemeat Banned in EU

CHICAGO, (EQUINE WELFARE ALLIANCE/PR Newswire) – Since Congress lifted the ban on USDA inspections of horse meat, several small shuttered cattle slaughter plants have clamored for the USDA to provide horse meat inspections. Ricardo De Los Santos of Valley Meats, a New Mexico plant, went as far as to sue the USDA for not providing the service. The attorney for Valley Meats has announced it will be opening in three weeks.

Unfortunately for those wishing to bring horse slaughter back to the US, they will have to do so without the ability to sell to the EU, the main market for US horse meat. The Equine Welfare Alliance has received confirmation from EU authorities that “by virtue of Commission decision 2011/163/EU the US is not authorized to export horsemeat to the EU.”

The decision was made in 2011, when the USDA neglected to comply with new regulations requiring submittal of a drug residue control program. Approval of such an application requires extensive review as well as audits and can take up to several years to complete.

The EU authority (SANCO) went on to say “Our Directorate General, up to now, does not record a recent residue monitoring plan on horse meat submitted by USDA.” In other words, the process has yet to begin.

The scandal over horse meat being substituted for beef in a myriad of products, as well as the finding of the banned drug phenylbutazone in some of those products has further dimmed the prospects for a lifting of the ban.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, in an interview with Reuters, said sequestration could cause sporadic food shortages if inspectors aren’t available to examine meat, poultry and egg products. Obviously, providing inspectors for horse meat would further exacerbate the need to protect US consumers. Vilsack shocked many today when he was quoted as saying he hoped that Congress could come up with an alternative to horse slaughter.

EWA’s John Holland explains the bleak prospects for private horse slaughter plants in the US, saying “these plants will have no access to the markets even if the EU ban is lifted because the distribution is controlled by a few multi-nationals, and those expecting to contract with these companies should heed the story of Natural Valley Farms (SK Canada) which lost millions trying to do so.”

EWA is a dues free, all volunteer 501(c)(4) umbrella organization representing over 270 member organizations and 1,000 individual members worldwide in 18 countries.
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Horse Meat Scandal Illustrates Need for Federal Action

Michael Markarian: Animals & Politics: Horsemeat Scandal Illustrates Need for Federal Action
Horse meat Scandal Illustrates Need for Federal Action

A food scandal has rocked Europe, where products labeled as beef—everything from frozen lasagna to Swedish meatballs—have tested positive for horsemeat. But it’s not just in Europe where government officials should take notice; the controversy affects the United States, too. More than 100,000 American horses are killed each year for their meat, and the main market for this product is Europe.

Former racehorses, carriage horses, family ponies, and other equines are scooped up at auctions by predatory “killer buyers,” who often outbid horse rescue groups and families that want to give the horses a new, loving home. The majestic creatures are crammed tightly into cattle trucks, and shipped hundreds or thousands of miles to slaughter plants across the border in Canada or Mexico.

They are butchered, shrink-wrapped, and air-freighted to Belgium, France, Italy, or other countries. It’s a grisly end for an American icon. And it’s generally reserved for the strongest, healthiest horses, with the most meat on their bones to fetch the most profit—not the sick and homeless as the horse slaughter boosters would have us believe.

Stopping the cruelty of long-distance transport and slaughter of our cherished companions should be enough to spur action. But there’s another major reason our lawmakers should act: We are dumping unsafe and contaminated horsemeat on European dinner plates and supermarket shelves.

The European Union forbids imports of American chicken because the carcasses are bathed in chlorine, and bans pork imports because American producers treat the animals with ractopomine. But tens of thousands of drugged-up American horses are entering the marketplace, even though they are routinely given medicines throughout their lives not intended for human consumption.

Clenbuterol, a bronchodilator with anabolic steroid properties, and Phenylbutazone, known as bute or horse aspirin, are among many commonly prescribed medications for treating ailing or lame horses—but banned for use in animals slaughtered for human consumption. The U.S. has no system in place to track the medications that are given to horses over their lifetimes, and therefore, there’s no reliable way to remove horses from the food chain once they have been given prohibited substances. It’s no surprise that bute was found last summer in horsemeat shipped from Canada to Belgium, and continues to turn up in random testing.

While horse slaughter apologists such as those in the Oklahoma legislature are rallying for a return to equine abattoirs on U.S. soil, it’s becoming uncertain whether they will have any remaining markets to sell their product—especially if the European Union decides to crack down on sales of horsemeat from North America in light of the recent scandal.

It’s time for the U.S. Congress to take a hard look at the serious and far-reaching food safety concerns associated with slaughtering American horses. Lawmakers should reintroduce federal legislation to prevent the slaughter and export of our horses for human consumption, and send a message that the global trade of U.S. horsemeat is simply unsuitable for the dinner table.

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Save the Horses! Three Lawmakers Will Try to Ban Slaughter for Food

Save the Horses! Three Lawmakers Will Try to Ban Slaughter for Food - ABC News
Save the Horses! Three Lawmakers Will Try to Ban Slaughter for Food

By Chris Good
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Mar 12, 2013 7:05pm
gty horse slaughter us nt 130301 wblog Save the Horses! Three Lawmakers Will Try to Ban Slaughter for Food
gty horse slaughter us nt 130301 wblog Save the Horses! Three Lawmakers Will Try to Ban Slaughter for Food

Image credit: Getty Images

A trio of U.S. lawmakers is saying “no” to horse meat.

The U.S. is set to begin slaughtering horses again for the first time in six years, and recent news of Ikea sausages and British Taco Bell beef containing small amounts of horse has raised horse-meat alarm bells among the meat-consuming public.

Congress originally banned horse slaughter in 2006 by defunding USDA’s horse-meat inspectors. But after the ban lapsed in 2011, a lawsuit and industry pressure has forced USDA to start inspecting again, and a company says it expects to open the first slaughterhouse in Roswell, N.M., within the next month and a half.

“These companies must still complete necessary technical requirements and FSIS [the Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service] must still complete its inspector training, but at that point, the Department will legally have no choice but to go forward with inspections, which is why we urge Congress to reinstate the ban,” a USDA spokesperson told ABC News.

Enter Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Reps. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.

The three will introduce a bill on Wednesday that would put a stop to the pending horse slaughter.

The Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, as the House version is dubbed, would not only ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption in the U.S. but would also prohibit shipping horses outside the U.S. for food slaughter. Unlike the appropriations rider that had prevented horse slaughter until now, the statutory ban would not expire.

The Humane Society of the United States and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals will hold a press conference on Capitol Hill on Wednesday with the three lawmakers, the two groups announced on Tuesday.

“Horses sent to slaughter are often subject to appalling, brutal treatment,” Schakowsky said in a statement emailed to ABC News by a spokesperson. “We must fight those practices. The Safeguard American Food Exports Act of 2013 will ensure that these majestic animals are treated with the respect they deserve.”
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"From my earliest memories, I have loved horses with a longing beyond words." ~ Robert Vavra