In the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico, the scene is set to play out the fate of United States equids.
There has been a flurry of filings in the Front Range Equine Rescue et al vs. USDA court case. Most of the filings have been from those seeking to intervene in the case, including the state of New Mexico (for the plaintiffs) and the Confederated Yakima Tribes (for the defendants).
Other companies wanting to open horse slaughter plants have also sought to intervene, and the list of plaintiffs has grown considerably.
The plaintiffs filed an amended complaint, and the USDA has filed an opposition to the preliminary injunction.
A bill titled the Safeguard American Food Exports Act (H.R. 1094/S. 541) sits before Congress to amend the “Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to prohibit the sale or transport (importing or exporting) of equines or their parts (including flesh, meat, and viscera) ... in the United States, by any person who knows or should have known that such equines are to be slaughtered for human consumption as food.”
The House Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year 2014 Agriculture Appropriations bill, which adopted an amendment prohibiting funding for inspections of horse slaughter facilities in the U.S. on June 13 — now headed to the House floor for consideration.
Also, beginning in December of 2011, applications for federal inspections were submitted to USDA/FSIS. Upon USDA/FSIS issuing grants of approval for these establishments in 2013, a storm of animal rights organization activities ensued.
With such fervent legislative activity, embroiled legal cases and propaganda, aimed at ending the slaughter of horses in the United States, including their transport to process across U.S. borders, the question arises again: “Why?”
The following is from an April 1973 story in the Honolulu Advertiser:
“About 25 persons on horseback and on foot paraded outside Carlson’s Mart yesterday to protest the store’s selling horse meat as a cheap substitute for beef. ‘I think the slaughter of horses for human consumption in this country is disgraceful,’ said protest organizer Richard Gallagher. ‘We are not at a stage yet in the United States where we are forced to kill horses for meat. Horses are to be loved and ridden.’ In other words, horses are shown affection, where cattle that are raised for beef ... they’ve never had someone pet them or brush them, or anything like that. To buy someone’s horse up and slaughter it, that, I just don’t see it.’
“The market began selling horsemeat as ‘equine round,’ ‘horsemeat porterhouse’ and ‘horse burger’ on Tuesday, and owner Kenneth Carlson said about 20,000 pounds were sold in the first week.”
Here is a list of the claims made in the AHSA (Anti Horse Slaughter Advocates) campaign against horse slaughter, along with evidence debunking the claims:
1) Horse slaughter, whether in U.S. or foreign plants, was never and cannot be humane.
According to Terry Whiting of the Manitoba Agriculture Department, “The welfare of horses for slaughter in the abattoir has been protected ... by the same federal veterinary infrastructure and safeguards that assure the humane slaughter of beef cattle and swine. In addition, specific legislation to protect the transport of horses for slaughter has been in force in the USA since 1996.”
Animal welfare expert Temple Grandin states, “There are some horse welfare advocates who are against resuming horse slaughter in the U.S. My biggest concern is that horses going to totally unregulated slaughter facilities in Mexico is much worse than even a poorly run U.S. plant. A plant in the U.S. would be monitored by the USDA/FSIS, and the conditions for both transport and slaughter would be better.”
2) Horses are often seriously injured or killed in transit.
According to the Slaughter Horse Transport Program, one of APHIS/VS’s responsibilities under the 1996 Farm Bill is to regulate the commercial transportation of horses to slaughter. Prior to the establishment of the SHTP in 2001, a study titled, “Prevalence of severe welfare problems in horses that arrive at slaughter plants” returned these results: “Ninety-two percent of the horses arrived in good condition, and 7.7 percent had a condition that was rated a serious welfare problem, including body condition scores of 1 or 2, lacerations or injuries from bites, foot and limb problems, etc. Abuse or neglect by owners was the cause of 77 percent of the severe welfare problems observed.
The final rule on humane transportation of horses to slaughter was published in the Federal Register on Dec. 7, 2001. The recommendations of the study were incorporated into the regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations.
3) Horse slaughter in the U.S. will have a negative financial impact on taxpayers.
It will divert precious financial resources away from U.S. products and food safety. According to Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., quoting the USDA, “each horse slaughter facility opened in the U.S. would cost U.S. taxpayers over $400,000 per year in operation costs.”
However, the financial impact on taxpayers is offset by the economic benefit of domestic horse processing.
A conservative estimate of the total economic cost of a ban on horse processing for export has been reported to be $152 million to $222 million per year, according to a paper on the Animal Welfare Council’s website.
4) The federal government cannot ensure the safety of horse meat.
The USDA has no system in place to track horses’ lifetime medical histories, and the reputation of the entire U.S. meat industry is at risk, they say.
The USDA has no system in place that track the lifetime medical histories of other animals intended for the human food chain. The position of the USDA/FSIS is well-defined in the FSIS Final Response to Petition: “FSIS has concluded that its existing authority ... and regulations which include requirements for the disposition of livestock ... will allow the Agency to ensure that carcasses and horsemeat products that bear the mark of inspection are safe for human food.”
5) Horse slaughter plants have proved to be economic and environmental nightmares for the communities that house them.
These plants pollute local water, decrease property values, permeate the air with a foul stench, drain local economies, and damage the environment.
Again, a conservative estimate of the total economic impact of a ban on horse processing for export has been reported to be $152 million to $222 million per year. That paper also calculates the cumulative annual cost to maintain horse inventory that could have been processed at $513 million dollars in 2005. The economic impact of the horse slaughter industry is, indeed, enormously beneficial to the countries and communities who employ them.
In the U.S., specific regulations apply to the transport of horses for slaughter, a provision not extended to other food producing animals. Horses are seldom seriously injured or killed in transit. The low cost of providing FSIS inspections is greatly offset by the economic impact of over a half billion dollars.
The basis of the controversy are those who view horses as pets, similar to dogs, as subjects in American Society versus those who view horses similar to other livestock intended for human uses.
The issues posed by the AHSA are truly cultural and emotional. Anti-Horse Slaughter Advocates do not apply the same rationale to other animals intended for human consumption, while Pro-Horse Slaughter Advocates do.
Pro Horse Slaughter Advocates understand veterinarian-approved euthanasia — methods resulting in less fear and anxiety, that are more rapid, painless, humane and practical — are used in U.S. horse slaughter houses.
The welfare of horses intended for slaughter has been protected in the U.S. by the same federal agencies and regulations that are applied in the humane slaughter of other animals.
In the U.S., specific regulations apply to the transport of horses for slaughter, a provision not extended to other food-producing animals. Horses are seldom seriously injured or killed in transit. The low cost of providing FSIS inspections is greatly offset by the economic impact of over a half billion dollars.
Additionally, the federal government can ensure the safety of horse meat for human consumption.
Finally, the claims of alleged economic and environmental harm caused by horse slaughter plants have been disproved — instead showing horse slaughter plants were scapegoats for the actual failure of city management. ❖