2009 Pro-Slaughter State Resolutions and Bills

horsesThere were several bills and resolutions introduced and some passed in 2009 in state legislatures. The resolutions call for the defeat of the federal anti-horse slaughter bill, H.R. 503 (Senate version is S 727), and some bills proposed to support horse slaughter operations in their states by first funding costly studies, calling for the location of a horse slaughter facility in the state, or creating special exemptions from judicial  intervention in the building or operation of these facilities.

An Illinois bill would have repealed the 2007 ban on horse slaughter which helped close the last of the horse slaughter facilities, has finally been tabled!  But Montana Gov. Brian D. Schweitzer has allowed H.B. 418, a pro-horse slaughter bill in that state to become law.

The bills and resolutions appear to have been introduced as part of a concerted effort by pro-slaughter groups acting on behalf of foreign investors anxious to defeat H.R. 503. (S. 727)

H.R. 503, (S. 727) which is pending in Congress would stop them from using American horses for horsemeat served as a delicacy in fine restaurants primarily in parts of Asia, Europe and South America.

The resolutions are worded almost identically.

The resolutions proclaim that there is an increase in "unwanted" or "unusable" horses, as many as 100,000 or more annually, because of the closing of U.S. horse slaughter facilities in 2007. They claim the closing of U.S. slaughter houses in 2007 had "significant economic impact on the…equine industry".  These resolutions call for "processing" or "harvesting" horses, euphemisms for "slaughter", which they describe as "humane". They claim slaughter can be managed through inspections and regulations.

These resolutions, if approved by the state legislatures, would be sent to Congress, as the state’s position that H.R. 503/S.B.727 should be defeated.

Resolutions calling for the defeat of H.R. 503/S. 727 passed overwhelmingly in Utah, Missouri, Wyoming, South Dakota, Arkansas, Georgia, and North Dakota.  (A second bill in South Dakota, S.B. 114, asked the South Dakota state legislature to spend $100,000 on a study  "of the feasibility, viability, and desirability of establishing and operating an equine processing facility in the state. That bill did not pass.) 

One of these  resolutions also passed the Idaho House of Representatives.

Pro-slaughter bills did not pass before the legislatures adjourned in Iowa, Arizona, South Carolina, Kansas and Nebraska.

Click on these states’ names for more information on the battles in IllinoisNorth Dakota  and Montana.

The horse slaughterers’ strategy 

These resolutions and bills are a not-so-subtle ploy by the foreign investors that own horse slaughter houses to defeat H.R. 503 which would ban the sale, transport, and possession of horses in interstate and foreign commerce for slaughter for human consumption. 

horseEven without H.R. 503, horse slaughter cannot occur legally in the U.S.  There is no point in states appropriating tax dollars for studies or other special benefits when currently horse slaughter for human consumption is not allowed in the U.S. These resolutions will simply insure horse slaughterers can continue to take American horses to Mexico or Canada for slaughter. 

There is also another goal: to make horse slaughter acceptable to Americans and, in fact, create a market in the U.S. for the consumption of horsemeat. The resolution proposing the North Dakota study says as much. If Americans begin eating horsemeat, the theory is that Congress will be forced to fund ante-mortem inspections. Under current law because these required inspections are not funded, horse slaughter is not legal in the U.S. For more on this…..

Keep in mind when the remaining 3 horse slaughter houses in the U.S. closed in 2007, they were owned by foreign companies, Dallas Crown, Inc.; Cavel International, Inc. and Beltex Corp., which now operates a horse slaughter house in Mexico, Empacadora de Carnes de Fresnillo.  

There is no econmic benefit to any state in a horse slaughter facility. Even when there were horse slaughter houses in the U.S., they were part of a horse meat industry that was only 0.001% of the U.S. meat industry. The foreign-owned U.S. horse slaughterhouses paid little in income taxes. One facility paid $5 in federal taxes on $12 million in sales. This was a typical income tax payment by these companies when they operated in the U.S. These slaughter houses also paid no export taxes, meaning the U.S. government effectively subsidized the sale of horse meat to consumers generally in parts of Asia, South America and Europe.

The profits went to the foreign investors. The communities where horse slaughter houses were located were left with horrific odors of dying and dead horses, blood literally running down the streets and clogging sewer lines, and illegally dumped waste and discharges in excess of that allowed by wastewater permits.  Attached are some of the numerous violations of Cavel’s facility while it operated in Dekalb, Illinois. This does not include the violations of the wastewater treatment permit. This is typical of how all 3 slaughter houses operated.

Then, of course, there is the issue of horse theft which occurs at significant rates when a horse slaughter facility is in operation.

It is simply a waste of taxpayer dollars for a state to subsidize these sleazy practice. It is akin to supporting dog fighting rings.

If there is any doubt about this, read the Open Letter from former Kaufman, Texas mayor, Paula Bacon, who held office when a horse slaughter facility operated in her town. 

Charley and ElizabethHorse slaughter is also not a means of controlling numbers of "unwanted horses". This is a myth perpetuated by the horse slaughter industry that is simply repeated over and over again as in these resolutions. 

Horse slaughter is a multi million dollar a year business that is driven by a demand for horse meat. Kill buyers buy horses at auction for slaughter, and the USDA has said over 92% of American horses slaughtered, are healthy, not old, sick, injured, or neglected. These horses were not unwanted; they were simply sold at auction, and their owners had no control over who purchased them.  Without the kill buyers who skulk around horse auctions, looking for the best potential horse meat, most of these horses would be purchased by others or end up in rescues or sanctuaries.  

As John Holland, a free lance writer and researcher on horse slaughter and consultant for Americans Against Horse Slaughter, has explained, "Kill buyers do not go around the country like dog catchers gathering ‘unwanted horses’ as a public service.

Americans Against Horse Slaughter points out, "Just over 100,000 horses were slaughtered in the U.S. in 2006. If slaughter were no longer an option and these horses were rendered or buried instead, it would represent a small increase in the number of horse being disposed of in this manner  – an increase that the current infrastructure can certainly sustain. Humane euthanasia and carcass disposal is highly affordable and widely available. The average cost of having a horse humanely euthanized and safely disposing of the animal’s carcass is approximately $225, while the average monthly cost of keeping a horse is approximately $200."

Also, the horse slaughter industry actually encourages the over breeding of horses. Because owners can make money from the brutal slaughter of their horses, they have an incentive to over breed.  As actor and horse rescuer Paul Sorvino put it, "37% of those horses are going to be slaughtered because they couldn’t run fast enough….So, it’s run for your life."  If the slaughter of horses for human consumption is illegal, there is no reward for over breeding.

Sadly, pro-slaughter groups have disseminated disinformation in the media to convince the public that without horse slaughter, there will be large numbers of abandoned, abused and neglected horses.  (Even if that were true, which it is not, it is not clear how substituting one form of cruelty for another is somehow a solution.) 

Indeed, these reports in the media have proven to be unfounded. A study released last year showed a decrease in horse abuse and neglect cases following closure of the last U.S. horse slaughter house in 2007. Any abandoned or neglected horses are not a result of a lack of horse slaughter houses.

Historically, there have not been increases in abandoned, neglected or abused horses following closures of horse slaughter houses. In 2002 the Illinois slaughter house burned to the ground and was out of commission for some time.  Reports of abandoned, abused and neglected horses in the Illinois area were actually on the rise in the 2 years before the fire but decreased afterwards.

Remember the number of horses slaughtered in the U.S. dropped significantly from over 300,000 annually in the 1990s to 66,000 in 2004. There was no notable increase during that time of abandoned, abused or neglected horses.

When California banned horse slaughter in 1998, there was no rise in cases of cruelty or neglect to horses. In fact, there was a 39.4% decrease initially and that rose to 88% eventually in horse thefts. (What does that tell you about this "business"?)

Also, from 2005-2007 nearly 15000 horses were imported from Canada into the U.S. for slaughter. If horse slaughter occurs because of all the unwanted horses, why would these horse slaughter businesses need to import them? The answer is, of course, they wouldn’t. Horse slaughter has nothing to do with controlling numbers of unwanted horses. It is a business driven by a demand for horse meat primarily as a delicacy in foreign countries. 

As Americans Against Horse Slaughter puts it, "The surplus horse population’ [argument] is a scare tactic." 

Horse slaughter is also in no sense humane euthanasia. That much has been established by documents recently released in response to a FOIA request.  The captive bolt gun used in the U.S. slaughterhouses did not typically render horses senseless before slaughter. The slaughter houses never bothered to restrain the horses’ heads or use only trained personnel to operate the gun.

As John Holland has explained, "In its 2000 report on methods of Euthanasia, the AVMA stated that the captive bolt gun should not be used on equines unless head restraint could be assured. This is because of the relatively narrow forehead of equines, their head shyness and the fact that the brain is set back further than in cattle for which the gun is intended. It is difficult for an operator to assure proper placement of the gun.

Horse"No slaughter house ever found a practical way to restrain the heads of the horses, so by the AVMA’s very definition, the process was not acceptable. The result was a very large number of ineffective stuns. These misplaced blows undoubtedly caused severe pain until a stunning or fatal blow was delivered. "

Imagine the pain and terror experienced by horses as bolts were repeatedly fired at their heads many times by untrained operators. Many times horses were still conscious when they were then hoisted upside down for slaughter.

For more information on the brutality of horse slaughter in the U.S., click here to read the July 25, 2006 testimony of Christopher J. Heyde, Deputy Legislative Director for Animal Welfare Institute, before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer ProtectionClick here to read testimony offered during a Congressional hearing in 2008 about the cruelty of horse slaughter.

Also, listen here to a discussion on WFL Endangered Stream Live Talk Radio about horse slaughter by Laura Allen, Executive Director of Animal Law Coalition; John Holland, journalist and consultant for Americans Against Horse Slaughter; Dr. Nena Winand, DVM with Veterinarians for Equine Welfare and Paula Bacon, former mayor of Kaufman, Tx and leader of the fight to shut down the horse slaughter facility that operated there until 2007. (Download this broadcast!)

Where You Can Find More Information on Horse Slaughter

WFL Endangered Stream Live, Saving Our Horses

Read Frequently Asked Questions About Unwanted Horses and the AVMA’s Policy on Horse Slaughter

Read Veterinarians for Equine Welfare’s Horse Slaughter – Its Ethical Impact and Subsequent Response by the Veterinary Profession