During the 2007-2008 Congressional session, an anti-horse slaughter bill, the Conyers-Burton Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act was passed by the House Judiciary Committee.
A hearing was held, and the following are excerpts of information presented at that hearing.Â Â Â
The hearing was held before the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) chaired the hearings. Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-TX) was the ranking minority member. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), sponsor of the legislation and Chairman of the Committee on Judiciary, was also present.Â
Liz Ross, federal policy advisor to the Animal Welfare Institute in Washington, D.C., told the subcommittee she "first became aware that horses were being slaughtered in this country for human consumption overseas when I was contacted in 2000 by a woman who frequented the New Holland Livestock Sale in Pennsylvania….. It is a known fact that many of the horses sold at New Holland end up being slaughtered for high-end diners in Europe and Asia. I made my first journey to New Holland that April, arriving late on a Sunday night to see the horses being brought in for sale the next morning. While many of the horses there were beautiful animals who would certainly end up in good homes others had clearly been neglectedor abused.
"Dozens of horses were already in the kill-pens destined for slaughter. Of those horses that went through the auction ring I was able to purchase three, all of whom undoubtedly would have otherwise gone to slaughter. One was in such bad shape that she should have never been brought through the ring and we had her euthanized on the spot. The other two were placed at an equine rescue facility in New Jersey where they still live today.
"Hundreds of other horses that day were not so lucky. Although most of the animals were healthy and marketable, they were loaded into cramped trailers with unfamiliar horses and endured lengthy trips across hundreds of miles to the then-functional slaughterhouses in Illinois and Texas where they were brutally slaughtered.
"The pure animal suffering and terror I witnessed that day at New Holland was … fundamentally disturbing as was everything I subsequently learned about the horse slaughter industry".
Ross continued, "[D]espite the closure of the U.S. horse slaughter houses] our horses are still being horrifically butchered for their meat to feed luxury diners abroad and to line a few foreign pockets. They simply are being transported further to Canada and Mexico where, if imaginable, conditions are even worse than they were here. Furthermore, there is the distinct possibility that with the current patchwork of state laws specific to horse slaughter, processing plants could begin to operate in states with lesser laws than those of Texas, Illinois and California. The United States Congress can and must pass H.R. 6598 into law so that we can ensure that our horses are no longer subjected to this ugly and wholly un-American trade."
Horse slaughter is not humane euthanasia
Ross as well as other witnesses, Dr. Nicholas Dodman, Dr. John Boyd and Wayne Pacelle, all testified there is nothing humane about slaughter.
Ross said, "There can be no doubt that horse slaughter is a brutal process from beginning to end. Killer buyers- the men who frequent the livestock auctions where they purchase horses from unknowing sellers for resale to the foreign-owned slaughterhouses – have no regard for the horses’ welfare. Because the horses’ final destination is slaughter, little concern is paid to their treatment when they are collected, during transport or in the slaughterhouse. A former equine investigator for the Pennsylvania state police summed this industry up perfectly when she said â€˜…horses were deprived of food and water because they were going to slaughter anyway. My conclusion is that the slaughter option actually encourages neglect.’"
Ross also told the subcommittee, "There has been a concerted campaign of misinformation by those who wish to perpetuate the horse slaughter trade, and a key tenet of that campaign has been the ludicrous position that horse slaughter is a form of humane euthanasia. While the mechanism used in some slaughterhouses – the captive-bolt gun – can in theory be used by a trained veterinarian to euthanize a horse, the similarity between truly humane euthanasia and slaughter ends there. I know of no veterinarian nor have I heard of one who would advocate the captive bolt gun as a means of euthanasia aside perhaps from those lobbying against this bill. Chemical euthanasia is the primary means while some individuals and veterinarians may use a single gunshot in certain circumstances.
"In slaughter, horses suffer long before they reach the slaughterhouse. Crammed onto doubledeck trailers designed for cattle and sheep, horses travel in a bent manner for more than twenty-four hours without food, water or rest. In fact, so paltry are current regulations and so brutal is the trade that heavily pregnant mares, blind horses and those with broken limbs are regularly sent to slaughter.
"At the slaughterhouse the horses are unloaded and handled in a savage manner. Prodded into the kill box they are often hit in the head multiple times by slaughterhouse workers. Simply put, it is disingenuous and factually incorrect to suggest that horse slaughter is a form of humane euthanasia. The use of a captive-bolt gun in any circumstance is strongly criticized by theVeterinarians for Equine Welfare in their recent white paper on horse slaughter, which can be found on their website.
"It is also noteworthy that in Mexico the captive-bolt gun is often passed over in preference to the "puntilla" knife which is used to stab the horse in the spinal cord to the point of paralysis before the animal is strung up and quartered, often while still alive. In fact, one of the Mexican plants that was the subject of an undercover investigation exposing this horrific practice employs lobbyists who work the halls of Congress to defeat this bill. Mr. Chairman, this is pure animal cruelty, through and through, and it must end."
Dr. Nicholas Dodman, Professor, Section Head and Program Director of the Animal Behavior Department of Clinical Sciences at Tufts’ Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in North Grafton, Massachusetts, was very blunt, "Horse slaughter has never been considered by veterinary professionals to be a form of euthanasia. Congress and the general public must hear from veterinarians that horse slaughter is not and should not be equated with humane euthanasia. Rather, the slaughtering of horses is a brutal and predatory business… One need only observe horse slaughter to see that it is a far cry from genuine humane euthanasia.
"From the transport of horses on inappropriate conveyances for long periods of time without food, water or rest – to the very ugly slaughter process in which horses react with pain and fear, no evidence exists to support the claim that horse slaughter is a form of humane euthanasia. Rather, it is a brutal process that results in very tangible and easily observable equine suffering.
"…It is an unethical and dangerous practice to equate horse slaughter with humane euthanasia."
Dr. Dodman noted that the "AVMA does not advocate slaughter as a form of euthanasia to the general public. The association’s brochure on equine euthanasia, How do I know it is time?: Equine Euthanasia, speaks only of veterinarian-administered euthanasia, not slaughter.
The brochure states: Â "Perhaps the kindest thing you can do for a horse that is extremely ill, severely injured, lame, or dangerous is to have your veterinarian induce its death quickly and humanely through euthanasia. Your decision to have your horse euthanatized is a serious one, and is seldom easy to make." …
"Loading and unloading onto the rigs is stressful and injurious as horses must immediately go either up or down a relatively steep ramp to access one of the two floors. Because the trailers are divided into two levels and thus have low ceilings, many horses are unable to stand fully upright and are forced to travel in a bent position. Not only are double-deck trailers inhumane, they are dangerous due to their high center of gravity. Numerous heart-wrenching and lethal accidents have occurred in recent years in which double-deck trailers were carrying horses to a middle-point along the route to slaughter. The results were grisly and absolutely avoidable. …
"The use of the captive-bolt gun, which is commonly used in the slaughter of livestock (including horses), is one of the most egregious aspects of horse slaughter. To clarify, the captive-bolt gun is a mechanical method by which animals are supposed to be rendered immediately unconscious (not killed) through a quick blow to the brain by a metal bolt prior to actual slaughter. However, in order for the method to work as intended, the captive bolt must be administered properly. According to the AVMAâ€Ÿs guidelines, the head of the animal to which the captive bolt is being applied must be restrained or still and a highly skilled individual must administer the fatal blow.
"In the slaughterhouse none of these scenarios is in place: the horse is often panicked, its head is unrestrained, and the person administering the captive bolt is a low-paid worker who is expected to move horses through the kill line at high speed. Herein lays the problem with the use of the captive bolt in horse slaughter. In its 2007 AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia, the AVMA rates the use of the captive bolt to euthanize horses as "acceptable". However, it is the opinion of VEW professionals that this categorization was based on studies conducted on species other than equine. No studies are cited in the 2007 AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia that any scientific research has ever been conducted to determine the humaneness or efficacy of the captive bolt gun for use specifically on horses. Further review finds that the 2007 AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia denoted reference #112– Australian Veterinary Association (AVA), Guidelines for Humane Slaughter and Euthanasia Australian Veterinary Journal 1987:64:4-7 is contradictory to the opinion of the AVA reference itself. The Australian Veterinary Association clearly states the following: Horses: Abattoirs— "An adequate caliber firearm or a humane killer may be used to render the horse unconscious for bleeding. The captive bolt pistol is not satisfactory for horses since firm pressure on the forehead is essential for its effective use and this tends to be resisted by the horse. This problem applies to a lesser extent with the humane killer". Therefore, it is the united conclusion of VEW professionals that the captive bolt should be used only in emergency (non-slaughter) situations where no other option exists to humanely end a horse’s suffering or when advanced circulatory dysfunction might diminish the efficiency of chemical euthanasia. Even then it must be administered properly by a highly skilled operator. When used in the slaughter context it is not equitable with humane euthanasia.
"Recent investigations by the Humane Society of the United States and the San Antonio News-Express reveal that the use of the "puntilla knife" to sever the spinal cord of horses and render them unable to move prior to slaughter is common practice in Mexican slaughter plants. Footage shows horses being repeatedly stabbed in the neck with these knives prior to slaughter. Such a barbaric practice does not render the horse unconscious, it simply paralyzes the animal. The horse is still fully conscious at the start of the slaughter process during which the animal is hung by a hind leg, its throat slit and its body butchered.
"I personally had the opportunity in June of this year to review hidden camera video of many horses being slaughtered at the Natural Valley Farm horse slaughter plant in Saskatchewan, Canada – a plant known to slaughter imported American horses. I found the slaughter process inappropriate, inhumane, unsupervised, and in total disregard of the animalsâ€Ÿ welfare. Particular problem areas included:
â€¢Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Horses being driven into the kill box were, for the most part, terrified. I believe this was because of the way they were being treated (horses are accustomed to being led, not driven); the use of prod sticks; the cacophonous clamor of the place (clanging, compressed air sounds, yelling); the attitude of the stunners; and the general atmosphere of inevitability/doom.
â€¢Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The floor of the kill box was slippery so that when the terrified horses tried to run or jump their way out of their dreadful dilemma they often slipped and fell on the bloody metal floor or their feet would spin around as if they were trying to run on an ice rink.
â€¢Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The sides of the kill box were not high enough to prevent them from seeing the disturbing sights of other horses being hung, bled out and butchered.
â€¢Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The kill box was too wide and too long, allowing horses to back away from the stunnerâ€Ÿs access site.
â€¢Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Because of the unsuitability of the slaughter setup, captive bolt operators were often trying to hit a moving target and in some cases were unable to locate the kill spot on the horsesâ€Ÿ forehead because the horse had turned around, slumped down, or moved backward in the kill box. When the stunner is trying to hit a brain the size of an orange in a skull the size of a suitcase any movement is likely to lead to incomplete stunning. I observed several horses being improperly "stunned." Mouthing, tonguing, and paddling of the feet were not uncommonly seen as horses were dragged away to be hung up and bled out. Some of these horses were likely still conscious as they were being bled. This experience is not significantly different than often occurred at horse slaughter plants operating in the U.S.
â€¢Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Captive bolt operators and their assistants seemed impatient and were unkind to the horses, hitting them repeating, cussing at them, and generally showing no signs of empathy.
â€¢Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Disturbingly, the foot cutter (amputation device) was next in line after the horses throats were slit (on one side only). It is possible that some may have had their feet cut off while semiconscious.
â€¢Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Horses that should not have been transported or slaughtered were present at the plant. Horses with medical problems should not be shipped for slaughter and some would never have passed meat inspection."
Dr. John Boyd, President and founder of the National Black Farmers Association with more than 94,000 members in 46 states, said "Another point I’ve heard time and time again from those opposed to a ban on horse slaughter is that horse slaughter is a form of humane euthanasia. This notion is as preposterous as it is false. There is a huge difference between having a veterinarian put my horse down on my farm when the time comes, and putting my horse onto a double-deck truck packed with dozens of other horses to travel for more than a day and night without any food or water or rest, only to be brutally handled and slaughtered in the most fearful and terrifying environment. A five year old could see the difference between these two scenarios and it is stunning to me that anyone would attempt to equate the two practices. Bottom line, horse slaughter isn’t humane, it’s downright cruel."
Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of HSUS, testified, "The cruelty of horse slaughter is not limited to the killing – the entire process involves terrible suffering. Horses bound for slaughter plants are shipped, frequently over long distances, in inhumane conditions. They are typically given no food, water or rest. Terrified horses and ponies are commonly crammed together and transported to slaughter in trucks designed for cattle and pigs. The trailer ceilings are so low that horses are not even able to hold their heads in a balanced position. Inappropriate floor surfaces cause slips and falls, and sometimes even trampling. Some horses arrive at the slaughterhouseseriously injured or dead.
"Horses by their very nature, respond to hostile and frightening environments by trying to flee. For this reason, they cannot reliably be slaughtered in a humane fashion. While federal law is supposed to require that horses are rendered unconscious prior to slaughter, usually with a captive bolt pistol (which shoots a metal rod into the horse’s brain), our undercover footage of the former horse slaughterhouse BelTex showed that horses were not stunned and were kicking and conscious when they are shackled and hoisted by a rear leg to have their throats cut. Horses respond to fear by throwing their head, making such live dismemberment an inevitability. Horse slaughter is inherently inhumane, due to the skittish nature of horses.
"A set of documents we obtained through the Freedom of Information Act demonstrates that the U.S. horse slaughterhouses had problems with employees whipping horses across the face with fiberglass rods, horses flipping over backward because of such whipping and injuring their heads, and the use of long bullwhips in the holding pen. Other problems included the failure to provide water to horses in holding pens because of a fear that the watering system would freeze. Government observers characterized these incidents as "egregious humane handling" problems. (USDA, 2005, 2006, 2007). Death at the slaughterhouse can never be characterized as â€˜euthanasia’ and is not a humane end for horses.
"In Mexico our investigators have uncovered extreme cruelty in the manner in which horses are slaughtered. At one plant in Juarez, we documented a slaughterhouse worker stunning horses by repeatedly stabbing them in the neck with a boning knife to sever the spinal cord, thus paralyzing the animals and rendering them unable to struggle, but potentially leaving them conscious during the process of bleeding out and dismemberment. In Canada, horses are either stunned by the same inexact methods that were used in the U.S., or are shot in the head with a firearm.
"Death at the slaughterhouse, whether in the U.S. or across our borders, is anything but a humane end for horses."Â
Pacelle showed the subcommittee that, for example, rescues like CANTER in Michigan actually match kill buyers’ pricesÂ to save race horses from slaughter.Â Â Rescues do this because they know there is nothing humane about slaughter.
Humane euthanasia is available and affordable
Several witnesses testified the average cost of humane euthanasia is approximately $225, less than the monthly overall cost of keeping a horse.
Proper disposal of horse carcasses no longer slaughtered is readily available
Ross testified, "As for the question of what to do with horse carcasses if slaughter is removed as an option, consider that approximately 920,000 horses die annually in this country (10 percent of an estimated population of 9.2 million) and the vast majority are not slaughtered, but euthanized and rendered or buried without any negative environmental impact. Well over 100,000 American horses were slaughtered in 2007. If slaughter were no longer an option and these horses were rendered or buried instead, this would represent a small increase in the number of horses being disposed of in this manner – an increase that the current infrastructure can certainly sustain. However, most slaughter-bound horses are marketable, healthy horses and needn’t be lethally disposed of.
Dr. Dodman agreed, "[E]ven if all horses currently going to slaughter would need to be mortally disposed of, the impact would be insignificant. A generally accepted rate of mortality among livestock in a given year is 5 – 10%. Therefore, based on the 9.2 million horses currently in the US, 460,000 – 920,000 die naturally or are humanely euthanized each year without notable impact. Another 100,000 (the approximate number of American horses slaughtered in 2007) or roughly 1% will make no significant impact."
Pacelle summarized, "Humane euthanasia and carcass disposal are 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 monthly cost of keeping a live horse is $200 on average. In some Western states, renderers we contacted said they would come to anypart of the state to pick up a horse carcass for $20.00 – and they indicated that the client can simply leave the money in a jar by the body."
Horse slaughter does not exist to provide a humane method for disposing of old and unwanted horses. Â
Ross emphasized, "Despite claims to the contrary, horse slaughter doesn’t exist to provide a humane method for disposing of old and unwanted horses. It exists because there is money to be made from the trade, in this case by several foreign owned companies. The truth is that very few horses are purposely sold to slaughter by their owners. Instead, most horse owners do the right thing and have their horses humanely euthanized by a licensed veterinarian when the time comes. The cost – approximately $225 – is simply a part of responsible horse ownership and is the right thing to do."
Dr. Dodman told the subcommittee, "The vast majority of horses that go to slaughter are not lame, sick, injured or unwanted. Instead, the horse slaughter industry exists solely because a profit stands to be made in fulfilling gourmet demand in foreign countries for horseflesh. Where there is a market demand it will be supplied by market forces, in this case by unscrupulous companies and individuals who stand to profit off the slaughter of American horses. For example, when the three remaining horse slaughter plants were operating in the US, Cavel International imported horses from Canada for slaughter in order to fill their demand."
Pacelle agreed, "Show horses, racehorses, foals born as a "byproduct" of the PremarinÂ© industry (a female hormone replacement drug), wild horses, carriage horses, and family horses are victims of the horse slaughter industry."
Pacelle continued, noting that, in fact, "[A] federal ban on horse slaughter will decrease the rate of horse theft in the United States. Many horses are unknowingly sold to slaughter, while many are stolen and sold for a profit. When California banned horse slaughter, there was a 31% drop in horse theft (Stull, 2007) Wild horses often are sold to slaughter. Logs from the last three plants in the U.S. showed that at least 386 wild horses (with BLM brands) were slaughtered in 2006. Irresponsible owners who wish to squeeze a final dollar from horses that have served them for years may seek an easy means of disposing of their animals via the slaughter industry. However, most are purchased at auction, where their former owners have noidea that their horses will be butchered. Killer buyers (middlemen hired byslaughterhouses to secure horses) and slaughterhouse operators try to suggest that all the horses they slaughter are old and past recovery. …USDA documents that 92.3% of horses arriving at slaughter plants in the U.S. are in â€˜good‘ condition (USDA, 2002)."
Dr. Boyd said, "The truth is that most horses going to slaughter are being purposely bought by middlemen, known as killer-buyers, working for the slaughterhouses rather than being sold to slaughter by their owners. In short, the slaughter market exists not to provide an outlet for unwanted horses but so that the foreign-owned slaughterhouses can profit from the trade."
Dr. Boyd disputed that slaughter must be an option for economically disadvantaged owners. He explained, "The truth is that it costs a couple of hundred of dollars to have a veterinarian put a horse down, and that a person can make a couple of hundred of dollars by selling a horse to slaughter, but money isn’t everything. The fact is that my organization is largely made up of lower-income, economically disadvantaged farmers and we are saying that we neither want nor need horse slaughter as an option in this country. We are willing to provide quality care for our horses and when the time comes to end our horses’ lives we opt to do so by truly humane means – not by shipping them to slaughter for a quick buck."
Ending horse slaughter has not and will not mean a flood of "unwanted" horses
In an effort to debunk this myth, Ross said, "There has also been a huge drop in the number of horses gong to slaughter in the past few decades, from a high of more than 350,000 horses in 1990 to just over 120,000 last year, yet there has been no correlating epidemic of â€˜unwanted’ horses in our streets and fields."
Pacelle pointed out, "In California, where horse slaughter was banned in 1998, there was no corresponding rise in cruelty and neglect cases, and as mentioned previously, horse theft has dropped in the state by 31% since enactment of the ban.
"There was no documented rise in horse abuse, starvation, or neglect cases in Illinois following closure of the state’s only horse slaughter plant in 2002. In fact, when the Illinois plant was non-operational for two years from March 2002 – June 2004, the Illinois Dept. of Agriculture documented a drop in horse cruelty in the state (Retrieved on July 25, 2008 from http:www.vetsforequinewelfare.org/white_paper.php.). When it reopened, the horse abuse cases went back up.
"A recent study released by the Animal Law Coalition issued June 17, 2008 documents no rise in horse neglect or abuse cases, but there has been a slight decrease nationwide.
"Allowing one’s horse to starve is not an option – state anti-cruelty laws prohibit such neglect. Rather, people will have their horses humanely euthanized as allowed by law and as currently done the vast majority of the horse-owning population. The idea that horse slaughter is necessary to deal with an "unwanted horse" population is clearly a myth. According to the USDA, at least 5,000 horses were imported into one of the three foreign-owned slaughter plants operating in the U.S. for slaughter between August 2004 and the closure of the last plant in 2007 (retrieved on July 10, 2008 from http://www.ams.usda.gov/mnreports/wa-ls637txtverify date retrieved)). If horse slaughter were actually a solution to the problem of an overabundance of horses in the United States, then there would be no reason to import more horses for slaughter."
Ross added, "The Animal Welfare Institute has looked into claims of abandoned horses and they are largely unfounded. There is, however, a very real economic crunch that everyone is feeling including horse owners. Rising fuel prices combined with rising hay prices as a result of severe drought are negatively impacting horse owners, not the closure of the slaughter plants in Illinois and Texas. …If horses are being abandoned and abused it clearly has nothing to do with the horse slaughter industry. To claim otherwise is pure fantasy and exists solely as a political shell game and not a valid concern."
Dr. Dodman agreed the closure of the U.S. horse slaughter houses has not led to an increase in abandoned or neglected horses. Dr. Dodman explained, "This is not surprising. The horse slaughter business is not providing a service for the disposal of â€˜unwanted’ horses, but rather is preying on largely healthy, marketable horses that might otherwise be used for productive purposes. Several â€˜news’ reports surfaced in late 2007 claiming to show an increase in abandonment, but all have proven false. In fact, an article in the Oregonian quotes a local law enforcement officer regarding nine new cases of abandonment. When contacted the officer has denied any knowledge of the claims. A similar story in Kentucky was exposed as a hoax.
"In fact, when the number of horses going to slaughter declined by nearly 90 percent between the early 1990s and the early 2000s there was no correlating increase in abandoned or neglected horses. To the contrary, the temporary closure of the Cavel plant in Illinois between 2002 and 2004 resulted in a decline in equine abuse and neglect cases."
Pacelle reported to the subcommittee, "Hundreds of thousands of horses are safely disposed of annually by means other than slaughter, and the infrastructure can absorb an increase in numbers. Conversely, the operation of horse slaughterhouses has a very real negative environmental impact, with all three of the last plants which operated in the U.S. having been cited for multiple violations of current environmental law related to the disposal of blood and other waste materials. Former Mayor Paula Bacon of Kaufman, TX – the home of one of the three former plants- desperately stated â€˜…Dallas-Crown is operating in violation of a multitude of local laws pertaining to waste management, air quality and other environmental concerns….Residents are also fed up with the situation. Long-established neighbors living adjacent to the plant cannot open their windows or run air conditioners without enduring the most horrific stench.‘"
Ross said there was literally blood running in the streets of Kaufman because of the horse slaughter house.
Pacelle continued, "[O]n August 15, 2005, the Kaufman City Council (home to Dallas Crown, Inc.) – fed up with the ongoing problems since the plant’s opening in 1986 – voted unanimously to implement termination proceedings against the plant. Former Kaufman Mayor Paula Bacon wrote a letter to Congress and traveled to Capitol Hill with several Kaufman residents to request federal legislation to stop horse slaughter in their community. Both of the other horse slaughterhouses, also foreign-owned, had repeatedly been fined for violating local laws and creating sewage overflows. There is no import or export tariff on horsemeat and most, if not all, of the profits were sent back to the parent companies in Europe.
"It was difficult for [all of these communities with horse slaughter houses] to attract any new businesses because of the substantial stigma created by these plants. The minimal financial contributions of these facilities were vastly overshadowed by the enormous economic and development suppressing burden they represented to their local communities and the negative image they created. As Mayor Bacon said in her letter, "The more I learn about horse slaughter, the more certain I am: There is no justification for horse slaughter in this country. The three plants are foreign-owned, employing fewer than 150 people. We doÂ not raise horses to eat, we do not eat horse meat, our American economy does not profit from this industry. My city is little other than a door mat for a foreign-owned business that drains our resources and stigmatizes our economic development. There is no justification for supporting horse slaughter over my community. (Bacon, 2005a) As a community leader where we are directly impacted by the horse slaughter industry, I can assure you the economic development return to our community is negative. The foreign owned companies profit at our expense — it is time for them to go."(Bacon, 2005b).
Charlie W. Stenholm, former Congressman from the 17th District in Texas, testified against the bill. He made the point horses are property that owners cna do with what they like. Dr. Boyd was quick to respond that it was not so long ago that African Americans were considered to be property.
Dr. Boyd said, "I’ve heard more times than I can count the argument that by banning horse slaughter Congress will be infringing upon the property rights of American citizens, and that the government has no place in telling people what they can and cannot do with their horses. If I may be so bold, this is the very same argument that was used more than one hundred years ago to perpetuate slavery. It seems that the property rights argument is raised when it is economically advantageous to ignore the plight and suffering of living beings. …The fact is that the government already restricts what Americans can and cannot do to their animals."
As Michael Vick learned the hard way.
Additional Issues Addressed by HSUS
Health Concerns of Horse Meat Consumption
Horsemeat is potentially dangerous when consumed by people because horses are not raised for this purpose. American horses are regularly treated with worming medications, drugs and other injections not intended for human consumption, and banned by the European Union for use in horses raised in Europe for human consumption (Recent controversy around the use of steroids in horse racing underscores the potential risks related to the human consumption of horsemeat. Our investigators saw horses fresh off the race track or show ring moving directly to slaughter. The recent controversy following Eight Belles’ death unveiled the drugging underbelly in the horse racing industry, with commonplace use of steroids, dewormers, painkillers, and other chemical compounds unsuitable for animals intended for human consumption.
Horse Meat in Pet Food
There is no horsemeat in pet food. This practice stopped decades ago, due in part to the enactment of protections for America’s wild horses in 1971. The U.S. public and Congress were outraged to learn that federal agencies were rounding up and allowing the exploitation and slaughter of these national treasures for items such as pet food. Some by-products of the horse slaughter industry are used in various consumer items, but they are derived from the rendering of dead horses. Rendering is an entirely different process from the slaughter of live horses and will not be impeded by H.R. 6598.
The Use of Horse Meat in Zoos
This legislation does not prohibit the use of horsemeat in zoos. Zoos will be able to continue to feed horsemeat to their big cats, as the bill will only stop the domestic slaughter of horses for human consumption. The Federal Meat Inspection Act doesn’t require the same inspections for meat products intended for animal use. However, there is a growing trend to feed a beef-based diet to captive big cats. Several USDA-licensed facilities that keep big cats such as lions and tigers have switched to such a diet because it is better for the cats’ health.
History of Horse Slaughter Issue in Congress and Scope of Proposed Legislation
In 2002, the first bill specifically prohibiting horse slaughter in the United States was introduced by former Representative Connie Morella (R-MD). Over the years, this legislation has garnered strong bipartisan support, as demonstrated by its cosponsor list and floor votes in both chambers, but it has not yet been signed into law.
Congressional Action – FY2006 Agriculture Appropriations Amendment
- To put a halt to horse slaughter for human consumption, Congressmen John
Sweeney (R-NY), John Spratt (D-SC), Ed Whitfield (R-KY), and Nick Rahall (DWV), sponsored an amendment to the FY 2006 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act ("Agriculture Appropriations Act") to de-fund USDA inspection of horses for slaughter under the FMIA.
- An identical amendment was offered in the Senate by Senators John Ensign (RNV) and Robert Byrd (D-WV) and cosponsored by Senators Jon Corzine (D-NJ), Jim DeMint (R-SC), Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Trent Lott (R-MS), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).
- The amendments were supported by a broad coalition of over one hundred horse breeding, showing, and racing organizations such as the National Show Horse Registry, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, and Churchill Downs-as well as numerous horse welfare and humane organizations across the country.
- Congressional offices were flooded with calls from constituents urging their support of the amendment, and newspapers across the country editorialized in its favor.
- The Amendment passed the House on June 8, 2005 by a landslide vote of 269-158.
- The identical Senate Amendment was also overwhelmingly approved by a vote of 69-28 on September 20, 2005.
- Section 794 of the final FY 2006 Agriculture Appropriations Act prohibited USDA from using congressionally appropriated funds to pay for federally mandated inspection of horses prior to slaughter. Specifically, Section 794 states: Effective 120 days after the date of enactment of this Act, none of the funds made available in this Act may be used to pay the salaries or expenses of personnel to inspect horses under section 3 of the Federal Meat Inspection Act (21 U.S.C. Â§ 603) or under the guidelines issued under section 903 of the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996.
Â On November 10, 2005, President Bush signed this provision into law as part of the FY 2006 Agriculture Appropriations Act.
- Shortly thereafter, the three horse slaughter plants operating in the U.S. submitted an emergency rulemaking petition to the USDA requesting that the agency promulgate an expedited rule to provide "fee-for-service" inspections for horse slaughter.
- The proposal asked the USDA to circumvent Congress’ intent to prohibit horse slaughter inspection under the Federal Meat Inspection Act by creating an entirely new regulatory inspection scheme for horses under the Agricultural Marketing Act.
- Petitioners also requested that this new regulatory system be put in place without prior public notice and comment rulemaking.
Congressional Requests regarding Implementation of Congress’s Mandate
- On December 1, 2005, unaware of the pending petition, Representatives Whitfield, Sweeney, and Spratt and Senator Byrd wrote to the USDA to ensure that it would follow Congress’ intent to prevent horse slaughter for human consumption.
- The USDA responded December 21, 2005 informing the Congressmen and Senator that the Appropriations Act "does not prevent horse slaughter at all," and that "notwithstanding the prohibition on expenditure of funds" mandated by Congress in the Act, the USDA believed it could still provide inspection of horses on a "fee-for-service" basis.
- The USDA then issued a new regulation allowing the slaughterhouses to implement a "fee for service" horse inspection program. This regulation permits these European-owned companies to continue butchering tens of thousands of horses, circumventing the amendment that Congress passed barring the use of federal funds to inspect horses destined for slaughter for human food.
- In January, 40 members of the U.S. House and Senate wrote to USDA Secretary Mike Johanns demanding that the agency stop all horse slaughter inspections on March 10, 2006, as required by the law that Congress passed. "The agency must cease inspection of horses for slaughter. Failure to do so constitutes willful disregard of clear Congressional intent on the part of the USDA," the letter said. "The agency has absolutely no authority to circumvent a Congressional mandate and effectively rewrite an unambiguous law at the request of the horse-slaughter industry." (Letter from members of Congress to USDA, January 17, 2005).
Litigation for Proper Enforcement of FY 2006 Agriculture Appropriations Amendment
The HSUS and others filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, and sought a temporary restraining order to block the USDA’s new regulation from going into effect, a motion that the Judge denied.
- A federal district court ordered the U.S. Department of Agriculture on March 29, 2007 to stop inspecting horses about to be slaughtered at the Cavel International slaughter plant, effectively closing the last operating horse slaughtering operation in the United States. The order was stayed pending appeal, allowing Cavel to temporarily reopen.
Passage of Authorizing Legislation (H.R. 503) on House Floor
- On July 25, 2006 the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on H.R. 503, with four witnesses in favor and four opposed to the legislation. T. Boone Pickens testified in favor of H.R. 503, describing horse slaughter as America’s dirty secret."
- On July 27, 2006, the House Agriculture Committee held a hearing on H.R. 503 with no witnesses in favor and two panels of witnesses opposed to the legislation. The Committee took votes on multiple amendments that would gut the intent of the legislation, including amendments making the states of New York and Kentucky pilot programs for the legislation.
- On September 7, 2006, the House of Representatives voted on H.R. 503, passing it by a 263-146. Two poison pill amendments were defeated prior to passage (King amendment 149-256 and Goodlatte amendment 177-229)
- H.R. 503 was received in the Senate on September 8, 2006. Read the first time. Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar under Read the First Time.
- H.R. 503 was read the second time on September 11, 2006. Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders. Calendar No. 603.
- Previous actions were vitiated on September 18, 2006 by Unanimous Consent. (consideration: CR S9686)
- H.R. 503 was returned to the House September 18, 2006 pursuant to the provisions of H. Res. 1011 by Unanimous Consent.
- Papers were returned to House on September 19, 2006 pursuant to H. Res. 1011.
- H.R. 503 waseceived in the Senate on September 20, 2006,read for the first time, and placed on Senate Legislative Calendar under Read the First Time.
- H.R. 503 was read the second time on September 21, 2006 andplaced on Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders. Calendar No. 631.
- Senate adjourned September 29, 2006 prior to the election.
Texas and Illinois State Law Timeline
- April 18, 2007 – The Illinois House of Representatives approves H.B. 1711 to ban the slaughter of American horses in Illinois for human consumption overseas, by nearly a two-to-one margin, a vote of 74-41.
- May 16, 2007 – The Illinois Senate approves legislation to ban horse slaughter byÂ a vote of 39-16.
Â Â Â May 21, 2007 – The United States Supreme Court refuses to hear an appeal by the horse slaughter industry in Texas. The industry sought review of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision upholding a 1949 Texas statute that bans horse slaughter.
- May 24, 2007 – Governor Rod Blagojevich signs H.B. 1711, banning horse slaughter in Illinois.
- July 5, 2007 – Judge Frederick J. Kapala of the federal district court in Rockford, Illinois upholds H.B. 1711.
- September 21, 2007 – A 3-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit unanimously upholds the Illinois state law banning the slaughter of horses for human consumption in that state.
- June 16, 2008 – The U.S. Supreme Court refuses to overturn the Seventh Circuit decision upholding the Illinois state ban on horse slaughter for human consumption.
Currently, there are no equine slaughterhouses in the U.S. – all of the three remaining foreign-owned plants were closed by state laws and federal court decisions upholding those laws in 2007. According to the USDA, horses from other countries were imported and slaughtered in the U.S. as a routine matter. In 2007, only 29,000 horses were slaughtered in the U.S. prior to the closure of the last three plants, but horse exports for slaughter increased greatly, to 79,000. As of today’s date, the slaughter of American horses for human consumption has increased by 5% (44,972 ytd in 2007 vs. 47,399 ytd in 2008) over last year, indicating a massive increase in the export of our horses to Mexico and Canada (retrieved on July 25, 2008 from http://www.statcan.ca/trade/scripts7/tradesearch. cgi and http://www.ams.usda/mnreports/al-ls635.txt)
Public comments against horse slaughter
"Most Americans were horrified when they learned several years ago that Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand had been killed for human consumption in Japan. Horses are not raised as livestock in this country, and this time, Congress must ensure that there is no loophole for denying them the protection that the public clearly wants them to have." Louisville Courier-Journal, Kentucky, July 23, 2006
"The horse has always held a hallowed place in our national identity, much like the bald eagle. And just as no American would consider ordering up a bald eagle, if only out of respect, so would none ask for a horse steak…. Certain veterinary groups, rather ironically, oppose the amendment. They claim that it is humane to put aging or neglectedÂ Â horses out of their misery. But if anyone actually saw how these noble beasts are slaughtered — strung up by their hind legs and bled — they might think twice before supporting such conduct." Washington Times, September 15, 2005
"… no horse is currently safe from that fate. Ferdinand, the 1986 Kentucky Derby winner, was killed in a Japanese slaughterhouse when his stud services were no longer needed. This past spring, 41 wild mustangs were slaughtered for food in a Texas plant after being purchased through a program meant to give them new homes." Louisville Courier-Journal, Kentucky September 13, 2005
"Horse slaughter has no place in the United States….Horse meat for human consumption hasn’t been sold in the United States for decades and isn’t even used in pet food here. If a horse is near the end of its useful life, there are more humane ways for an owner to get rid of it. Adoption groups offer horses a peaceful retirement, and if the horses need to be euthanized, it can be done painlessly and humanely for a couple hundred dollars. St. Petersburg Times, Tampa Bay, September 13, 2005
"The bond between horses and humans is as close as the connection between dogs or cats and their owners. The horsemeat industry is not a vital part of the American economy. We hope the Senate will pass this humane amendment." Charlston Gazette, West Virginia, September 13, 2005
Â "Long-established neighbors living adjacent to the plant cannot open their windows or run their air conditioners without enduring the most horrific stench. Children playing in their yards do so with the noise of horses being sent to their deaths in the background. Landowners have difficulty securing loans to develop their property….As a community leader where we are directly impacted by the horse slaughter industry, I can assure you the economic development return to our community is negative. The foreign-owned companies profit at our expense — it is time for them to go." –Mayor Bacon, Kaufman, Texas (Dallas Crown "hometown")