Documents never before made public reveal the USDA was aware of extreme cruelty during horse slaughter at facilities in the U.S. The documents dispute claims horse slaughter in the U.S. was in any sense humane and instead reveal a brutal, terrifying ordeal that should be permanently banned.
Ithaca, New York – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released a 906-page document revealing for the first time the alarming cruelty that takes place during horse slaughter in the U.S. The documents included almost nine hundred photographs. Information was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request submitted 3 years ago by equine cruelty investigator Julie Caramante. Animals Angels assisted Caramante in obtaining the documents, and they are now working with Animal Law Coalition to assess and disseminate the information.
"I’ve been an equine cruelty investigator for a number of years," said Caramante, "and I’ve witnessed many incidents of animal cruelty but nothing could prepare me for these images."
The photographs document significant injuries to horses at the slaughter house. Injuries included conscious dismemberment, open fractures, blinding, and battered faces. It appears some horses were left to bleed out. Other injuries indicated long term abuse and neglect.
"The pain and terror these horses had endured is criminal," said Caramante.
In July, well before release of the documents, Dr. Nicholas Dodman of the Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine testified before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee describing horse slaughter as, " a brutal and predatory business that promotes cruelty and neglect," concluding that as a veterinarian a "rapid end to this wholly brutal and un-American trade" is warranted."
Horse slaughter in the U.S. ended in 2007 after the three remaining plants in Texas and Illinois were closed by state lawmakers and the courts. There is a federal bill pending in Congress that would prevent horse slaughter from resuming in states without laws prohibiting it.
Those in favor of horse slaughter have insisted horse slaughter should resume because they claim U.S. humane laws protect horses from cruelty, unlike Mexico and Canada where American horses are now sent to be slaughtered for human consumption in France, Belgium and some other countries.
Former Rep. Charlie Stenholm who is now a lobbyist for the horse slaughter plants, has called horse slaughter a safe, convenient way to dispose of horses. He has called it a "well-regulated industry" practicing "humane euthanasia". Stenholm has told the House Judiciary Committee horses are personal property and owners should be able to decide what to do with their property without government intervention.
Sonja Meadows, executive director of Animals’ Angels, said, "We now know [from these new documents that being on U.S. soil does not make horse slaughter humane or better. That this could go on even with the presence of USDA inspectors makes absolutely clear that horse slaughter is not euthanasia and definitely not a humane end."
Meadows is hopeful that the shocking evidence of the cruelty of horse slaughter in the USDA document will compel the new Congress to act swiftly to pass a federal ban on the transport and slaughter of American horses. "In 2006 the House voted by a wide margin, 263-146, to ban horse slaughter. But the session ended before the Senate could vote," she said. "Now, this new evidence removes any doubt. We must act quickly. We cannot allow horse slaughter to continue any longer."