The long awaited Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on horse
welfare fell far short of the respectable reporting we have come to expect from
the GAO, even raising questions as to the agency’s credibility.
analysis concludes that the GAO report is "disturbing" as it is filled with speculation,
anecdotes, hearsay and unsupported opinions. The GAO sources appear to be
largely known slaughter proponents.
"The GAO’s pro-slaughter bias is
clearly evident in the report’s defamatory accusation that the Cavel fire in
2002 was started by so-called anti-slaughter arsonists," states Vicki
Tobin, co-founder and vice-president of Equine Welfare Alliance. The cause of the fire was never determined and it was Cavel’s owners who
benefitted from the fire, claiming $5M when the damages were estimated at $2M.
EWA/ALC analysis details how, instead of doing the hard work of gathering actual
data, the GAO relied on chitchats with a handful of state veterinarians with a
few livestock board and other state officials and on information provided by
GAO’s economic models fail to credibly take into account basic principles of
supply and demand, the extremely limited effect of slaughter on the horse
industry and the devastating effects of one of the worst economic downturns
since the Great Depression", said ALC’s Laura Allen. "Instead, the GAO report blamed
the closing of 3 U.S. horse slaughter plants in 2007 for a decline in live
horse prices, loss of horse markets, and a rise in horses in need."
Carolyn Betts, Ph.D. Economics explains,
"There is, by definition, no correlation between something that stays roughly
constant over time – the number of horses slaughtered – and something that the
GAO claims has gone up significantly over the same time period – the number of
horses abandoned and neglected. In the absence of an observable correlation, it
is nothing short of ‘heroic’ for the GAO to assume a causal relation from a
proximate constant to a variable that it argues has increased."
FOIA request for the data and methods the GAO used in developing its economic
models was denied by the Congressional Committee that requested the GAO report.
The EWA/ALC analysis concludes that this is nothing short of a Congressional
cover-up for the GAO’s unsubstantiated claims.
study by John
Holland, co-founder and president of EWA, which was provided to GAO, found that
cases of horse abuse and neglect in Illinois rose and fell with the unemployment
rate. The same study found absolutely no mathematical correlation between these
cases and the rate of slaughter.
EWA contends that slaughter actually contributes to the problem of too many
horses by enabling over-breeding and driving down prices. GAO’s economic model,
done correctly, would have shown that prohibiting export of horses for
slaughter would be the one thing that would really improve horse welfare over
the long term.
analysis also points out that the GAO report completely glossed over critical
food safety issues raised by the slaughter of American horses for human
consumption. The GAO was indifferent to the export of U.S. horses for slaughter
for human consumption despite the fact that these horses contain drugs, such as
phenylbutazone, which the FDA bans for use in animals used for food. Vicki
Tobin explains, "U.S. horses are not
raised or regulated as food animals. Given the importance of food safety, horse
slaughter for human consumption should not even be a discussion point in a
government report, let alone a recommendation."
one of the more ridiculous recommendations by the GAO is that USDA/APHIS will
do better in enforcing humane transport regulations if there is slaughter
available in the U.S. But historically, USDA/APHIS has always done an abysmal
job of enforcing these regulations. Long before the 2007 closings, horses were
exported for slaughter in large numbers and suffered on long, arduous trips
over the borders and within the U.S.
fact, the GAO’s discussion of APHIS’ shocking ineptitude and indifference to
horses and the horrific mistreatment they endure throughout the slaughter
pipeline is reason enough for Congress to ban horse slaughter and to do it now. (For more information on how you can help pass the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, S.B. 1176…..)
The GAO report and the EWA/ALC rebuttal will be discussed at the upcoming International Equine Conference set to take place Sept. 26-28, 2011. For more information and to register…..