Commercial horse slaughter for human consumption is once again legal in the U.S. Already, Belgian based Chevidico is lurking as its stooges, Wyoming state Rep. Sue Wallis and Dave Duquette make unwelcome forays into communities around the country, trying to jumpstart new horse slaughter ventures. This despite that most Americans, 80%, according to a 2012 Lake Research Partners poll, oppose horse slaughter for human consumption.
The past is prologue, and anyone who thinks this may be good for your town or county, should take a look at the experience of communities where these facilities were located before they were closed in 2007.
Horse slaughter does not benefit communities. Instead this grisly practice takes resources, leaving waste and odors, pollution, and debts that leave communities struggling to absorb tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid fines and other costs.
The profitability of this sordid practice depends on animal cruelty. It is a horrific, brutal process.
When the 3 U.S. based slaughter houses were in operation, profits were siphoned off by their foreign owners. In 2004 Dallas Crown, Inc., for example, which operated a horse slaughter facility in Kaufman, Texas until 2007, paid $5 in federal income tax on $12 million in sales. Dallas Crown, Inc. was owned by Chevidico. In the preceding 5 years Dallas Crown’s federal income tax was .3% or 1/3 of 1% of gross revenues or sales. Dallas Crown paid no sales tax because its products, horse meat, are sold and consumed in foreign countries. Former Kaufman mayor, Paula Bacon, explains, “My community did not benefit. We paid.”
In 1986 the Kaufman, Texas mayor and city council were forced to allow the horse slaughter house to re-open after a period of extremely egregious violations. The facility had been in operation since the late 70’s and from the beginning had caused problems both environmentally and economically. The then mayor, was quoted as saying, “Quite frankly, we don’t want you here….That plant has never made a dime for this city and it never will.” The city administrator agreed, calling them “a lousy part of the community”. (The Kaufman Herald, January 23, 1986).
Reports from Kaufman city workers over the years about complaints they received or conditions they saw, are descriptive:
“blood flowing east and west in the ditches from [Dallas Crown’s] plant,”
[containers conveyed] “uncovered and leaking liquids,’
“decaying meat [which] provides a foul odor and is an attraction for vermin and carrion,”
“significant foul odors during the daily monitoring of the area,”
“Dallas Crown continually neglects to perform within the standards required of them.”
“It has been over 45 days [it had been 59 days] and no apparent cleanup has occurred,”
In correspondence to Dallas Crown: “Your system has not improved and subsequently it has gotten a lot worse,”
“Words cannot express the seriousness” of recent violations and the “adverse effects on the wastewater treatment plant,” and
from a September 2003 letter to Dallas Crown not long before a 600 gallon blood spill at the facility: “Please be sure trailers are secured before leaving your premises to prevent spills”, noting also “bones and blood laying in front of the facility,” and problems with bones and [horse] parts in neighboring yards and the attraction of “dogs and other animals.”
Mayor Bacon adds, “The Texas Dept of Health was who I contacted when trying to get the plant here to comply with laws that would have prevented them from traveling our streets and highways with blood leaking from containers [of offal and fresh hides]. TDH finally made them put plastic bins in the bottoms of the containers. TDH also came to Kaufman on several occasions in response to complaints about odor, rats, snakes, vultures and roaches affecting the area.”
She elaborates, “Odor problems resulting from the outside storage of offal and hides over several days persisted not only in the … neighborhood known as Boggy Bottom, but at the nearby Presbyterian Hospital, the daycare center, and surrounding areas.”
Dallas Crown had a very long history of violations of its industrial waste permit, ‘loading’ the capacity of the wastewater treatment plant. There is no question Dallas Crown was in significant non-compliance of its wastewater permit. Dallas Crown tried to prevent the city from learning of its violations; despite a city ordinance, court order and city permit agreement, Dallas Crown denied the City of Kaufman access to its property for wastewater testing from October 1, 2004 until July 6, 2005.
In 2004 then Mayor Bacon learned that because of the waste water from Dallas Crown, a $6 million upgrade to Kaufman’s wastewater treatment plant would be required even though population growth did not warrant such an expansion. The existing waste water treatment plant was supposed to have lasted through 2015. Once treated, that water is released into the creek system, ultimately arriving at a lake that serves as Fort Worth’s water supply.
Authorities in Ft. Worth warned Mayor Bacon that any failure to treat waste adequately and as a result, waste enters the creek system, contamination of the watershed and its cleanup are “extremely serious and extremely costly.”
Dallas Crown took 11 months to submit a mandatory “sludge control plan” to assist efficient emergency operation of the wastewater treatment system though City staff requested it orally and in writing many times.
Also, for each of over 40 of the citations issued for wastewater violations, Dallas Crown requested separate jury trials, greatly ratcheting up the cost to the city well in excess of the ultimate potential fine of $2,000 each.
The City Manager estimated that the City would be forced to spend $70,000 in legal fees in one year because of Dallas Crown’s violations. This represented the entire legal budget for the fiscal year. (Dallas Crown paid property taxes that were less than half of what the City spent in one month on legal fees directly related to Dallas Crown violations.)
In August, 2005, Kaufman’s City Council decided enough was enough and unanimously asked the Board of Adjustments to terminate Dallas Crown’s non-conforming use status. In March 2006, the Board of Adjustments voted to order Dallas Crown closed. Dallas Crown, however, mounted a legal challenge that did culminate in its closing, but not until February, 2007.
To date, Dallas Crown has failed to pay the city of Kaufman more than $80,000 in fines for environmental violations. The plant still owes the City $100,000 for the environmental testing required by law but which they would not pay for, even after the city regained access to its property for this testing. Former Mayor Bacon summarizes, ”[The horse slaughter facility] had a negative effect on the development of surrounding properties, and a horse slaughter plant was a stigma to the development of our city generally.”
Mayor Bacon continues, “I believe any slaughter facility opened in this day and age should be required by all states to put in their own sewage/wastewater treatment plants (minimum cost is a million dollars even for the smallest WWTP commercial plant according to city engineers) and be held directly responsible for compliance with environmental laws–though I believe in saying this that enforcement will be lax, it will take heaven and earth to get the proper agencies to do their jobs, and we’ll wonder if we live in a third world country. I’m not being cynical, this is what I know happened here.”
Once the plant finally closed, the town which has a population of about 7,000 realized more than a 58% increase in capacity at its waste water treatment facility.
It was bad enough that horse blood was backing up into tubs and toilets, overrunning sewers and the waste water treatment facility, that organs, body parts and other waste from slaughter were found everywhere and a stench permeated the town. But the operation of the horse slaughter plant also lowered property values, drove away good economic opportunities and consumed the town’s government, health care and other resources.
The 3 slaughter horses operating as of 2007 never created more than 178 jobs altogether. Wages were so low that they attracted primarily those in the country illegally. This also meant a lower quality of housing in the town and use of resources like health care and town services with bills left unpaid.
Bacon has described horses slaughter as a “predatory” practice. She has said her town was a “doormat” for the horse slaughter plant, leaving the town with a “fiscal black hole”.
At the International Equine Conference in Alexandria, Virginia in 2011, Bacon described the economic and environmental devastation her town endured because of the operation of the Dallas Crown slaughterhouse there: The stench that permeated the town, the waste and blood that clogged the sewers and overran the town’s wastewater treatment plant, the cost to the town in trying to enforce the innumerable violations, the few low wage jobs created, the lack of tax revenues, and general poor quality of life. She explained the town could not attract business because of the horse slaughter plant. Bacon said a community would be better off with a “lead smeltering plant or a sexually oriented business than a horse slaughter plant”.
The good news, Bacon said, is that since the plant’s closing in 2007, citizens report a better quality of life. They can go outdoors, sit on their decks and porches, and not be assailed by the terrible stench, the screams of horses, the sounds of the captive bolt guns or the blood running in the streets or backing up in their tubs.
The Beltex Corp. horse slaughter house in Ft. Worth, Texas, also foreign-owned, violated wastewater regulations, several times clogging sewer lines, and both spilled and pumped blood into a nearby creek (San Antonio Current, June 19, 2003). Texas State Rep. Lon Burnam, whose district includes where Beltex operated, and Rep. Toby Goodman, from nearby Arlington, fought hard against legislation that would have legalized horse slaughter in Texas in 2003.
Mayor Bacon adds, “Whatever municipality or entity operating the waste water treatment plant will be held responsible, will incur significantly higher costs for treating the waste, and will ultimately incur enormous costs in order to increase the capacity … to accommodate the slaughter plant.”
Any upgrades to wastewater treatment plants will, of course, be absorbed by taxpayers.
And it won’t be enough to protect the community from hazardous pollutants from horse slaughter. A state of the art pre-treatment system was built in DeKalb, Illinois for the facility owned there by Cavel International, Inc. That horse slaughter operation even had special Industrial Waste Permits that allowed much higher (8 times higher) contamination levels for wastewater leaving the slaughter house. But, the Cavel horse slaughter house was still not in compliance. It was not out of compliance a few times. This facility was in significant non-compliance hundreds of times. Lists for violations from 2005-2006 are attached. This does not include the numerous safety violations documented by the FSIS. That list is attached as well.
Cavel discharged about 13,000 gallons of wastewater each day from the more than 500 horses slaughtered each week. The wastewater contained excessive levels of decomposition and waste from slaughtered horses. In one report a Cavel employee acknowledges “chunks” from slaughtered horses were oozing out of tanks.
The DeKalb Sanitary District levied a total of $80,500 for violations from 2006 until the facility was finally closed in 2007. At one point Cavel tried to avert discharge from the facility from entering the District’s collection system.
Cavel’s innumerable violations and its cavalier disregard for its contamination of the environment, prompted the District to threaten revocation of the horse slaughter plant’s permit. The Humane Society of the United States filed a notice of intent to sue Cavel for repeated violations of the federal Clean Water Act.
It should be noted that a horse slaughter plant is different from operations where cows and other animals are slaughtered for food. Horses have 1.74 times as much blood per pound of body weight as cows, and it is harder to treat because the antibiotics in the blood kill bacteria used in the treatment process. This does not include the 15 million gallons of fecal material per year that must be handled. Although animal blood is often used for dry blood mill, because the antibiotics given to American horses prevent blood from breaking down, horse blood cannot be used for this purpose and horse blood and other organs cannot be used for any purpose. Communities will be required to find a way to dispose of horse blood, internal organs and waste. Note Canadian horse slaughterhouse at Natural Valley Farms in Saskatchewan that was shut down in 2009 for dumping blood and tons of other waste into a local river or onto the ground. The community was left with a bankrupt company with $42 million in losses and environmental devastation.
Another cost to communities is horse theft. Slaughterhouses know horses are stolen and brought to slaughter. Because horse slaughter is driven by a demand for horse meat in some foreign countries where it is a delicacy, horse slaughterers look for the healthiest horses, not abandoned, abused or neglected horses. The USDA confirms more than 92% of horses sent to slaughter are healthy.
At DeKalb, for example, stolen horses, many times the healthiest, would be placed at the head of the line; there were no checks for brands or tattoos. The employees admitted knowing they were likely stolen. When California banned horse slaughter in 1998, horse theft fell by 39.5% and in the years that followed, the state noted a nearly 88% decrease in horse theft. What does that tell you about this sleazy, brutal practice?
Assuming states take steps to protect citizens from horse theft, it could well mean auctions must be monitored for possible stolen horses. It could mean horses will be held for a period of time to allow owners to reclaim those that are stolen. It could mean a micro-chipping or other identification program. This means more regulation, more enforcement costs. For the taxpayer.
In Texas prior to the closings of the U.S. slaughter houses, the state assessed the slaughter houses $5 per horse to fund a program to stop what was a growing problem of horse theft. $3 of this fee was allocated to the Texas Southwest Cattlemen’s Association (TSCRA) to perform brand inspections. $2 of each assessed fee went to Texas A&M University to fund programs to teach owners how to protect their horses from theft.
But the TSCRA found virtually no stolen horses prior to slaughter. The program was little more than free money for TSCRA and Texas A&M University.
It is no surprise that following the closing of the horse slaughter plant, Kaufman residents enjoyed a significant decrease in virtually every type of crime. This despite one of the worst economic recessions in memory. A recent study by a University of Windsor criminologist, Amy Fitzgerald, shows a link between slaughterhouses and violent crime. Fitzgerald studied numbers from the FBI crime reporting database, census records and arrest reports from 581 U.S. counties over an 8 year period. She controlled for factors that might be said to account for increases in crime aside from the opening of a slaughterhouse, such as new residents, immigrants and the poor, and an influx of young men. What she found is that the existence of a facility where animals are slaughtered is somehow related to an increase in violent crime, and the more slaughterhouse employees in an area, the higher the crime rate.
Last year the Canadian government ordered its inspectors to stay off the floor during slaughter for fear of injury from workers who were manhandling and slaughtering horses. Those who slaughter horses are so desensitized and lacking in empathy in the way they handle the animals that they actually frighten government officials.
It is disturbing, virtually a fraud on the public, for anyone to suggest a horse slaughter house will bring anything to a community other than environmental and economic devastation, a terrible stench, increased crime, lower property values and a decline in the quality of life.