This letter was sent to Pres. Barack Obama today:
Dear President Obama,
We are presenting to you the signatures of more than 6,000 Americans on a White House petition to ban the slaughter of equines for human consumption. Your administration told us that if we gathered 5,000 signatures on a White House petition, the issue would receive consideration. We actually collected 5,000 signatures very quickly, at least 2 weeks before opponents were able to gather the same number of signatures for a petition started earlier to revive horse slaughter in the U.S. Of the 4 petitions created by mid-October regarding horses, the slaughter ban has collected the most signatures.
Thousands more Americans have sent letters directly to the White House over the past 3 years and still more have directed letters to their senators and representatives in Congress in an effort to end equine slaughter for human consumption.
We know from a 2006 Public Opinion Strategies poll that nearly 70% of Americans support a ban on equine slaughter. A CNN poll that same year showed a similar result. The support among Americans for a ban on equine slaughter for human consumption has grown: Currently, according to the Popvox poll, 77% of Americans support pending legislation, the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, H.R. 2966/S.B. 1176, which would end the slaughter of American equines for human consumption.
We hope your administration will see this issue as paramount to human health and safety. It is also about saving communities from a predatory and environmentally and economically devastating practice. It is about stopping terrible cruelty and suffering of animals who are our companions and pets; they helped build this country and still work in the military and law enforcement and provide therapy as well as entertainment in horse racing, shows and other sports and exhibitions. They are not raised for food.
During the 2008 campaign you said, "Federal policy towards animals should respect the dignity of animals and their rightful place as cohabitants of our environment. We should strive to protect animals and their habitats and prevent animal cruelty, exploitation and neglect…. I have consistently been a champion of animal-friendly legislation and policy and would continue to be so once elected." You announced that you had co-sponsored legislation to stop the sale for slaughter of wild free-roaming horses and burros. During the 2008 campaign you signed on as co-sponsor to the bill to ban horse slaughter for human consumption. When asked specifically during the campaign, "Will you support legislation …to institute a permanent ban on horse slaughter and exports of horses for human consumption", you gave an unqualified "Yes". (HSLF questionnaire)
Now is the time to keep that campaign promise, Mr. President. The supporters of this predatory, cruel and inhumane practice of slaughtering horses have wrapped their arguments up with the flag, motherhood and apple pie. They have lobbied extensively for the return of slaughter to the U.S. and the continued exports of equines for slaughter for human consumption. They even controlled a June, 2011 GAO report which has been refuted as based on misinformation, unsupported opinions and untruths. Go here and here.
The urgent reasons to ban equine slaughter have not changed, however, since you as Senator signed on as co-sponsor of anti-slaughter legislation:
1. The FDA does not regulate equines as food animals. Americans don’t eat horses and other equines. American horses are not raised, fed and medicated within the FDA guidelines established for food animals, making them unfit and unsafe for human consumption. Equines are given all manner of drugs, steroids, de-wormers and ointments throughout their lives. Equines are not tracked and typically may have several owners. A kill buyer has no idea of the veterinary or drug history of a horse or other equine taken to slaughter, and many of the most dangerous drugs have no or a very long withdrawal period. A typical drug given routinely to equines like aspirin, phenylbutazone or Bute, is a carcinogen and can cause aplastic anemia in humans. It has no withdrawal period. The FDA bans bute in all food producing animals because of this serious danger to human health. The FDA and USDA would prohibit Americans from consuming horses because of this danger. Yet, neither the FDA nor the USDA prohibits the export of American horses for slaughter for human consumption. It is a grave risk to public health to continue to allow the export of American horses for slaughter for human consumption in other countries.
2. Equine slaughter has been devastating to the communities where slaughtering facilities have been located, with significant negative impacts including nuisance odors that permeated the surrounding towns to chronic sewer and environmental violations. Blood literally ran in the streets and waste from the facilities clogged sewers and piled up everywhere. This predatory practice produced few very low wage jobs, meaning workers and their families overran local resources like the hospitals and government services. This so called business brought in virtually no tax revenues and local governments incurred substantial enforcement costs in trying to regulate these facilities. The standard of living in these communities dropped during the time horse slaughter facilities operated. Good businesses refused to relocate there. As Paula Bacon, mayor of Kaufman, Texas during the time a horse facility operated there until 2007 said, "My community did not benefit. We paid."
Recently, when officials in Hardin, Montana learned of a plan to build horse facilities in that state, the town council immediately unanimously passed Ordinance No. 2010-01 that prohibits the slaughter of more than 25 animals in a seven day period. The message is clear: Americans don’t want equine slaughter.
Equine slaughter has also been found to increase and abet horse theft in areas where facilities are located or horses are held for transport to slaughter.
3. Horse slaughter is not a means of controlling numbers of so-called unwanted, abandoned or neglected horses, but, rather, is a for-profit operation driven by a demand for horsemeat in some foreign countries. The USDA has confirmed more than 92% of horses that end up at slaughter are healthy; they are not unwanted, neglected or abused. Kill buyers are interested in buying the healthiest horses for horsemeat which is sold as a delicacy in some foreign countries.
The rise in numbers of horses in need and drop in horse prices is a result of the worst recession in memory. In fact, if slaughter controlled numbers of horses in need, there would be none as slaughter is still available and horses are sent to slaughter in the same numbers as before the 2007 closings of the slaughter houses that were located in the U.S. In fact, the availability of slaughter actually increases the numbers of excess horses and other equines on the market. Slaughter creates a salvage or secondary market that encourages overbreeding and adds to the problem of horses in need. Banning slaughter would reduce the number of excess horses and other equines.
Also, slaughter accounts for only about 3 cents for every $100 of the equine industry. It is absurd for anyone to suggest a limited salvage market could influence prices in the entire horse industry.
4. America’s iconic wild horses and burros which are supposed to be legally protected on public lands under the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act, have been illegally sent to slaughter, and, indeed, a Justice Department investigation has been launched to try to stop this. A ban on exports of horses and burros for slaughter for human consumption would greatly assist in the enforcement of this Act.
5. Equine slaughter is not humane euthanasia. The slaughter of horses and other equines simply cannot be made humane: Dr. Lester Friedlander, DVM & former Chief USDA Inspector, told Congress in 2008 that the captive bolt used to slaughter horses is simply not effective. Horses and other equines, in particular, are very sensitive about anything coming towards their heads and cannot be restrained as required for effective stunning. Dr. Friedlander stated, "These animals regain consciousness 30 seconds after being struck, they are fully aware they are being vivisected." The Government Accountability Office and dozens of veterinarians and other witnesses have confirmed that ineffective stunning is common and animals are conscious during slaughter. It is simply not possible for USDA/APHIS to make equine slaughter humane and it is a myth to pretend otherwise.
6. The 2011 GAO report confirmed that USDA/APHIS has not – and cannot – enforce humane transport regulations for equines sent to slaughter. Changing a few words here and there in the regulations will not change this. USDA/APHIS allows the kill buyers and haulers to fill out and provide the documentation – which is routinely missing, incomplete or inaccurate – relied on for enforcement. It is impossible to enforce regulations when the information to determine violations is supplied by those USDA/APHIS is supposed to be regulating.
7. Equines are in danger and equine welfare is threatened as long as slaughter remains available, and only a federal law can stop exports of equines for slaughter for human consumption.
We urge you to keep that 2008 campaign promise and support the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, H.R. 2966/S.B. 1176. Thank you.
John Holland, President, Equine Welfare Alliance
Vicki Tobin, Vice-President, Equine Welfare Alliance
Laura Allen, Executive Director, Animal Law Coalition, and Vice-President, Equine Welfare Alliance
Valerie James-Patten, Vice-President, Equine Welfare Alliance