Snohomish County Council Unanimously Approves Horse Slaughter Ban

horse to be slaughtered in Snohomish County in 1990s

Update January 3, 2013: The County Executive, Aaron G. Reardon, has now signed Ordinance 12-106. Horse slaughter for human consumption is now illegal in Snohomish County, WA.

Update December 20, 2012: Yesterday, December 19, 2012, the Snohomish County, Washington Council held a public hearing on the bill, 12-106, to ban slaughter of horses and other equines for human consumption. Violators would be fined up to $1,000 and sentenced to 90 days in jail per horse slaughtered.  The ordinance now goes to Executive Aaron Reardon for his approval.

Snohomish County has the most horses per capita in the country. Horse owners turned out en masse in support of the proposed ordinance. Council member Dave Somers, who keeps horses himself, made clear horse slaughter is not something that has a place in Snohomish County or anywhere else.

The Farm Bureau representatives who appeared at the hearing in the end did not oppose the ordinance but instead offered minor amendments.

The ordinance puts an end to any plans by Bouvry Exports, a Canadian company, to open a horse slaughter facility near Stanwood. For more on this and the ordinance, read Animal Law Coalition’s report below.

Original report: A proposed ordinance, 12-106 has been introduced in Snohomish County, Washington, to ban the slaughter of horses and other equines for human consumption. The proposed ordinance, introduced by County Council member Dave Somers, would stop plans by Bouvry Exports, a Canadian company, to slaughter horses for human consumption at a facility outside the city of Stanwood.

The U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has indicated it is gearing up to begin issuing permits for horse slaughter. Bouvry Exports has requested an application for such a permit.

hearing for the public will be held on the proposed ordinance on Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 10:30 a.m. in the County Council Chambers located in the Henry M. Jackson Board Room, 8th Fl., 3000 Rockefeller, Everett. Plan to attend!

Horse slaughter is a fraud on the public. If you cannot attend the hearing in support of this ban, contact the Snohomish County Council members and let them know that you do not want a horse slaughter facility in the county, that you support the ban introduced by Council member Dave Somers.

For more information:  A youtube PSA on horse slaughter


1. A recent nationwide poll conducted by Lake Research Partners confirms
that 80% of Americans, regardless of their gender, political affiliation,
whether they live in an urban or rural area, or their geographic location,
oppose the slaughter of horses for human consumption. The poll confirms that a
vast majority of horse owners are also against the slaughtering of our nation’s
equines. This 2012 poll is consistent with polls taken since 2006.

2. Horses purchased for slaughter are not old, disabled or “unwanted”.
The US Dept. of Agriculture has confirmed with a study performed by Dr. Temple
Grandin that 92.3% of the horses sent to slaughter are healthy. They could
continue to be productive.  Slaughter
proponents have widely claimed that slaughter is somehow an alternative for
“unwanted” horses. Nothing could be further from the truth. Slaughter actually
creates a salvage or secondary market that enables overbreeding and poor
breeding practices.  Slaughter and a poor
economy have resulted in horses in need.
Slaughter is driven by a demand for horsemeat in some foreign countries;
it is not a “service” for unwanted horses and that is why most horses are
healthy when they are sent to slaughter. Kill buyers are interested in
buying the healthiest horses for horsemeat that 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 slaughterhouses that were located in the U.S. It is the
availability of slaughter that actually increases the numbers of excess horses
and other equines on the market. 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 makes no sense for anyone to suggest a limited
salvage market could influence prices in the entire horse industry.  According to former U.S.
Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS), the live horse industry is valued at $112.1 billion of
gross domestic product, meaning the reabsorption of “surplus” horses not sent
to slaughter would actually boost the economy.

Most horses end up at slaughter because they are
purchased by kill buyers. Many horses could have easily been purchased by
someone else other options include adoption programs, placing them as pasture
mates/babysitters to a younger horse, donating them for use in horse therapy,
or placing them in a retirement home. Also, about 900,000 horses are humanely
euthanized in the U.S. The infrastructure could easily absorb those sent to
slaughter. The average cost in Washington of humane euthanasia including the
farm call and either burial, rendering or placement in a landfill can be as
little as $50 depending on the method used, and at most $400.

3. 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.

4. Approximately $5,000,000 of American taxpayer
funds, in the form of USDA meat inspectors, was spent annually to subsidize the
three foreign-owned (Belgian and French) horse slaughterhouses that operated in
the U.S. until 2007. Because there is no market for horsemeat in the U.S.,
after slaughter, the meat was shipped overseas, and there was no benefit at all
to the U.S. economy. Only the foreign owners and distributors profited. If
these foreign-owned horse slaughterhouses are allowed to re-open, they would
again be subsidized by American taxpayer money.
Estimates are that the U.S. government would spend at least $3,000,000-5,000,000
to subsidize private horse slaughter facilities.

On top of that, the USDA could give foreign
owners of U.S. horse slaughter facilities, such as Bouvry, the Canadian company
that has explored the possibility of opening a horse slaughter house near
Stanwood, Washington, or the Belgian company, Chevideco, which is planning to
build a horse slaughter house in Oregon or Missouri, a subsidized loan of
$750,000 through the RUS World Utilities Services. It is outrageous that the
American taxpayer should support wealthy foreign investors in a business that
profits from animal cruelty, benefits only foreign interests and wrecks the
U.S. communities where the facilities are located. This money would surely be
much better spent on American interests.

Chevidico which owned Dallas Crown, which
operated in Kaufman, Texas until 2007 paid each year only 1/3 of 1% of revenues
in taxes; on year, for example, the horse slaughter house paid a total of $5.00
in federal taxes on $12,000,000 in annual sales.

5.  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. Horse slaughter 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. Just last month Mountain Grove, Missouri
residents voted overwhelmingly against a horse slaughter plant in their
community. The message is clear: Americans don’t want equine slaughter.

6. Although animal blood is often used for dry blood mill, the antibiotics given
to American horses prevent blood from breaking down; therefore, horse blood
cannot be used for this purpose and 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. Horses have 1.74 times as much blood per pound of body
weight as cows and with the drugs, 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. Note the 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.

7.  The argument that significant jobs would be
created is specious.  Horse slaughter
plants operating until 2007 never created more than 178 low wage jobs -and many
of these were held by illegal aliens.

8. 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. 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?

9. It is
no surprise that following the closing of the horse slaughter plant, Kaufman
residents enjoyed a significant
in virtually every type of crime.  This
despite one of the worst economic recessions in memory. A recent
by a University of Windsor criminologist, Amy Fitzgerald, shows
a link between slaughterhouses and violent crime. 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.

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 also 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.

The European Union has recognized this and has
initiated steps to try to stop the import into the EU of meat from American
horses that may be contaminated. Kill buyers have been found to falsify
veterinary and drug reports to avoid the restrictions. There is no enforcement
at the borders, meaning the US continues to dump contaminated and deadly
horsemeat on Europe and other countries. A petition has been filed with the
USDA to stop the slaughter of many U.S. horses for this reason.

11. 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.

12. Equines are in danger and equine welfare is threatened as
long as slaughter remains available.