Evidence shows GAO Horse Welfare report fraudulent

horses touching facesThe Equine Welfare Alliance (EWA) and the Animal Law Coalition (ALC) announced today that they have irrefutable evidence showing that the Government Accountability Office fraudulently misrepresented horse abuse and neglect data in their report GAO 11-228.

The GAO report blamed falling horse prices and increased abuse and neglect on the closing of the domestic slaughter plants in 2007. Shortly after GAO issued the report, a conference committee reinstated funding for horse slaughter inspections, opening the way for slaughter to return to the US. Widely quoted in the media, the report is also provided as evidence in the lawsuit filed by Valley Meats against the USDA.

The EWA and ALC have provided both a video and a white paper showing how the fraud was committed. The ten minute video, How the GAO deceived Congress about horse slaughter was released on YouTube, and shows step by step how the GAO hid information in its possession showing abuse and neglect was in decline and misrepresented the data as showing it was increasing.

The fraud was discovered by the EWA while collecting data for equine abuse and neglect rates across the country. “We were looking for the correlation between various factors such as unemployment, slaughter and hay prices on a state by state basis,” explained EWA’s John Holland, “and when we looked at the Colorado data, we were reminded of its mention in the GAO report.”

The GAO claimed in the report to have contacted state veterinarians across the country and to have been told that abuse and neglect was increasing everywhere in the wake of the closing of the US plants in 2007. These were the same officials EWA contacted looking for states that kept records.

The EWA found data from six states; Oregon, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Georgia and Colorado. The records showed that abuse and neglect had been in decline between 2008 and 2010 (the last year of the GAO study), and that the GAO had used the wrong dates on the Colorado data to make it appear abuse had increased 60%.

“We had accepted that abuse was probably increasing as the result of the bad economy,” says Holland, “so imagine our surprise when we found it had been decreasing.” The EWA study finally showed the reason: drought. Drought and the subsequent increases in hay prices correlated tightly with the abuse and neglect numbers, and outweighed the influence of the recession and other factors.

“Not only did the GAO misrepresent the data, they completely missed the importance of hay prices and availability.” said Holland. The EWA filed a FOIA request for the data used by the GAO and the request was denied. The EWA also filed an IG complaint, and finally had a conference call with the GAO to request the report be withdrawn. The GAO refused any response except to say that their reports were flawlessly cross checked.

Victoria McCullough, owner of Chesapeake Petroleum and internationally known equestrian, said “Acceptance of lower standards results in failed policies and most significantly failures of public interest. Special Interest encroachment within Washington must not be allowed to erode public trust.”

– # –

Watch the video: How the GAO deceived Congress about horse slaughter


Call on your U.S. representative and senators to pass the SAFE Act to ban slaughter of American horses for human consumption and, in the meantime, support defunding of ante-mortem equine inspections that will at least stop slaughter of horses in the U.S. for human consumption.

Don’t stop there! Pres. Obama supports defunding of equine inspections, and the president can also end horse slaughter for human consumption now. Call the White House:
Comments: 202-456-1111
Switchboard: 202-456-1414

Urge the president to stop horse slaughter for human consumption now!

Robert Redford Joins Suit Filed to Stop Horse Slaughter

horses_huggingUpdate July 22, 2013: Robert Redford and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson have joined the lawsuit filed by humane organizations to challenge the USDA permit issued to Valle Meat Co. LLC in Roswell, New Mexico to slaughter horses for human consumption. They have joined through their new animal protection foundation, Foundation to Protect New Mexico Wildlife. Also, New Mexico Attorney GEneral Gary King filed a motion to intervene in the case on behalf of the plaintiff opponents of horse slaughter. An August 2, 2013 hearing is set for a temporary restraining order requested by the plaintiffs. For more on the case and efforts by New Mexico authorities to shut down this proposed horse slaughter facility, read Animal Law Coalition’s report below.

The New Mexico Environment Department has said the VAlley Meat Co.’s discharge permit will not be renewed without a public hearing. The lack of a discharge permit would prevent the company from dumping the waste on site.

Original report: Both the U.S. House and Senate Appropriations Committees have approved defunding of required antemortem horse inspections; the inspections are required for horses to be slaughtered commercially for human consumption. Without funding, there can be no inspections, and without inspections, horses cannot be legally slaughtered for human consumption. If the defunding becomes law, horse slaughter for human consumption will be illegal once again in the U.S.

In the meantime, however, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved an inspection permit for horse slaughter at Valley Meat Co. LLC in Roswell, New Mexico. This despite that it was the Obama administration’s USDA budget that called for defunding of horse inspections for FY 2014. This despite that New Mexico state officials have voiced strong opposition to horse slaughter including the state Attorney General who has said “state law does not allow for production of [horse]meat that is chemically tainted” and “horse meat from U.S. horses would [be an illegal] adulterated food product”.

Similar applications are pending for Rains Natural Meats in Gallatin, Mo., and Responsible Transportation LLC in Sigourney, IA, and have recently been approved by USDA.

The USDA has not yet assigned inspectors to the New Mexico facility, and the company’s attorney, Blair Dunn, told Huffington Post that the USDA has been “dragging their feet” and his client is not “holding their breath” that inspectors will be assigned anytime soon.

This week in response to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s decision to allow horse slaughter facilities to resume operating on U.S. soil, animal protection organizations have filed suit against the agency and asked for an immediate injunction. The Humane Society of the United States, Front Range Equine Rescue, Marin Humane Society, Horses for Life Foundation, Return to Freedom and five private individuals are suing under the National Environmental Protection Act, due to the agency’s failure to conduct the necessary environmental review before authorizing horse slaughterhouses to operate.

Hilary Wood, president of Front Range Equine Rescue, said: “The USDA has failed to consider the basic fact that horses are not raised as a food animal. Horse owners provide their horses with a number of substances dangerous to human health. To blatantly ignore this fact jeopardizes human health as well as the environment surrounding a horse slaughter plant. The negative consequences of horse slaughter will be felt immediately and over the long term if allowed to resume in the U.S. America’s horses are not food.”

The environmental devastation from horse slaughter is well known. The food safety risks have been documented in a study relied on by the New Mexico Attorney General in reaching his decision that products of horse slaughter are not safe for human consumption and illegal under state law.

Hay Prices to Blame for Equine Abuse, Neglect

Horses kissingEWA (Chicago) – The Equine Welfare Alliance today released a statistical study on the rates of equine abuse and neglect across the US since 2000. The research examined equine abuse statistics from Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Maine and Oregon.

Historical records of the number of cases of equine abuse and neglect from these states was correlated with three potential causes; the rate of equine slaughter (or lack of it), unemployment and the cost of hay.

Surprisingly, the researchers found that the rate of abuse has been in decline in four of the six states since 2008. Five of the six states had shown a spike in abuse and neglect around 2008 and two have shown a significant increase in the past two years.

The dominant factor the analysis produced in every state was the price of hay. “My assumption was always that unemployment was the dominant factor”, admitted EWA president John Holland. “In fact, the analysis showed that the rate of unemployment in the state was the least important predictor of the level of abuse and neglect.”

The analysis showed the second most important correlation was the rate of slaughter, but the analysis found more slaughter consistently correlated with more abuse and neglect.

“Correlation is not proof of causation,” explained Holland, “but it certainly contradicts the theory that slaughter decreases neglect by culling “unwanted horses.”

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) have long urged Congress not to ban horse slaughter on the basis that to do so would increase abandonment, abuse and neglect.

This study follows on the heels of a peer reviewed paper in the Kentucky Journal of Equine, Agricultural, and Natural Resources Law by Holland (EWA) and Laura Allen (Animal Law Coalition). That paper documented enormous increases in the cost of horse ownership between 2000 and 2011. The paper demonstrates, among other pressures, that a shift of land use from hay to corn for ethanol has reduced the hay available to horse owners, cattlemen and dairy farmers.

Severe drought in some states has made an already insufficient supply of hay all but collapse. In 2011, Congress ended the long standing subsidy for ethanol in gasoline and removed tariffs on sugar cane. It is hoped this will put a downward pressure on hay prices in coming years.

Report Link: http://www.equinewelfarealliance.org/uploads/History_and_Causes_of_Equine_Abuse-Neglect.pdf

Graphic Link:

Both House and Senate Committees Approve Defunding of Horse Inspections

wild horse 3Update June 20, 2013:The Senate Appropriations Committee approved by voice vote today the Landrieu amendment which would defund in the FY 2014 appropriations bill the required ante-mortem inspections of horses sent to slaughter for human consumption. The House Appropriations Committee approved a similar amendment last week. President Obama has recommended defunding in the administration’s proposed budget for FY 2014.

Without funding of these required inspections, horses cannot be slaughtered in the U.S. for human consumption. Both the full House of Representatives and Senate must approved the measure. For more on defunding, read Animal Law Coalition’s reports below.

Update June 18, 2013: This Thursday, June 20, 2013 the Senate Appropriations Committee will vote on the Agriculture Appropriations bill for FY 2014. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) has proposed an amendment similar to the Moran amendment approved last week by the U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee to defund horse inspections. For more on the Moran amendment to defund horse inspections, read Animal Law Coalition’s earlier reports below.

Update June 13, 2013: The U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee approved today by voice vote an amendment to the FY 2014 Agriculture Appropriations bill that defunds ante-mortem inspections for horses sent for slaughter for human consumption. If approved by the full House of Representatives and the Senate and signed by the president, it would mean horses and other equines could not be slaughtered in the U.S. for human consumption. The amendment was introduced by Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) and had been recommended by the Obama Administration in its proposed budget. The bill now goes to the full House of Representatives for approval. For more on this and how you can help pass defunding of horse inspections, read Animal Law Coalition’s original report below.

Original report: While a bill to ban horse slaughter for human consumption is pending in Congress, the Obama administration has agreed to support defunding of ante-mortem inspections required for equines slaughtered for human food. This means no funds could be used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to pay for inspectors to conduct these inspections. Under the Federal Meat Inspection Act, 21 U.S.C. Sec. 603, without the inspections, equines cannot be slaughtered in the U.S. for human consumption.

The USDA has proposed the defunding of equine inspections in its FY 2014 budget:
p. 197, Sec. 725:
None of the funds made available in this Act may be used to pay the salaries or expenses of personnel to—(1) inspect horses under section 3 of the Federal Meat Inspection Act (21 U.S.C. 603); (2) inspect horses under section 903 of the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996 (7 U.S.C. 1901 note; Public Law 104127); or (3) implement or enforce section 352.19 of title 9, Code of Federal Regulations.

Find your one U.S. representative. Find your 2 U.S. senators here. Call your U.S. rep and senators now and urge them to support the Agriculture Committee bill with defunding of horse inspections and stop horse slaughter for human consumption in the U.S.

Defunding ante-mortem inspections for equines in a FY 2006 appropriations act led to the shuttering of horse slaughter plants in the U.S. that could not as a result operate legally. The Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Appropriations Act, 2006, Pub. L. 109-97, § 794, 119 Stat. 2120, 2164 which became law on November 10, 2005, contained a provision that de-funded ante-mortem inspections of equines. The de-funding of the ante-mortem inspections continued until 2011.

In that year the House of Representatives voted to continue de-funding, but the Senate version of the agriculture appropriations bill did not contain any language de-funding the ante-mortem inspections. In the Conference Committee formed to reconcile the House of Representatives and Senate versions of the appropriations bills, Conference Committee Chair Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI), Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) voted to reject de-funding of inspections for horses for slaughter for human consumption. Only Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) voted to support continued de-funding of the inspections. The Conference Report, the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012, Pub. Law No. 112-55, H.R. 2112, became law on November 18, 2011.

Since then it has been legal to operate horse slaughter facilities in the U.S. where it is not prohibited by state law. A USDA permit or approval is required, however. To date, only one facility appears set to obtain such approval. That facility owned by Valley Meat Co. is located in southern New Mexico. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has said the facility will be approved to begin slaughtering horses unless Congress acts to defund the required ante-mortem inspections.


Call President Obama at http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/write-or-call#call and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack at 202-720-3631, and urge them to take the lead in assuring the appropriations law for FY 2014 defunds ante-mortem inspections for equines.