The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that's the essence of inhumanity. -George Bernard Shaw

Saturday, January 14, 2006

USDA under fire for alleged "work-around" horse slaughter amendment?

USDA bureaucrats and horse slaughter
TODAY'S EDITORIAL--from the Washington Times
January 13, 2006

Last year, Congress voted overwhelmingly to include an amendment in the agriculture appropriations bill that would, in the words of Sen. John Ensign, "end the slaughter of America's horses for human consumption overseas." Mr. Ensign was a co-sponsor of the bill, as was Sen. Robert Byrd, who said the amendment would "stop the slaughter of horses for human consumption." In the House, amendment co-sponsor Rep. John Spratt said, "This amendment in simple terms will stop the slaughter for human consumption of horses."
So, we learn with surprise that this amendment apparently "does not prevent horse slaughter at all," according to Department of Agriculture General Counsel James Michael Kelly. All it does, Mr. Kelly wrote in a letter to Congress, is prohibit "expenditure of funds provided under the 2006 [appropriations] Act to pay the salaries and expenses of personnel to inspect the horses." In other words, the only purpose of the amendment is to cut a little grist from the federal budget.
Mr. Kelly's assertion is ridiculous. Under the Federal Meat Inspection Act horses bound for human consumption must be inspected by USDA employees both prior to and after slaughter. The amendment, which President Bush signed into law in November, bans horse slaughter by prohibiting the funds used for the inspections. As the record clearly states, this was Congress' intent. In the words of the Humane Society of the United States, any other explanation "would render the entire Amendment meaningless" and forces one to accept the "absurd premise that all of the time, effort, and energy spent debating and enacting this Amendment was for the sole purpose of changing the way [USDA] pays for horse inspection prior to slaughter."
Nonetheless, USDA is considering a petition from the three foreign-owned horse slaughter plants in the country to disregard the explicit will of Congress. The two Belgian plants and one French-owned plant are offering to pay the inspectors themselves under a fee-for-service system used for "certain exotic animals," like elk, reindeer, rabbits, and now, we suppose, horses. Moreover, they want to do this without having to go through the messy public notice and comment period otherwise common for such requests. Astoundingly, the USDA seems prepared to let them do this.
So, we'll set up our own public notice and comment period. Readers who might not like the idea of a U.S. agency ignoring a law of Congress to placate a few foreign horse slaughterers should voice their concerns to Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns. Send an e-mail to Mr. Johanns at or call his office at 202-720-3631.

Friday, January 13, 2006

About the Blog Owner...

I am just an ordinary citizen in Tennessee who found out about horse slaughter after the wild horse issue was so widely publicized.

I was appalled to find out about the very quietly run slaughterhouses in our country. There were three of them (now two) and all were foreign-owned. All shipped their product out of the country, except for meat sold to zoos. Horsemeat is popular in Europe and Japan, with France consuming the most.

Those who advocate horse slaughter abdicate that it is the only viable solution to excess "unwanted horses." I have to raise an eyebrow at this logic. I don't think we should kill victims of irresponsible horse owners and breeders. That seems fairly nonsensical to me. We can't promote a disposal bin for horses that can't win the purse; horses that are too expensive to keep; horses that we've grown tired of. The horses that bring money at slaughter are mostly healthy and most are fleshy Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds.

In California, where horse slaughter has been banned, there was no rise in abuse and all "unwanted" horses were successfully absorbed into rescues, new owners, etc. So, I have to ask where are the statistics to support the position that we need horse slaughter? I haven't seen them yet.

Horses are legally "livestock," which compounds the problem of stopping their slaughter. On paper they are livestock, but in our culture they are, without a doubt, a companion animal - and one that has seen us through wars, police duty, farm work, and more.

And THAT IS WHY THE SLAUGHTERHOUSES WORK ALMOST IN SECRECY. They KNOW just how repulsed Americans are with the thought of horse slaughter. Many polls show this to be true. Most people do not know it exists; just as I didn't. I was rather incredulous when I found out about it.

I am not a vet. I am not even a horse owner, but I subscribe to the idea of living humanely, which includes the prevention of cruelty to our animal friends. Horse slaughter plants are not truly "horse slaughter" plants. They are cattle slaughter plants that have been retro-fitted a little. And for those who have observed this slaughter process, it is far from humane. The transport process is even worse.

And so I started this blog to educate myself, stay on top of what's going on and hopefully educate some other people. I mostly excerpt articles I think are important and reserve my personal banter for this short piece.

I want other people know about the existence of horse slaughter. Every country has their social mores to follow and ours has been to not eat horse. So, why are we allowing our culture to be bastardized by foreign slaughter plants? It isn't much different than letting a country that eats dogs and cats come into the United States and set up shop to slaughter our excess animals and export their meat. Hardly acceptable - instead we continue to work on the real problem that creates our excess dogs and cats - spay and neuter and owner education. Why, I ask, is this not the case for our beloved horses?

We don't eat our dogs, cats, or horses. So let's not slaughter them for others' convenience.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you find some information that helps you understand the issue.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Accusations of Government Undermining Horse Slaughter Law

Government accused of trying to bypass horse-slaughter lawBY MICHELLE MITTELSTADT
The Dallas Morning News

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration is trying to end-run Congress and circumvent a new law designed to halt the slaughter of horses at meatpacking plants in Texas and Illinois, congressional sponsors and animal-protection groups charge.

A measure signed into law last November by President Bush bars the Agriculture Department, effective March 10, from paying for inspections of horses before slaughter. Since federal law requires pre-slaughter inspection of cattle and other livestock, congressional sponsors say they clearly intended to end the slaughter of horses in the United States.

But the nation's three horsemeat plants - in Kaufman and Fort Worth in Texas and DeKalb, Ill. - may have found a loophole to keep their $41 million-a-year industry alive. They are offering to pay the inspectors' salaries under a fee-for-services system used for elk, reindeer, rabbits and other more exotic fare.

"We are fighting to save our business," said Jim Bradshaw, a lobbyist who represents Dallas Crown Inc. in Kaufman and Beltex Corp. in Fort Worth. "That's natural."

The Agriculture Department is weighing the companies' proposal, made in a Nov. 23 petition that urges swift adoption of the plan without soliciting public input. Failure to do so would probably force the slaughterhouses out of operation, "causing substantial economic damage contrary to the public good," the companies said.

In a Dec. 21 letter to several members of Congress, the department's acting general counsel said the new law doesn't thwart the government's ability to provide inspectors.

"In fact," counsel James Michel Kelly wrote, the law "does not prevent horse slaughter at all."

That stance is rejected by the Humane Society of the United States, other animal welfare groups and the law's congressional sponsors.

"This agency is bending over backwards to accommmodate an industry that Congress and the American people want shut down," said Nancy Perry, the Humane Society's vice president for government affairs. "There is far too much concern about perpetuating horse slaughter on the part of USDA."

Rep. Edward Whitfield, a Kentucky Republican at the center of the effort to end the horsemeat trade, agreed.

"It's disappointing that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has adopted this culture over there that they do not want to stop the slaughtering of horses and they want to continue to protect these French-owned and Belgian-owned companies," he said Tuesday.
He and others in Congress are working for a permanent ban on the annual slaughter of more than 85,000 horses, whose meat is sold for consumption in Europe, Japan and other markets. Whitfield said he hopes lawmakers will take up a pending bill early this year.

The Agriculture Department's willingness to explore ways to keep the horsemeat plants open will only give new momentum to a permanent ban, he said.
Even as House and Senate negotiators were finalizing the deal to de-fund the horse inspectors, the Agriculture Department was "already talking about how they were going to circumvent (the measure) and already had intended to issue these regulations to allow slaughtering to continue," Whitfield said.
The Agriculture Department did not return calls seeking comment.

But Bradshaw said he interprets the Dec. 21 letter to members of Congress as a sign that the fee-for-service inspections will be approved.

"It's our understanding that their legal people have said, `Yes, they are entitled to that service,'" he said. "That's pretty clear-cut."
Dallas Crown and Beltex already use fee-for-service inspections for the slaughter of emus, ostriches and wild boars, Bradshaw said.

Whitfield is circulating a letter, already signed by several others in Congress, demanding details of how the Agriculture Department would implement the new inspection program. He said he also would examine whether the Agriculture Department is fulfilling its mandate to check whether prohibited drugs are found in horsemeat destined for human consumption. "It's not very clear that they are doing a very good job of enforcing this act," he said.

While horsemeat represents a tiny sliver of U.S. slaughterhouse production, Whitfield suggested the Agriculture Department may be listening to the powerful cattle industry.

"There is a group that makes the argument that this is a slippery slope, that if you stop slaughtering anything, then eventually you might stop slaughtering cows," he said. "That certainly never would happen."

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Horse Slaughter Prevention Act Jeopardized Once Again

Ed's note: this arrived in my email today from the Humane Society of the United States.

"...I am writing because U.S. Department of Agriculture might put all of your hard work to save horses from slaughter at risk, and we desperately need your help.

We had a remarkable year for horses during 2005. With help from dedicated advocates like you, we:

  • Convinced the U.S. House of Representatives to pass an amendment by a landslide vote of 269-158 to prevent the use of tax dollars to promote horse slaughter.
  • Then we secured a big 69-28 vote in the Senate in favor of an identical amendment.
  • Finally, when it appeared that the conference committee might remove the horse slaughter language entirely, we worked together again to ensure that the ban stayed in the final bill (with an added 120-day delay for implementation).

    We all celebrated these tremendous victories as the year closed, anticipating that on March 10, 2006, horse slaughter in America would stop for the remainder of the year, paving the way for more progress and a permanent ban.

    But now, the horse slaughter ban is in danger again and we need your help to save it!

    Never did we imagine that the USDA, an administrative agency charged with carrying out Congress' will, might betray Congress and the Americans they represent. But it appears that the agency might try to side-step this new law by finding a way to continue inspections of horses for slaughter, and thereby continue its involvement with the cruel and un-American horse slaughter industry. The USDA is seriously considering a petition submitted by the foreign-owned slaughter plants that would create a whole new manner of paying for horse slaughter, an effort that directly undermines Congress' mandate.

    Tell the USDA to respect the will of Congress and enforce the slaughter ban.

    Americans don't eat horsemeat -- there simply is no domestic demand for it. But last year, more than 90,000 American horses were either killed in one of three foreign-owned slaughterhouses in the United States or shipped to Canada or Mexico for slaughter. Our thoroughbreds, show horses, mustangs, carriage horses, and family ponies are shipped in inhumane conditions and butchered.

    This new development means that the thousands of horses who were to be spared are again at grave risk. We cannot let this happen. Take action today to help stop USDA from engaging in this inhumane slaughter for export.

    1. Take action. Contact USDA Secretary Johanns and urge him to shut down this illegal and undemocratic usurpation of Congress' authority. Click here to contact USDA now.

    2. Spread the word. The USDA needs to hear from as many Americans as possible. Ask your friends and family to contact them as well. Click here to tell five friends to take action now.

    Knowing that thousands of our loyal and trusted companions have already been slaughtered is simply devastating. Please, stand with us and do everything you can to spare the lives of our horses. Together, we will stop this horrible practice.


    Wayne Pacelle
    President & CEO
    The Humane Society of the United States

    P.S. If you are having trouble with the links in this message, you can take action by cutting and pasting this URL into a new web browser window:"

  • Wednesday, January 04, 2006

    Background on horse slaughter...

    This article from The New Standard gives some background to the issue in case you are new...

    Animal Rights Activists Campaign to Stop Horse Slaughter
    by Ron Chepesiuk

    "Jan 25, 2005 - Last November, the US Congress approved an amendment that reversed three decades of US government policy prohibiting companies from slaughtering wild horses living on public lands. The amendment permits the sale of wild horses that have been rounded up and are more than ten years old or that have been unsuccessfully offered for adoption three times. Lawmakers buried the language in the 3,000-plus pages of the FY 2005 Omnibus Appropriations Bill that President Bush signed into law last December.

    ...'The amendment’s passage now opens up the floodgates,' said Michael Markarian, executive vice president of the Washington, DC-based Humane Society of the United States. 'The US government will no longer try to adopt the thousands of horses that are on public lands. Instead, it will allow horses to be sent directly to auctions where they can be bought, slaughtered and then sold for horse meat.'

    The amendment’s passage is the latest controversy in the long-running campaign of animal rights advocates to protect American horses from what they charge is indiscriminate and inhumane slaughter. US Department of Agriculture statistics show that humans slaughter tens of thousands of horses annually in the US, while many more are being shipped to meet a similar demise across the US-Canadian border.

    'It’s an American tragedy,' said Karen Harkson, President of Equine Voices Rescue and Sanctuary in Amado, Arizona. 'These horses suffer terribly before they are butchered. Eighty percent of those horses are healthy, and many more of their [former] owners don’t realize that they will be slaughtered.' The non profit Equine Voices Rescue and Sanctuary rescues horses and then works to have them adopted.

    The amendment affects some 37,000 horses and burros presently running free on public lands in ten western states as part of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) National Wild Horse and Burro Program. The BLM holds in captivity an additional 14,000 horses in Oklahoma and Kansas, while keeping a few thousand more in regional facilities.

    According to Markarian, horses on public lands are being targeted because they are seen as competition for forage by the cattle industry. 'Cattlemen claim that the cattle are in competition with the horses and burros for forage because of recent droughts in the West in the recent years,' he said. Markarian, however, pointed out that the approximately 37,000 horses and burros are sharing the same land with three to four million cattle. 'It’s nearly one horse per 100 cattle, but the ranchers want the horses and burros off public lands,' Markarian said. 'Cattle ranchers get a free ride on the backs of American taxpayers. They are using public lands and the American taxpayer is paying for it.'

    Maxine Shane, a BLM spokesperson, told the press last November that at least 8,000 of the horses held in captivity are eligible for sale to the highest bidder. But as Patricia Stafford, a Rock Hill, SC activist campaigning against horse slaughter, explained: 'The US’s entire wild horse population will be affected because they are located on public lands that the BLM manages.'

    Since the BLM began its adoption program in 1973 until September 2004, more than 203,000 wild horses and burros have been adopted. Historically, unadoptable horses have been returned to the range. 'We believe that wild horses living on public lands should be left alone and not be made a part of the pipeline heading to the slaughter houses,' Markarian said.

    That is what’s happening, though -- not just to the wild horses of the West, but also to horses of all ages and breeds. Losing race horses, sick and disabled horses, surplus riding school horses and foals that are used in the Pregnant Mare Urine industry, which produces the estrogen-replacement drug Premarin, are slaughtered for their meat. The national Humane Society reports that many of the horses its investigators have seen purchased for slaughter were in good health and bought for just a few hundred dollars.

    What is remarkable is that most of this thriving slaughter industry occurs at just
    two plants in the US: Beltex and Dallas Crown Inc., both of which are foreign-owned and located in Texas. Two other plants, also held by foreign interests, have burned down since 1997. Authorities suspect that the Animal Liberation Front was responsible for the first fire in Richmond, Washington, while they have been unable to determine the cause of the second fire at the plant in DeKalb, Illinois, which re-opened last June.

    Little is known about the two plants in Texas, for they keep low profiles. According to court papers, Beltex has processed horsemeat for human consumption for 27 years and employs 90 people. In 2001, it processed 27,000 horses and had gross revenues of $30 million. In the same year, Dallas Crown Inc., which has 40 employees, processed more than 13,000 horses and had gross revenues of $9 million.

    The horsemeat is shipped to Europe or Japan where it is sold for as much as $20 a pound. In Japan raw horseflesh ice cream is reportedly becoming popular.

    'The fact that horsemeat is considered a delicacy in some parts of the world is helping to fuel the horse slaughter industry,' Brown said.

    The slaughter of horses continues in Texas, although state law has prohibited the sale, possession, transport and export of horsemeat for human consumption since 1949, and horsemeat is not legally consumed anywhere in the United States. The two Texas horse slaughter companies have filed suit in federal court claiming that federal law trumps the enforcement of Texas law so their operations are legal.

    Forced closure of the slaughter plants is opposed by several prominent horse and veterinarian groups, including the American Horse Council, the American Paint Horse Association and the American Quarter Horse Association, some of the world’s largest organizations for horse veterinarians and owners.

    Temple Grandin, a professor at the University of Colorado at Fort Collins and a leading authority on the treatment of livestock by humans and has designed widely adopted slaughterhouse systems, criticizes anti-slaughter groups. In a recent interview with TNS, she charged that opponents of horse slaughter misunderstand the consequences of the trade. Grandin explained, 'Some horses do get hurt on trucks, but the biggest problem is owner neglect -- long before the horses get to the slaughter houses.' [Blog Ed's Note: Then why not address the problem rather than dispose of the victim?]

    Animal rights activists counter that the inhumane treatment of the horses is endemic to the industry. On its website, the Humane Society of the US notes that 'the cruelty of horse slaughter is not limited to the killing of animals.' It describes the following scenario as typical of the industry:

    Often terrified horses and ponies are crammed together and transported to the slaughterhouses in double-deck trucks designed for cattle and pigs. The truck ceilings are so low that the horses are not able to hold their heads in a normal, balanced position. Inappropriate floor surfaces lead to slips and falls, and sometimes even trampling. Some horses arrive at the slaughterhouses seriously injured or dead.

    At the plant, the horses are shuttled through a chute where electrified pins zap them in the forehead, ostensibly to stun them. They are then hoisted to the ceiling where their throats are slit and the blood collected in the buckets on the 'killing floor.' The bodies are then stripped for the meat.

    Horse slaughter opponents have lobbied for the passage of the American Horse Slaughter Act (HR 857 IH), which several legislators have introduced into the house. The act will prevent the slaughter of horses in the United States for human consumption. An individual in violation of the law could be fined $2,500 to $5,000 and imprisoned for up to one year in jail. The bill currently has at least 181 co-sponsors, but it is still in committee.

    Texas A&M to Utilize New Equine Business Studies Center to Analyze Horse Slaughter Issue

    Texas A&M Offers New Economic Center
    Press Release appearing in The Horse

    "Texas A&M University will create a Center for Equine Business Studies to provide equine industry statistics and data to the government and public to help the horse industry make better decisions and build business. The university has retained Latigo Associates to assist in development of the center.

    ...Davis said the ability to consistently provide information to government, media, and the public regarding the impact of the horse industry, environmental concerns, and tax issues is critical, and he points to the topic of equine slaughter as an example.

    'There are two clear sides to this issue but, unfortunately, there has been little done to determine the true economic impact of caring for fifty to sixty thousand horses annually for the remainder of their lifespan, and equally as important, the impact of closing the plants that process those animals,' he said. 'This is just one example of how our center could help answer those questions.'

    ...Furthermore, such a center would provide economic analysis of the potential impacts of programs and proposed legislation on the U.S. and international horse industries.

    Slated to be operational by June 2006, the center will receive valuable input from a Strategic Development Council that will meet at Texas A&M in February. The council is comprised of industry leaders who will provide insight into the programs and services to be offered. A second Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel will be formed once the center is operational to continue providing feedback, as well as be involved in the development of industry summits and programs.

    Funding for the Center will come from the horse industry through membership fees established at varying fee and service levels. Among the benefits of membership are the development of annual reports, access to economic data generated by the center, a monthly EquiNomics newsletter, and registration to an annual EquiNomics Summit.

    'Members of the center will be able to call upon our internationally recognized staff at any time to perform studies on their behalf,' Davis said. 'Our staff knows and understands agriculture and the horse livestock industry, so the ability to produce solid data is one assurance we can make to our members.'

    To receive an information packet about the center and membership, contact Davis at, or call 979/845-1705. or mail him at 2124 TAMU, College Station, TX 77843-2124. Bryant can be contacted at or 817/443-0686."

    Jan. 11 discussion centers on additional horses

    U.S. Horse Industry Businesses Brace for Imminent Invasion
    (PRLEAP.COM) The United States equine industry is bracing itself for an invasion – of horses, of all things. 75,000 horses are a lot to dump on the Equine Industry, but it’s happening in 2006. Patricia Reszetylo, of, is holding a panel discussion on January 11, 2006, to discuss what business owners can expect to happen in the industry.

    “People want to know what to expect,” says Patricia. “It’s a very touchy topic, with few means of discussion. I’ve had people tell me that when they broached the subject in discussion forums online, they were yelled at, and told to stop starting fights. All they want is information.”

    “The discussion on January 11, 2006, won’t be about if the legislation is a “good” thing or a “bad” thing,” says Patricia. “It will be about how it will affect our industry, and what people need to plan for, what they need to do in their businesses to prepare for it.” Patricia goes on to say that she feels education is in order: “Consumers need more education about what goes into caring for a horse, before they get one; business owners need education about how to manage their horse business more efficiently; how to become more competitive in their current market, as well as how to find new markets for their horses, and the after-market equine industries need more encouragement and development.”

    “If we did those things, the horse slaughter industry would probably not even exist.”

    ---For more info, contact: Patricia L. Reszetylo,,
    218-327-4042 | media kit