WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- The nation's leading horse protection nonprofit, the American Horse Defense Fund, is outraged that the USDA and three European-owned horse slaughter plants in the US have thwarted the will of Congress and the American people by defying a congressional directive to stop horse slaughter in the U.S. during 2006. On October 26, 2005 Congress overwhelmingly passed an amendment that was meant to halt the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for federal inspections on horses or horse meat at foreign- owned slaughter plants in the US, effectively shutting the plants down. The amendment would have saved an estimated 30,000 horses from a cruel death at US slaughterhouses in 2006. It would also have opened the door to permanently ending the dangerous and cruel horse slaughter industry in the U.S. However, the amendment, due to take effect on March 10, 2006, could be destroyed by a final rule issued by USDA allowing horse slaughter to continue under a fee-for-service horse meat inspection system. The slaughter plants would pay an estimated $350,000 annually to private inspectors that would replace the required federal USDA horse and horse meat inspectors. The USDA has provided for a public comment period on this action until March 9th 2006. Horse Slaughter in the US According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, the U.S. currently processes and exports 10,000 tons of horse meat a year from 50,000 domestic horses killed at three foreign-owned slaughterhouses in Texas and Illinois. Thousands of additional American horses are shipped to foreign slaughterhouses. The industry preys on riding horses, former race horses, wild horses, and foals born to PMU mares, horses that are kept pregnant so their urine can be used to make the hormone replacement drug Premarin(R). There is nothing humane about horse slaughter. Horses are treated brutally prior to and during slaughter and because of their highly developed senses, they suffer greatly. Stop Horse Slaughter in the United States The American Horse Defense Fund (AHDF) and animal welfare groups across the country are asking the American public to contact the USDA before March 9th and ask that they honor the will of Congress by withdrawing regulations that would permit the US slaughterhouses to bring in fee-for-service inspectors. Comments can be mailed to: Docket Clerk, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service, 300 12th Street, SW., Room 102 Cotton Annex, Washington, DC 20250 or by e-mail at email@example.com before March 9. AHDF also urges everyone to get their two US Senators to cosponsor S. 1915, and their one Representative to cosponsor H.R. 503, bills that will end the slaughter of America's horses once and for all. The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act would place a permanent ban on horse slaughter in the U.S. Stated Trina Bellak, AHDF founder and president, "the foreign-owned slaughter industry needs to understand that Americans will never view horses as dinner. The American public is not about to forget our debt to horses who are a symbol of freedom and a cherished, significant part of our country's history. They will not be sent to the slaughterhouse without a fight." Horse Slaughter is Unnecessary and Dangerous In addition to humane concerns regarding horse slaughter, there are also human health concerns regarding the consumption of horse meat. Horses sent to slaughter are not raised for slaughter and human consumption as are cows and other livestock. Horses kept as pets are almost without exception, given medications that are illegal to administer to livestock intended to be a part of the human food supply because of their deleterious effects on human health. Horse processing facilities themselves create an enormous amount of waste material that can cause public health hazards. The Dallas Crown horse slaughter plant in Kaufman Texas was recently declared a nuisance for this reason. City residents had to endure sewer clogs that forced horse blood and waste to back up into their sinks and tubs. Supporters of the continuation of horse slaughter in the US claim a ban on horse slaughter will create a surplus of unwanted horses and would also deny unwanted horses death by "humane euthanasia" at the slaughterhouse. With no basis or truth to these claims, those who benefit financially, try to defend the heartless and money hungry horse slaughter industry. According to the USDA Guidelines for Handling and Transporting Equines to Slaughter, 90% of the horses, ponies and other equines sent to slaughter, are in good to excellent condition. Many of these are also young, trained horses. Many can have new lives with new owners, a variety of nonprofits and in law enforcement. AHDF's new book, Alternatives to Auctions and Slaughter: A Guide for Equine Owners (A Better Way), is a resource guide done on a state-by-state basis listing many alternatives to butchering horses that can no longer be cared for because of financial or personal reasons. The publication covers how to find everything from Equine Assisted Psychotherapy programs that do not require horses to be rideable, to park police units and vet schools who take horses. The horse specialists' group, the American Association of Equine Practitioners, estimated that the minimum yearly cost to care for a horse is around $1,825, not including shoeing and medical expenses. Boarding, shoeing and veterinary expenses could raise that to $5,000. If horses become old, sick or for whatever reasons, will no longer have happy or productive lives, the humane thing to do is have a veterinarian perform euthanasia by lethal injection. If equine owners pay the costs of care they can certainly afford to give their horse a painless, peaceful and respectful death. Not one highlighted by fear and brutality which typifies transport to and killing at slaughterhouses. AHDF surveyed a number of rendering plants, vets and crematoriums and the costs of euthanasia and disposal are listed in our book. But the average euthanasia fee for a horse is $66. Fees for burial and rendering range from $75 to $250, depending on the location. Incineration can cost up to $2,000. Horse Slaughter is not Humane Euthanasia Equating death at the slaughterhouse with humane euthanasia is laughable as the slaughter process is anything but humane. The American Veterinary Medical Association guidelines on humane euthanasia of horses clearly makes the point that unless horses' heads and necks are restrained, the captive bolt pistol or "stun gun", which is to render a horse unconscious prior to slaughter, is not deemed humane. It is well documented that horses, being high strung and acutely aware of their environment, not only smell and react to death and blood, but see the instrument of death being aimed at them for a strike. This drives them into a panic and they frequently make desperate attempts to evade it as it swings toward their scull. When this happens, the horse is often hit in another part of the head, badly wounding, clearly terrifying it and causing repeated attempts. This is NOT humane. Horse slaughter will never be humane. Both in California, where horse slaughter has already been banned, and in Illinois when a horse slaughter plant closed some years ago, there was no accompanying rise in neglect or abandonment of horses noted by authorities. In fact, theft of horses dropped significantly in these areas.
SOURCE American Horse Defense Fund