USDA Defies Congressional Ban on Horse Slaughter

Feb 11, 2006, 00:00 ET from American Horse Defense Fund

    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
     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 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
     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
     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