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Will Domestic Horse Slaughter Make A Comeback?

Defending Agriculture

When USDA banned horse slaughter, horse abuse and neglect soared

Published on: February 4, 2013

On October 19, 2012, Valley Meat Company, LLC in New Mexico filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture alleging that it is not complying with a congressional mandate which reinstituted funding in 2012 for inspection of the slaughter of horses.

Valley Meat complains that USDA has "…altered its stance on this issue [horse slaughter inspection] due to political and special interest pressure, effectively allowing the issue to become politicized." (Valley may be correct!)

Valley Meat wants a U.S. District Court to compel USDA to provide inspectors who are appointed under the Federal Meat and Inspection Act to inspect horses, before they enter a slaughter facility and also inspect carcasses to determine they are not adulterated and passed into the human food supply.

USDA, according to the complaint, told Valley Meat that it would "…immediately provide inspections now that funding had been reinstituted." The complaint states Valley has completed all necessary requirements, has worked with USDA and other experts, and is ready to immediately begin a horse slaughter operation.

Stiff headwinds

Valley is running into stiff headwinds on this issue. Domestic slaughter of horses ended in 2006. Congress, in its infinite wisdom, passed a prohibition on USDA using federal funds to inspect horse slaughter plants. Lack of USDA inspectors effectively ended the industry in the United States. It did not end horse slaughter in other countries.

The Government Accountability Office issued a report in June 2011, entitled Action Needed to Address Unintended Consequences from Cessation of Domestic Slaughter, which basically said Congress made a major mistake in prohibiting domestic slaughter of horses. Congress had directed GAO to examine horse welfare since the cessation of domestic slaughter in 2007.

GAO found that the slaughter horse market shifted out of the United States to Canada and Mexico. Approximately 138,000 horses were slaughtered per year in the U.S. prior to the cessation (Canada and Mexico now take U.S. horses for slaughter.)  Since the cessation, states such as California, Texas and Florida are reporting numbers of horses abandoned on private and state land.

Colorado data, according to GAO, demonstrated that horse neglect and abuse increased more than 60% in 2009. State, local, tribal and horse industry officials told GAO that increases in horse neglect and abandonment was due to a lack of domestic slaughter facilities and the economic downturn.

The legislation approving USDA inspectors for horse slaughter facilities was approved on Nov. 18, 2011. To this day, USDA has not provided inspectors to slaughter facilities such as Valley Meat Company!

Valley Meat requests a U.S. District Court to issue an order, "Declaring that the USDA's failure to issue Grants of Inspection of Equine Animals for Human Consumption is arbitrary and capricious, and not in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act, FY 2012 Appropriations Act, and the Federal Meat and Inspection Act." It also requests the court "…command USDA to immediately issue the appropriate Grant of Inspection to Plaintiff;"

Enter HSUS and Front Range Equine Rescue

The Humane Society of the United States and Front Range Equine Rescue on Jan. 14, 2013, filed a Motion to Intervene in Valley Meat's case.

HSUS claims that USDA's current inspection testing and protocols are insufficient to prevent adulterated horse meat from entering the nation's food supply. HSUS filed petitions on March 26, 2012, asking for new rules to be adopted to regulate the production of horse meat for human consumption in the U.S. (This rulemaking could take years.)

The intent is clear from the court filing. "HSUS has also been working to prevent the institution of renewed horse slaughter in the United States, placing significant valuable resources into that campaign, and as a co-petitioner with FRER on the rule making petitions before USDA and the FDA."  

HSUS is making its views known to Valley Meat and to those in favor of horse slaughter when it claims in its motion that it is still supporting legislation directed at "…prohibiting horse slaughter and the transport of horses for slaughter."

GAO's report is recommended reading.  It shows horses are now subjected to abandonment, starvation, and cruelty. GAO claims that horses are traveling by truck over significantly greater distances to reach their final destination in foreign countries and the horses are not covered by U.S. humane slaughter protections.

The courts will have the last word on whether domestic horse slaughter will get on track once again in the U.S.   

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Please read the GAO report-please absolutely read it-it's out of date, and if you look at the other reports largely blown out of proportion, not to mention it actually DOES NOT state how many ACTUal horses have DIED from this ban. How many have died? They can't prove the facts and as a lawyer I would tear this up in a courtroom-what measure do you have to prove that horse's have been abandoned by owners, and not just reported abandoned by killer buyers releasing them, In fact, I would bring forward the killer buyer report that states they wanted traders to turn loose horses in public places, push the numbers of loose feral horses upwarded to enhance the numbers. I would substanciate that the animals that were unwanted were the same as they always were-because constant sales of horses are reported in every year-the animals were continuously sold from trader to trader and home to home as each party made more money off the same horses-so they are angry since the party ended on sale and resales of the same horses, making appear to be a landslide. The USDA reported horses only bring 5 percent less than they did since before the slaughter ended. I myself saw no decrease in sales, training services, or otherwise on property and after consulting with my local animal control I found out that the same number of abuse cases held strong prior to the ban actually decreased as people realized they were going to actually be prosecuted they only wanted to sell out. So the complaints are coming in from the people who are in trouble with the law for injuring, malnurishing, or losing their own animals. The ban was working-it was revealing the dark unside to horses who have always been in it to kill horses. I also will point out there is an existing federal law that bans the use of horses, by products or horses ect in dog food and if you have information that can be used against dog food companies in the states you can be sued for withholding information and impeding due process in stopping the use of horsemeat in dog food. The dog food issue is also a point which the USDA can be sued for because of the high number which I see all organizations and yourself ignore all other drugs that horses ingest that are deadly to dogs and humans yet required in most states and by all animal organizations to be used to deworm, medicate, and vaccinate horses in USA. Why is the focus solely on the Bute-phenylbutoze is also now administered not only in paste, powder, pills, but inside of supplements you purchase over counter, and inside of some manufactured horse feeds. I think a Federal lawsuit may be considered at this point for the list of feeds, supplements, vaccines, dewormers, and other illegal and legal medications, remedies, etc put in horses, and that not protecting them with these drugs would otherwise cause mass outbreaks of illnesses in horses, so the Dept of Ag, and USDA may be open to a lawsuit that prevents the slaughter of horses based solely on the coverup of all the required medical treatments and dosages, as well as no screening for Hepatitis, Aids, and encephylitis and many many other illnesses the horses are slaughtered with active illnesses that alive we are REQUIRED to euthanize and destroy remains-not eat them or feed to dogs. I think we are squandering the American's rights and monies to kill ourselves off. As well people who love horses are not ALL activists we are actually human beings who for any reason including compassion have a God given, bill of rights which allows us to put in our opinion and facts. So from here forward please do not capsulate all people in the term ACTIVISTS as you may find yourself in a civil lawsuit that states we each individual American has a right to free speech and that we may find a way to sue killer buyers for infringing on our rights to free speech by hitting us with its just an emotional decision to keep horses alive-we actually have the right to express our position and not be harrassed for our stand.

  2. Anonymous says:

    This is FOR sue Wallis who loves to take and post this guy on her pro-slaughter page-maybe you should see a greif counselour for your loss. Evidently they say serial killers start with animals first, Jeffrey Dahmer's death must have really affected you. I mean if you believe we should be forced to eat pets, then what when you run out of farm animal's who is next?????

  3. Anonymous says:

    Your heading sir says Agriculture defender-Please remove that headline=you are not standing up for Agriculture you are giving horses the boot. If you want to comment on peoples side against slaughter please by all means come to the people and not the society's we know the hard facts better than associations with agenda's-we are against slaughter period. It exposes abusive animal owners to keep the ban in place and not slaughter-they get arrested, banned from ownership instead of hiding behind the if the evidence is dead we are onto the next animal. Secondly this is a strictly financial item and Valley needs to do what we all have done instead of retrofitting and spending money to push through something banned he should have used his money and opened a different type of business all together. People all over the us lost jobs and some reinvented themselves and police had to arrest those that because drug dealers, so whats the difference he just needed to reinvent himself instead of picking something illegal-now he just wants ME a tax payer to support his horse death racket-horses are stolen for this as well you know. Also I think the Agricultural Department is big enough it can hold its own in a lawsuit against one ill say it peon who wants to strong arm American values. So Dept of Ag should say take us to court we have no moral obligations to pay you when the countries fiscal cliff wont allow us to have enough money to fund something on the sly that was passed through without the public being able to speak out before it happened

  4. Anonymous says:

    With the closing down of the slaughterhouses, there is no place for these unwanted, old, lame , or even dangerous horses to go. Most people can't afford the cost to have them put down by a vet plus the cost of having the body picked up...close to $500 total. Most of these horses would be better off if they were put down humanely either by a bullet or a bolt gun. I'm sorry if this sounds cold, but the reality is such that hay is high & the economy is making people make sacrifices all around. I would rather these horses be put down than dumped at the river to fend for themselves. I volunteer at the Riverside shelter & that is what we get in there..skinny,old dumped horses. It breaks your heart, but there are not enough people that could take on these horses. I myself have the room, but my horses would suffer if I took in strays...just can't afford it.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I am for the reopening of the slaughterhouses, mainy for the sake of the horse industry as a whole. My horses won't end up there, but it would be better to open them up here than to ship them to Mexico where they have no regulations. There needs to be a bottom dollar to the maret & the killer buyers used to set that bottom dollar. Now there is none & horses aren't worth anything unless someone wants it.There are horses being turned loose all around here to fend for themselves & end up starving or getting hit by cars. The slaughterhouse is a humane way to end a horses life when done properly & their meat can be used to feed dogs or even starving people.

  6. Anonymous says:

    People who have horses they love stolen and sold to horse slaughter plants and have said it will haunt them for the rest of their life are held hostage to horse slaughter. . And because of the quick kill and export, these slaughter plants have become a convenient dumping ground for stolen horses. In fact, horse theft in California dropped 34 percent after that state instituted a ban on horse slaughter in 1998. The millions of people who care about there horses and have to always worry if they ever sell them, they could end up being sold to slaughter or all held hostage to horse slaughter. Some would much prefer to let them go loose in the wild rather then risk at some time them being bought for slaughter at a auction. Or the majority and thousands of horse breeders who do actually care about there horses and a main concern is that they go to a good home. Not all the horses breeders are for slaughter, too raise there possibility for more profit from the slaughter market. Any one who does care about there horse and doesn't think of them as just a piece of property .The same as a bag of grain or bricks to do with what ever they like in order to make a little money. The vast majority of people do care about there horses .And they are all held in hostage to the horse slaughter business. For most the horses ending up being sold for slaughter are healthy sound horses that were a companion, recreation, or sport partner to someone. And do to bad luck and the horse meat market demand got sold for slaughter. Most of these animals were loved or cared about by some one at some time in there life. And there formal owner would be horrified to know they had later been sold for slaughter. 80 % of Americans are against horse slaughter. This large percentage of people agreeing on any issue is huge, And the percentage has been constantly growing. It's time for Congress to stand up for America, and for our ideals, and stop allowing our horses to be killed and served on dinner tables in France, Belgium and Japan

  7. Anonymous says:

    Horse slaughter has nothing to do with unwanted horses. It is about money. As long as there is horse slaughter it doesn't just encourage over breeding . It GARRENTEIS the continual over breeding of 130,000 horses a year to supply the profitable horse meat market demand for consumption in over sea Foreign countries. It creates a endless cycle of over breeding to fill the profitable horse slaughter market .When 92% of horses slaughtered are young, sound, healthy,and in good condition. It PROVES horse slaughter has NOTHING to do with old, starved, unwanted or injured horses. As in ANY business. If there is a market and money to be made for a product. There is going to be enough of that product produced to fill that profitable market. If fresh oranges are the equivalent of horses for LIVE human use. And orange juice is the equivalent of horses sold for slaughter.There are going to be enough oranges grown to fill the profitable market for both fresh oranges and orange juice. If there is a cattle meat market demand for 2 million cattle a year.There is going to be that many cattle raised. If it increased to 5 million cattle a year, there would soon be 5 million cattle a year raised.And if the horse meat demand raised from the present 130,000 to 500,00.There would soon be 500,000 so called unwanted excess horses bred a year. There not unwanted. There WANTED to fill the profitable house slaughter industry. It is IMPOSSIBLE the closing of the US slaughter plants can have ANY CONECTION with any present horse situation. Or that reopening them would be of any benefit. Because horse slaughter has never ended. Nothing has changed. There are just as many horses slaughtered now as when before the slaughter plants closed. IT as made ABSOLUTLY NO DIFFRENSE in the amount of horses being slaughtered. they are now just being bought and shipped out of the country to be slaughtered. NOT ONE more horse would have been slaughtered even if there had been 10 US horse slaughter plants still opened. Sense the horse slaughter business is driven by the by the law of supply and demand like any other business is.It has nothing to do with the number of unwanted horses, The horse slaughter kill buyers do not bye any more horses then what they have contracts for. And these contracts are based on the horse meat market demand. And the demand has and is already being meant. Any increase in unwanted horses was caused by the great economic downturn our country had which AFFECTED AND HURT ALL BUISNESSES. And the horse market already had built in to it the 130,000 excess horses that are sold to slaughter every year. So when hard economic times comes as it did, the slaughter market does nothing to reduce this. The ONLY affect the horse slaughter markets has on this is NEGITIVE. The rescues could very likely handle the amount of unwanted horses that were GIVEN to them by owners that no longer wanted them if they didn't have to endlessly be spending there resources in trying to compete with the kill buyers, To out bid and bye the horses to save from being bought bye the kill buyers.The profitable horse slaughter industry makes it impossible for horses rescues to be able to absorb even more horses caused by any economic turn down, .Even if the rescues were capable of buying out all horses in the slaughter market it could not help. As the demand for the horse meat market still would not have been supplied. So EVEN MORE horses would simply be bred to fill the profitable horse slaughter market. Horse rescues are held hostage by horse slaughter, People who have horses they love stolen and sold to horse slaughter plants and have said it will haunt them for the rest of their life are held hostage to horse slaughter. . And because of the quick kill and export, these slaughter plants have become a c

  8. Anonymous says:

    First, humane and slaughter should not be used in the same sentence. There is nothing about horse slaughter that is humane. The bolt gun used for stunng does not work correctly on horses. All you have to do is watch a few of the videos that are out there to understand that. Second, anybody who is slaughtering a sick, old, or starving animal for meat is the one who is sick. I challenge you to go the a slaughter plant and look at the animals. They are all fat and in good shape or that would defeat the whole purpose of meat wouldn' it? Greed plays the biggest role in horse slaughter. If there are so many horses out there that no one wants, then the breeders should take a good hard look at their business. If they were not breeding so many more horses than are needed then they would get more for the good ones.

  9. Anonymous says:

    As a Kansas farmer I do not want my tax dollars spent to inspect horse meat which will not be consumed here in the USA. becasue most people find the idea of eating our horses as repugnant. I want my tax dollars used to insure the safety of the food we Americans do eat--our beef needs more diligent inspection-- see the four pat KC Star article "Beef's Raw Edges" from Jan 2013..Our poultry plants needs more oversight. Our vegetable fields need more oersight in their handling (eg. Rocky Ford cantalopes). Other issues aside, the dollars fo inspection make this a non starter..

  10. Anonymous says:

    One can only hope it does not. Horses value has always been in the service they provide us: the speed, athleticism, genes/breeding, and recreation. As meat they're worth mere pennies per pound. As a horse owner myself, I think I speak for most of us by saying I don't want our horses reduced to a mere meat commodity. Also consider the huge problems inherent with classifying horses as a meat animal: use of banned drugs, no traceability for disease control or contamination, the promotion of theft, and the difficulty in maintaining minimum equine welfare standards. Economically it makes no sense: the meat is being produced for export. Their top buyer is Europe. But the EU won't import horsemeat if the horses were given banned drugs, and since the US doesn't have a drug administration 'passport' document as is done in Europe, there is no way to prove if a horse is free of bute or other banned drugs. Why dump all this money into refitting a processing plant when the EU is phasing out meat from untraceable or non-compliant countries?

  11. Anonymous says:

    Kind if ironic that Valley Meats is blaming "special interests" for their inability to start slaughtering horses. Everyone with half a brain knows it's the cattle and meat industry in general who are pushing the efforts to reestablish horse slaughter in this country. How much more of a "special interest" do you get than that? 1.) Horse slaughter has *nothing* to do with care or concern over "unwanted" or "starving and neglected" horses. But that's a brilliant angle put together once again by the meat industry to try and deceive people who may not like the idea of slaughtering horses, but have been led to believe it is the "humane" alternative to "starvation." What an absolute crock of you-know-what. 2.) Horses are NOT RAISED NOR REGULATED AS FOOD ANIMALS. What part of that fact is it that the "meat people" aren't understanding? It seems like such a simple concept. 3.) Horse slaughter, as an industry has a bleak history of not only humane violations, but for deplorable environmental and social impacts on the communities that are unfortunate enough to have to live with one in their midst. How about a TRUTH CAMPAIGN? Why don't the Meat People simply come out and say, "Hey! Killing animals is our biz -- Of course we don't REALLY care about "starving and neglected" horses, but we must be able to kill horses to protect our "right" to kill other animals." How about that angle? No? Yeah, didn't think so.

  12. Anonymous says:

    The person who suggested that the price would go up, obviously never had a Econ 101 course. The breeders, with their artificial insemination have glutted the market. Breeders have become an equine equivalence to puppy mills. That is the issue. The breeders, and then they use their own created problem as the reason they should be able to throw their own horses out as garbage. There is a reason 3-4 million dogs and cats are EUTHANIZED every year and not slaughtered because of the glut of dogs into the market. When there was horse slaughter here, horse theft was huge!!! Many beloved and well care for companion horses were stolen and sent to slaughter. I know of several owners where this, indeed, happened.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I have seen how hard people and organizations try to find homes for "unwanted" horses and many SUCCEED. The responsibility lies with the people at the top; those that BREED horses indiscriminately. There is no proof that more horses are being neglected or starved because the slaughter houses have shut down. The only people who are reporting this are the pro-slaughter people. Numbers don't lie. People who neglect and abuse any sort of animal are going to abuses them whether they have a means to "dump" them or not. They are evil people. There are more organizations than ever before trying to help these unwanted horses. The majority of horses WORK for a living; they earn their keep. They are riding horses, work horses, sport horses, etc. They deserve a decent retirement; not punishment by being brutally and savagely murdered! And guess what people, not everything is about the almighty dollar!! If you can't afford horses for whatever reason, get a different hobby.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I have great admiration for the American farmer – that ends today! How dare you even suggest wasting my tax dollars on killing an American horse to feed Japan, etc? Let them kill their own if they must. Do any of you live by the words of God? The equine is unclean. You should be pushing to raise funds to protect the very same animal that built your industry on its back. How far would this nation have gotten without them? You cannot take all of your profits with you when you pass but someone is going to have a great deal of questions as to why you are killing his creation. Earl Carter, WY

  15. Anonymous says:

    There is a saying that statistics can make a lie look like the truth. The so called surge in horses to slaughter is it coorilation to the thousands of BLM rounded up wild horses that are being illegally sold for $10 to slaughter buyers like Tom Davis and sent through Texas to increase the count. Horses are being illegally stolen with BLM freezebrands burn't off their necks. This gives the appearance to justify an increase in numbers. Additionally horses rejected for slaughter at the MExican border are turned loose by kill buyers near roads and housing developments called "staging" is used to clammer support for creating false statisctics. Pleaze This is not the first time thee tactics have been used to get investors lured into a million dollar a day european market.... Any one remember Ostrich Egg Farms?

  16. Anonymous says:

    horse meat goes for 30 to 40 dollars a pound in europe, the meat never fed the poor humans and never will. Horse slaughter is an underhanded despicable business based on greed. (and horses get butchered alive) Most American horse owners are against horse slaughter, their horses are companion pets.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Horse slaughter would ruin the trust and integrity of USDA BEEF as evidenced by the sickening European scandel of 75% horse meat found in Burger King meat suppliers. Americans do not want horses slaughtered, do not eat horsemeat , do not want it and to continue to push this issue is going to ruin, absolutely ruin the USA Beef markets. Why would you support this issue for a few snakeoil salesmen trying to sell you a "get rich on horse meat" scheme when Europe is closing the market down? You might as well smelt lead and make plutonium as that is what you will be doing to the land and people. Horse Slaughter houses were closed for reasons, and those reasons have not changed and only gotten stronger. Water shortgage, hay, grain crops ,global warming vet bills etc are 1000 times more behind the Prop men and see the face of Belgium and China employing migrant workers - while trashing America.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Horses were once a respected valued and cherished companion and work partner when people trully were proud of their work ethics. You would not slap your spouse no more than neglect your child or those that relied on you for care whether you were a man or woman. Now everything is "Disposable" as exhibiting by child abuse, sexual predators on children and violence. To say that horses are starved and neglected because heinious slaughterhouses were closed is to say that a lack of abortions causing child abuse. There is no rational link. If you think a child abuser is going to stop becaue there is a so called solution like adoption, than you are wrong. If a personcau is neglecting or abusing a horse then opening a slaughterhouse will not stop thatanymore than openinga prison will stop crime. Horses are abused and neglected because of the mindset of the person. Thinking "Oh I will stop neglecting and starving and abusing my horse because I can get $100 at a slaughter auction " is not going to happen. There are thousands of UNFIT horse owners who need to surrender, sell, donate or voluntarily turn them into the rescues etc. To say a slaughterhouse will "be the final solution to the problem" is as insane as the inhumanity of war. When did killing a wife stop a husband from being an abuser?

  19. Anonymous says:

    The horse is a companion animal and labeled as such by the FDA. Their meat is highly toxic due to everyday medications we give our companions to be free of aches and pains. They are a fright and flight animal that cannot with stand the slaughter process and there is no way to that make humane – as shown by countless studies. A horse is not cattle and cattle are not police officers, used by our military, fought our pass wars, stood stall in riots, used to pull the casket of a passing President, used as therapy animals for those with autism, MS and, etc. Kindly spare me any crocodile tears of concern for the welfare of the equine. Sending them to a violent death to become a foreigners meal (on our dime!) is not welfare. If any horse owner is so irresponsible and cannot afford to euthanize, a bullet cost $0.50 and can end the life of a horse without fear and drama and, yes, profit. Do not ignore the mayors who have had to deal with slaughter all but ruining their towns. Google it. Jobs you say? It has been documented that the vast majority of those working in such an industry where in fact undocumented and paid no taxes. Do you truly believe a few low paying jobs will fix an economy? A dead horse also destroys the pay check of the vet., the black smith, the hay farmer, the grain supplier, the saddle maker, etc. You have enough to eat and true Americans view the horse an icon of our Freedom. Thank you, F Belardino

  20. Anonymous says:

    The GAO report was unable to provide any actual numbers and or studies to support their assertions. Let's not forget that at the same time slaughter ended in this country, the economy took a nose dive. Independent studies have been done and were unable to prove any of the alleged abandoned horses stories alleged by the United Horsemen representative, Sue Wallis. Let's not forget that the GAO report also recommended that horse slaughter be banned completely as well as the transport of US horses for slaughter. As an agriculture publication I must ask how you can be in support of horse slaughter. We take pride in this country of our agriculture and yet we do not raise horses in this country for food. Therefore they are not raised under food safety guidelines as our beef and pork etc are. As such our horses are given a pharmacopia of medications and substances to keep them healthy, many of which are banned from use in ANY animal intended for human consumption. Banned because they do not have a withdrawal period. What a contradiction in standards. There is a great deal of documentation which shows that horses are shipped every day which have had medications like Bute. Race horses going straight from the track to the slaughter plant and to the table in less than 7 days. The next argument is that slaughter is needed for a base line dollar for horses... if you are a breeder and must rely on slaughter then perhaps you should not be in the breeding business. The major market for US horse meat is the EU, in July of this year that market goes away with the EU new regs... horse slaughter is about supply and demand. There is nothing altruistic about it, perhaps individual states should start enforcing neglect laws and or strengthen existing laws to protect horses. To say that the slaughter option went away is a complete and bogus lie, the option is still there and has been there... most people however, when faced with economic hardships do not want to send their horses to slaughter. 80% of the US population is opposed to horse slaughter, when will you people understand, the FDA classifies horses as companion animals and just like our cats and dogs... we don't eat horses. Jo-Claire Corcoran Equine Welfare Alliance

  21. Anonymous says:

    Yes, it makes good economic sense. This would put value back in a horse and when there is value in it you will take better care of the animal. Besides, people are starving in the world why bury them?