9 Feb 2013 - USDA, GET MOVING!

Since the first of the year I’ve heard from several people asking the question. . .“What is happening with horse slaughter in the United States?” Well, my quick response is “Nothing, except perhaps a courtroom battle.”

My good friend in Washington, DC, the agricultural environmental lawyer, Gary Baise, provided me with an update recently and, speaking of the courtroom, he said in October of last year, Valley Meat Company in New Mexico filed a lawsuit against the U. S. Department of Agriculture alleging that it is not complying with a Congressional mandate which re-instituted funding in 2012 for inspection of the slaughter of horses.

A little bit of history on this . . . the slaughter of horses in this country came to an end in 2006 when Congress, in its infinite wisdom after listening to emotional pleas from Hollywood stars, passed a prohibition on USDA using federal funds to inspect horse slaughter plants. That effectively closed the three horse slaughter plants in the United States Then they re-thought the situation and new legislation approving USDA inspectors for horse slaughter facilities was approved November 18, 2011.

The change in thinking on Capitol Hill happened partially because of a study conducted by the General Accounting Office that was entitled "Action Needed to Address Unintended Consequences from Cessation of Domestic Slaughter". The report said basically "Congress made a mistake", something critics, including me, had been saying since 2006. The report said the neglect and abuse of horses had increased sharply and in Colorado, for example, they found a 60% increase since the slaughter ban was put in place. In addition, the horse slaughter market moved to Canada and Mexico, and many of the 138,000 horses that had been processed annually in this country simply moved across the border.

Based on conversations with many people in the industry. the "unintended consequences" have happened, owners who can no longer afford to feed or care for their horses turn them lose in parks and federal lands where they suffer disease, starvation and predator attacks and suffer a worse death than in a USDA inspected processing plant. The few "Save the Horse" farms have been overwhelmed and simply cannot handle the unwanted horses and if owners can't afford to feed their animals, they certainly can't handle the cost of disposing of the animals on the farm.

Finally, there is a market for horse meat for human consumption in other countries and the meat coming from our processing plants moved into export and provided a financial market for our unwanted horses. We know all animals will die, so why not handle the horse situation as humanely as possible. That's why Congress changed the law on funding in 2011.

But to this day, USDA has not provided inspectors to slaughter facilities such as Valley Meat Company, thus the lawsuit filed by Valley Meat against USDA, saying they need to provide the inspection funds. I fully agree, it's time to stop the abuse, and I urge USDA to abide by the Congressional mandate and provide the funds for inspectors.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.