Slaughter plants could open days after court hearing

American horses held in export pens in Texas and New Mexico before transported to slaughter in Mexico. © Kathy Milani/The HSUS
American horses held in export pens in Texas and New Mexico before transported to slaughter in Mexico. © Kathy Milani/The HSUS

An August 2 court hearing before a federal judge in New Mexico appears to be the last major hurdle remaining in the way of horse slaughter plants returning to the United States.

The judge will decide whether to issue a temporary restraining order to prevent plants from opening.

The bid for the restraining order has been filed by the Humane Society of the United States, Front Range Equine Rescue, the Marin Humane Society, the Horses for Life Foundation, Return to Freedom, and five private individuals.

They are suing the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) under the National Environmental Protection Act, alleging the agency failed to conduct the necessary environmental review before authorizing horse slaughterhouses to operate.

Reports out of the US suggest the Valley Meat Company plant in Roswell, New Mexico, and Responsible Transportation’s plant in Sigourney, Iowa, are set to open on August 5, just three days after the scheduled court hearing.

The USDA issued a so-called “grant of inspection” to each of the plants, saying it was required by law to grant the inspections if all federal requirements were met. It said it was obliged to assign meat inspectors to the plants.

The department said in a statement: “The Administration has requested Congress to reinstate the ban on horse slaughter. Until Congress acts, the department must continue to comply with current law.”

Slaughter plants have not operated on US soil for six years. The refusal by Congress to fund federal plant inspections effectively prevented the operation of plants, but the removal of the defunding language in an agriculture bill in 2011 opened the doors to the resumption of slaughter.

The animal protection groups challenging the approvals say the federal government could spend millions of taxpayer dollars to start inspections at horse slaughter plants, only to have Congress terminate the process in the coming months.

Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation with the Humane Society, said: “Horse slaughter plants pollute local water bodies with blood and offal, permeate the air with a foul stench, diminish property values and put horses through misery.

“The USDA’s decision to visit these horrors on the citizens of New Mexico, Missouri, and Iowa – without even conducting an environmental review first – is irresponsible, and a clear violation of federal law.”

Front Range Equine Rescue president Hilary Wood said: “The USDA has failed to consider the basic fact that horses are not raised as a food animal.

“Horse owners provide their horses with a number of substances dangerous to human health. To blatantly ignore this fact jeopardizes human health as well as the environment surrounding a horse slaughter plant.

“The negative consequences of horse slaughter will be felt immediately and over the long term if allowed to resume in the US. America’s horses are not food.”

The founder of the Horses For Life Foundation, Allondra Stevens, said: “The USDA’s decision to grant horse slaughter inspections is an outright insult and a betrayal to the overwhelming majority of Americans who are against horse slaughter, to the welfare of the animals themselves, and to consumer and environmental safety.

“With the environmental and food safety risks of horse slaughter operations, the FSIS is leading the USA down a reckless and dangerous path due to the toxic byproducts of horse slaughter.

“As a nation of horse lovers, our time and resources will be better spent thinking outside the slaughterbox, working to implement more programs and infrastructures that assist with horse rescue, retention and retirement solutions.”

Return To Freedom president Neda DeMayo said: “We join 80 percent of Americans in their opposition to horse slaughter. America is the original home of the horse and has never been a horse-eating culture.

“Horses have been our companions, fought battles with us, worked from sun up to sun down by our side. They have never abandoned us and we will not abandon them now. We will not have their blood on our hands.”

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5 thoughts on “Slaughter plants could open days after court hearing

  • July 18, 2013 at 5:57 am

    Wow if this Federal Judge does this, someone should check his personal finances because there is some major underhanded stuff going on to get these gruesome businesses open. Keep in mind anyone who is voting to open this in any office can be voted out and with 80 percent of the public opposed to horse slaughter that means whoever runs against them gets the 80 percentile vote to take their positions from them!

  • July 18, 2013 at 9:26 am

    We, the American people will not be held responsible for the illicit acts of those few who choose to do so. We do not support horse slaughter and do not support sending meat that is not fit for human consumption all over the world for that purpose! You can take that to the bank!

  • July 18, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    These plants are hardly different then any other beef slaughter plants. There will be a USDA inspector on site whenever the plant is operating and the horses will not suffer at all. Before meat from any of these plants can be used for human consumption the plants must go through rigorous inspections from whatever country the meet will be exported too. This is GREAT for the horse market, raising the value of all horses and reducing abuse and neglect.

  • July 22, 2013 at 7:25 am

    Horse slaughter is a highly expensive proposition for taxpayers.

    Each plant will cost taxpayers $400,000.00, according to this press release, for inspections. This issue crosses all party lines. Voters and politicians from all sides of the isle are against horse slaughter for a laundry list of reasons.

    Here is the press release:

    This is the worst economy since the Great Depression. In addition to the cost of the USDA inspecting plants, at a price tag of $400,000.00 per plant to U.S. taxpayers, the meat will not even be eaten in the U.S. Why should we, as American taxpayers, pay for these inspections?

    Additionally, we have to factor in the taxpayer expense of police officers who will likely be taking more reports on horse theft and making more investigations into horse theft.

    As a horse owner, the thought of horse theft and stolen horses ending up at slaughter concerns me greatly. I would hope that it would concern you, too. Many people think of their horses as family members.

    • July 22, 2013 at 7:26 am

      I am also against the USDA opening up inspections for the proposed horse slaughter plants in the United States because horses in the U.S. are not raised for human consumption. As a grower of corn, wheat and soybeans, having the USDA inspect horse slaughter plants concerns me as well.

      Horses are our friends and companions (at least they are my friends and companions), and as such they are treated with drugs like cats and dogs to a wide variety of vaccinations, bacterins, topical and oral treatments that are not approved for human consumption. We use gloves with topical treatments, because we don’t want equine drugs touching our skin, let alone consuming them.

      It’s not economical to raise horses for slaughter in the U.S., because it takes more money to raise a foal to maturity than the horse meat market is willing to pay. It’s an economical losing proposition. Therefore, the USDA has no business inspecting a horse slaughter plant that by default will be receiving horses that are not fit for human consumption. The horses they will be receiving have not been raised drug-free for human consumption.

      As a grower of corn, wheat and soybeans, the USDA’s reputation directly affects many. The European Union, which is where most of the horse meat would go, has a zero tolerance for Bute (Phenylbutazone) , which is routinely given to horses in the U.S. It is estimated that 90% of horses in the U.S. have been treated with this drug, not to mention all of the other drugs.

      There is no good way to test for all of these drugs on every horse destined for slaughter, which would need to be done, since they are not raised for human consumption in the U.S. Many tests would need to be run on each horse, and there is no way to do this in a timely fashion, especially given that the tests have to be run after the horse is dead, and that autopsies need to be performed within 24 hours. University testing facilities are not normally open for testing on the weekends, and it takes time to transport the dead body parts for testing.

      Most of the horses destined for slaughter are young or middle-aged, and in the prime of their lives. Two that have been rescued from slaughter have gone on and are now showing at the Morgan Grand National level.

      Here is information on what New Jersey has done regarding horse slaughter in the hopes that readers will take note:

      “The law prohibits anyone from knowingly slaughtering or selling a horse for human consumption.”


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