1. The FDA does not regulate equines as food animals. Americans don’t eat horses and other equines. American horses are not raised, fed and medicated within the FDA guidelines established for food animals, making them unfit and unsafe for human consumption. Equines are given all manner of drugs, steroids, de-wormers and ointments throughout their lives. Equines are not tracked and typically may have several owners. A kill buyer has no idea of the veterinary or drug history of a horse or other equine taken to slaughter, and many of the most dangerous drugs have no or a very long withdrawal period. A typical drug given routinely to equines like aspirin, phenylbutazone or Bute, is a carcinogen and can cause aplastic anemia in humans. It has no withdrawal period. The FDA bans bute in all food producing animals because of this serious danger to human health. The FDA and USDA would prohibit Americans from consuming horses because of this danger. Yet, neither the FDA nor the USDA prohibits the export of American horses for slaughter for human consumption. It is a grave risk to public health to continue to allow the export of American horses for slaughter for human consumption in other countries.
2. Equine slaughter has been devastating to the communities where slaughtering facilities have been located, with significant negative impacts including nuisance odors that permeated the surrounding towns to chronic sewer and environmental violations. Blood literally ran in the streets and waste from the facilities clogged sewers and piled up everywhere. This predatory practice produced few very low wage jobs, meaning workers and their families overran local resources like the hospitals and government services. This so called business brought in virtually no tax revenues and local governments incurred substantial enforcement costs in trying to regulate these facilities. The standard of living in these communities dropped during the time horse slaughter facilities operated. Good businesses refused to relocate there. As Paula Bacon, mayor of Kaufman, Texas during the time a horse facility operated there until 2007 said, “My community did not benefit. We paid.”
Recently, when officials in Hardin, Montana learned of a plan to build horse facilities in that state, the town council immediately unanimously passed Ordinance No. 2010-01 that prohibits the slaughter of more than 25 animals in a seven day period. The message is clear: Americans don’t want equine slaughter.
Equine slaughter has also been found to increase and abet horse theft in areas where facilities are located or horses are held for transport to slaughter.
3. Horse slaughter is not a means of controlling numbers of so-called unwanted, abandoned or neglected horses, but, rather, is a for-profit operation driven by a demand for horsemeat in some foreign countries. The USDA has confirmed more than 92% of horses that end up at slaughter are healthy; they are not unwanted, neglected or abused. Kill buyers are interested in buying the healthiest horses for horsemeat which is sold as a delicacy in some foreign countries.
The rise in numbers of horses in need and drop in horse prices is a result of the worst recession in memory. In fact, if slaughter controlled numbers of horses in need, there would be none as slaughter is still available and horses are sent to slaughter in the same numbers as before the 2007 closings of the slaughter houses that were located in the U.S. In fact, the availability of slaughter actually increases the numbers of excess horses and other equines on the market. Slaughter creates a salvage or secondary market that encourages overbreeding and adds to the problem of horses in need. Banning slaughter would reduce the number of excess horses and other equines.
Also, slaughter accounts for only about 3 cents for every $100 of the equine industry. It is absurd for anyone to suggest a limited salvage market could influence prices in the entire horse industry.
4. America’s iconic wild horses and burros which are supposed to be legally protected on public lands under the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act, have been illegally sent to slaughter, and, indeed, a Justice Department investigation has been launched to try to stop this. A ban on exports of horses and burros for slaughter for human consumption would greatly assist in the enforcement of this Act.
5. Equine slaughter is not humane euthanasia. The slaughter of horses and other equines simply cannot be made humane: Dr. Lester Friedlander, DVM & former Chief USDA Inspector, told Congress in 2008 that the captive bolt used to slaughter horses is simply not effective. Horses and other equines, in particular, are very sensitive about anything coming towards their heads and cannot be restrained as required for effective stunning. Dr. Friedlander stated, “These animals regain consciousness 30 seconds after being struck, they are fully aware they are being vivisected.” The Government Accountability Office and dozens of veterinarians and other witnesses have confirmed that ineffective stunning is common and animals are conscious during slaughter. It is simply not possible for USDA/APHIS to make equine slaughter humane and it is a myth to pretend otherwise.
6. The 2011 GAO report confirmed that USDA/APHIS has not – and cannot – enforce humane transport regulations for equines sent to slaughter. Changing a few words here and there in the regulations will not change this. USDA/APHIS allows the kill buyers and haulers to fill out and provide the documentation – which is routinely missing, incomplete or inaccurate – relied on for enforcement. It is impossible to enforce regulations when the information to determine violations is supplied by those USDA/APHIS is supposed to be regulating.
7. Equines are in danger and equine welfare is threatened as long as slaughter remains available, and only a federal law can stop exports of equines for slaughter for human consumption.