Lawsuit Filed to Block Horse Slaughter
(July 2, 2013)—In response to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s decision to allow horse slaughter facilities to resume operating on U.S. soil, animal protection organizations have filed suit against the agency and asked for an immediate injunction. The Humane Society of the United States, Front Range Equine Rescue, Marin Humane Society, Horses for Life Foundation, Return to Freedom and five private individuals are suing under the National Environmental Protection Act, due to the agency’s failure to conduct the necessary environmental review before authorizing horse slaughterhouses to operate.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture granted an inspection permit to a discredited horse slaughter plant operator in New Mexico, bringing the nation closer to its first horse slaughter operation since federal courts and state lawmakers shuttered the last three U.S.-based plants in 2007. The USDA has let it be known that it may also approve horse slaughter plants in Iowa and Missouri in the coming days. Meanwhile, U.S. House and Senate appropriations committees voted in June to halt all funding for horse slaughter in FY 2014, which means that the federal government could spend millions of taxpayer dollars to start up 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 at The HSUS, 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. 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.”
Hilary Wood, president of Front Range Equine Rescue, 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 U.S. America’s horses are not food.”
Allondra Stevens, founder of Horses For Life Foundation, 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.”
Neda DeMayo, president of Return To Freedom, 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.”
Any facility slaughtering thousands of horses will necessarily be processing the blood, organs and remains of animals whose tissues and blood may contain significant amounts of dangerous substances, which are either known to be dangerous, or which have never been tested on humans and therefore present completely unknown dangers. At least six applications for horse slaughter inspections have been filed with the USDA.
The plaintiffs are represented in the case by Schiff Hardin, LLP and attorneys within The HSUS’ Animal Protection Litigation section.
- Last month, the U.S. House and Senate Appropriations committees voted to block funding for inspections of horse slaughter plants. President Obama’s proposed FY 2014 budget also included a request for Congress to prevent tax dollars from supporting horse slaughter.
- The HSUS and FRER also filed petitions with USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to declare horsemeat unfit for human consumption. USDA denied that petition.
- According to a national poll conducted last year, 80 percent of Americans disapprove of horse slaughter.
- “Kill buyers” gather up horses from random sources and profit by selling healthy horses for slaughter that bring the best price per pound for their meat. USDA reports show that approximately 92 percent of American horses going to slaughter are healthy and would otherwise be able to go on to lead productive lives.
- The methods used to kill horses rarely result in quick, painless deaths, as horses often endure repeated blows to render them unconscious and sometimes remain conscious during the slaughtering process. When horse slaughter plants previously operated in the U.S., the USDA documented severe injuries to horses in the slaughter pipeline, including broken bones and eyeballs hanging from a thread of skin.
- The Safeguard American Food Exports Act, H.R. 1094 / S. 541, introduced this year by U.S. Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Reps. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., is a bipartisan measure that would outlaw horse slaughter operations in the U.S., end the current export of American horses for slaughter abroad, and protect the public from consuming toxic horsemeat.