Last Friday bad news for horses hit when a federal judge cleared the way for horse slaughterhouses to start operating as soon as this week, but an emergency injunction may hold companies off for a little longer.
We haven’t slaughtered horses on U.S. soil since 2007 when the last plants were shut down and an appropriations bill banned funding for inspections of horse meat by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), but the ban on funding for inspections was overturned in 2011. It didn’t take long after that for a greedy few to start figuring out how they could get a piece of the action and start killing horses here.
Since then, companies from five states have submitted applications to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) for permission to slaughter horses, while some states and cities have taken steps to keep this predatory industry out.
This summer, the USDA approved the first permits to allow slaughterhouses for horses to operate. Animal advocacy groups, including Front Range Equine Rescue and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), among others, quickly filed a lawsuit in July claiming the USDA violated federal law by failing to conduct required environmental assessments of the horse slaughter facilities it approved in New Mexico, Missouri and Iowa, including one for a company that already has a horrible track record – New Mexico’s Valley Meat Company LLC.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge Christina Armijo tossed the lawsuit. The good news is that on Monday, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver issued a temporary injunction barring inspections in New Mexico and Missouri after the equine advocates appealed Friday’s ruling, which means horses are still safe from being slaughtered here, for now at least.
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and many others have vowed to stop horse slaughter by concentrating on state and federal bans. A few states including Texas, Illinois, California and New Jersey have bans in place, while others including Maine have been fighting to keep it out. It’s not surprising that no one seems to want this industry setting up shop in their backyards. It comes with a long history of causing environmental problems, lowering property values, horse theft, increased crime and a horrifying level of cruelty to horses. Not to mention it’s something that will only benefit those involved and foreign owned businesses.
Supporters continue to argue that slaughter is the best option for sick, old and unwanted horses, but most of the ones who enter the pipeline are perfectly sound and healthy; they just had the bad luck of belonging to someone who refused to make the extra effort to find them a new home or cough up the cost to have them euthanized by a vet.
Some suspect kill buyers dumping horses who are rejected for slaughter near the border are actually responsible for a majority of the stories and beliefs surrounding the “crisis” of unwanted and abandoned horses in the U.S. If slaughter were banned and there were no kill buyers at auctions, they might actually turn into a safer place for people who want to sell horses. It would at least make it easier for rescues who wouldn’t have to bid against them to take horses in.
Whatever supporters say, allowing slaughter in the U.S. is not an improvement to shipping them across the border to Canada or Mexico and does nothing to address any of the issues of abuse, neglect or overpopulation. All it does is give people an incentive to keep breeding and to make a profit off the suffering that is inherent in transporting and slaughtering horses for human consumption.
While equine advocates are playing the stop and go game with the courts over USDA inspections, they are calling on Congress to pass the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act to ban horse slaughter in the U.S. for good, which will protect both horses and consumers by banning the sale and transport of horses intended for slaughter and their meat.
Please sign and share the petition asking Congress to pass the SAFE Act.
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