Plans to start slaughtering horses have been put on hold thanks to a federal judge who stopped companies in New Mexico and Iowa from opening up shop this week.
U.S. District Judge Christina Armijo issued a restraining order in a lawsuit brought by several organizations (The Humane Society of the United States, Front Range Equine Rescue, Marin Humane Society, Horses for Life Foundation, Return to Freedom) and five individuals, alleging that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) failed to complete the proper environmental studies before issuing permits that would allow slaughterhouses to operate.
“We’ve won a temporary but life-saving reprieve for horses, and it’s good news indeed that the kill boxes in New Mexico and Iowa will be empty of horses in the weeks ahead,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society, in a statement. “We’ll continue to make arguments when our case resumes in a month that these plants cannot legally operate because of inadequate environmental review.”
The groups argued that slaughterhouses should have to undergo an environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act and noted that horses are given a host of drugs that are not approved for animals raised for human consumption. These drugs are either known to be dangerous or haven’t been tested on humans and have been found not only in horse meat, but in waste water and sludge from previous plants.
While opponents argue that this is just a way to stall opening slaughter plants based on our love for horses, the negative impacts of slaughterhouses on communities and the environment are serious issues that have been well documented. Valley Meat, which is fighting to open in New Mexico, already has a record of failing to properly dispose of waste, along with a history of animal cruelty.
The two Texas plants, Beltex and Dallas Crown, along with Cavel International in Illinois, were all shut down in 2007 and all had a long history of causing environmental and economic woes for the communities they operated in.
Paula Bacon, Kaufman’s former Mayor, wrote an open letter to state legislators to share some of the hardships her community faced as a result of housing Dallas Crown, including references to reports the former City Manager, Police Chief and Public Works Director. Some of the problems included decaying meat that attracted vermin and carrion, blood flowing in ditches near the plant, moving offal through the city in uncovered containers that leaked, significant odors in the area and overloading the waste water treatment plant.
The facility repeatedly failed to meet the environmental standards that were required or pay fines levied against it, which ended up costing the city more than it made in the end.
These problems can’t be dismissed as emotional anti-slaughter propaganda. The negative impacts of slaughterhouses on horses, communities and the environment far outweigh any of the supposed benefits that opening these facilities could possibly bring.
Despite reality, proponents continue to claim that slaughter is humane and necessary to deal with the problem of old, unwanted, neglected and abandoned horses, but a recent study conducted by the Equine Welfare Alliance (explained in this Youtube video) shows that the GAO report that claimed the rise in abuse and abandonment was linked to plant closures is untrue, even though the data was used to instill the idea that there is some massive welfare crisis going on. The actual numbers show cases of abuse were declining after this industry was shut down in the United States.
A lack of slaughter facilities doesn’t cause horses to suffer. Irresponsible people do.
Speaking about slaughter and possible solutions, the founder of Horses For Life Foundation, Allondra Stevens, said in a statement:
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.
In this case, Armijo has agreed to schedule a hearing within 30 days on whether to grant the plaintiffs a preliminary injunction, but there’s still hope that this industry may never take hold. Last month the House and Senate Appropriations committees voted to block USDA funding for horse slaughter plants, without which slaughterhouses won’t be allowed to operate on U.S. soil.
The Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, which will prohibit the slaughter of horses for human consumption in the U.S. and ban their export abroad for that purpose, is also still on the table.
Please sign and share the petition urging Congress to pass the SAFE Act to protect communities, consumers and horses from this cruel and predatory industry.
Photo credit: Thinkstock
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