GAO asked to investigate cruelty to horses (US)

Source: Press Release

Ithaca, New York (June 10, 2009) The Animal Law Coalition and Animals Angels have asked the U.S. Government Accounting Office (GAO) to investigate gross violations of humane laws and regulations of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in connection with the commercial slaughter of horses.

The request for a GAO investigation comes in the wake of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for documents which were subsequently released by the USDA. Alarming cruelty and violations of regulations were documented in several hundred photos taken during 2005 at U.S. slaughterhouses by USDA investigators.

Though horse slaughter ended in the U.S. in 2007, American horses are still sold for slaughter in Mexico and Canada. Proponents of horse slaughter have insisted on the re-opening of horse slaughter plants, saying U.S. laws protect horses from cruelty unlike Mexico and Canada.

Documents and photos released by the USDA, however, refute such claims. The FOIA shows horses bound for slaughter in the U.S. endured shockingly cruel treatment. Photographs documented horses with legs ripped off, eyeballs hanging on their cheeks and other severe injuries.

Earlier GAO documents raise additional disturbing humane issues. A 2004 GAO report found horses were slaughtered while conscious, which are considered significant violations of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.

Sonja Meadows, Executive Director of Animals’ Angels, a Maryland based animal welfare organization, said, “We are asking the GAO to thoroughly examine the ineffectiveness of laws in preventing documented cruelty and inhumane practices. It seems clear from the USDA FOIA, earlier GAO reports, ours and others’ investigations, that horse slaughter is a predatory business whose economics require cruel and inhumane practices. It is definitely not, as horse slaughter advocates would have the public believe, a service motivated by altruistic concerns or humane practices.”

Horses are slaughtered for consumption overseas, primarily in parts of Europe and Asia. A USDA study shows that 92% of the American horses at slaughter are young, healthy and without behavioral problems, refuting claims that horse slaughter provides a service in disposing of horses that are old, lame, sick or crazy.

Meadows said, “Irrefutable evidence of brutality is already quite plentiful, unfortunately. We believe the GAO’s report will be the definitive wakeup call to the new USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and the Obama administration to push for an immediate ban on horse slaughter.”

A copy of the request for a GAO investigation is attached at the end of this article along with Exhibits 1, 2, and 3 also submitted with the request.

Go here to review the documents including photos released by the USDA.

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