GAO report on cessation of domestic horse slaughter released

The U.S. Government Accountability Office released its report today on the impact of the cessation of domestic horse slaughter.

It is a 68 page report with a number of arguable points. However, the important sections to note are Conclusions and Matters for Congressional Consideration.

Matters for Congressional Consideration reads:

In light of the unintended consequences on horse welfare from the cessation of domestic horse slaughter, Congress may wish to reconsider the annual restrictions first instituted in fiscal year 2006 on USDA’s use of appropriated funds to inspect horses in transit to, and at, domestic slaughtering facilities. Specifically, to allow USDA to better ensure horse welfare and identify potential violations of the Commercial Transportation of Equines to Slaughter regulation, Congress may wish to consider allowing USDA to again use appropriated funds to inspect U.S. horses being transported to slaughter. Also, Congress may wish to consider allowing USDA to again use appropriated funds to inspect horses at domestic slaughtering facilities, as authorized by the Federal Meat Inspection Act. Alternatively, Congress may wish to consider instituting an explicit ban on the domestic slaughter of horses and export of U.S. horses intended for slaughter in foreign countries.

From a humane standpoint, we feel that an outright ban of the slaughter of America’s horses the right and only effective alternative.

From a practical standpoint, giving the USDA even more funding for horse slaughter related inspections will not achieve the desired effect, and therefore neither a sound or reasonable alternative.

When the U.S. is looking for ways to cut spending, not increase it, we see no benefit to our horses, the horse industry, or the nation’s economy in re-establishing USDA horse slaughter related inspections with or without the proposed enhanced funding.

An “explicit ban on the domestic slaughter of horses and export of U.S. horses intended for slaughter in foreign countries” is the only humane and viable option of the two presented in the GAO report.

VIEW THE REPORT

GAO_Report_Cessation_Horse_Slaughter_June_2011 Pdf, 68 pp.

6 thoughts on “GAO report on cessation of domestic horse slaughter released”

  1. When it comes down it there are no “unintended consequences”on horse welfare with the cessation of horse slaughter in the US. Regardless of what these pro-slaughter people want the public to believe there has been absolutely NO increase in the number of horses going to slaughter, albeit now it is the transport to countries that do it for the US.

    That said, the only solution is to completely stop the transport to Canada and Mexico. With this initiative will come the decline of slaughter in NA primarily because the contribution of US horses is the major source of horse meat in NA.

    I applaud the US for outlawing this horrendous practice and hope that law will be passed to stop the transport. Prohibition of the transport of horses from the US is clearly a major roadblock with respect to the meat market that exists in NA.

    We should not be pointing fingers at anyone, doing so only exacerbates the situation. The key to success is to work together to end it and supporting the initiative in the US is paramount to the current situation simply because of the numbers involved.

    We are all in together, for the horses.

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  2. I have been a professional in the horse industry for going on 40 years. I’ve galloped Thoroughbred racehorses in the early-mid-’70’s (where I got a real eye-opening experience regarding the ugliness of the racing industry and the throw-away mentality of the owners, breeders, trainers), I currently still train hunter/jumpers, dressage horses, pleasure/trail horses, specialize training novice handlers with their untrained, “green” horses, I “gentle” wild horses, etc. I’ve owned and managed many boarding, training, breeding facilities through the years beginning when I was 18 years old (so 1977). I’ve taught a 2-credit Equine Management course at the college level for many years until 2007. I’ve been a carded judge in various disciplines of showing. I currently run a private rescue where we have 36 horses, 3 burros, and a 16 year old pet cow named Karma, along with dogs, cats and ferrets. My experience in the horse industry is very broad in other words.

    Here’s my “read” on whats going on:

    The mass production breeders (generally Quarter Horses, Thoroughbreds, Paint Horses, Arabians and some Appaloosas, so not the “specialty breeds” such as Warmbloods, Morgans, Andalusians, gaited breeds, Gypsy Vanners, etc to the degree that I see with the more well known breeds named above) individually produce hundreds of foals (+/-) every year. Of these hundreds, they perhaps get *maybe* 10-20 that have potential in racing, reining, reined cow horse, hunter/jumpers, etc. The rest are not valuable because there are so many produced every year, so these money driven breeders dispose of their horses for FREE at the kill sales (and actually recoup a small amount of their breeding investment by selling the horse by the pound).

    Then we have these same breeders, and trainers and owners who have their horses competing in the big purse 3-year-old futurities which means they must start these horses as long-yearlings/early 2-year-olds in order for them to be competitive by the 3 year old events. Many of these horses wash-out of training because of injuries, and wear-and-tear on immature bodies, while many don’t have the mental capabilities to do the work, and many have to be sustained on drugs just to keep them sound enough to compete at the futurities. So now we have more horses going to the kill sale if they are now mentally and/or physically unsound and not well bred enough to go for yet more breeding, or if they are a castrated (gelded) male horse. So the breeders, trainers, owners are once again disposing of horses for free, so they have no incentive not to start horses too young in rigorous, repetitive training, or to breed fewer horses.

    Then we have the old breeding stock horses who have either out-lived their breeding capabilities and/or their particular breeding is being phased out of a breeding program, and since most of these horses either haven’t been ridden in many, many years, are not sound for riding anyway, or were never started under saddle in the first place (and this happens a lot with horses who were only shown at the top levels in halter showing where a lot of the money is at with various breeds such as Quarter Horses, Arabians and Paint Horses, and they were never even started under saddle and after doing well at the big competitions in halter, they went to the breeding shed to produce more horses with their lineage), and went straight to the breeding farm, they too are taken to the kill sale where they are disposed of FREE of charge.

    Since it is not the typical backyard horse owner and/or backyard breeder who is flooding the kill sales with unwanted horses (and I have a weekly kill sale 25 minutes from me where I have rescued a lot of these horses I describe above), lets look at who benefits from horse slaughter here or across our borders:

    1. as I’ve already pointed out, the mass production breeders.

    2. the trainers who get these horses in training and ruin them at a young, immature age.

    3. the owners who have a FREE disposal system in place for their unwanted horses.

    4. the breeders AGAIN when they dispose of their unwanted breeding stock horses for FREE.

    5. the horsetraders who go around getting horses from some of these breeders, trainers and owners for FREE and sell them at the kill sale and/or get a load of horses together and ship them to slaughterhouses in Mexico and/or Canada.

    6. the kill buyers at the kill sale who buy these horses cheap, get a truckload together and ship them to slaughter.

    7. the people who transport these horses to the slaughter plant.

    8. the slaughterhouse workers who are usually paid minimum wage, and many of them are felons and/or illegals.

    9. the owners of the foreign-owned slaughterhouse.

    10. the butchers, restaurants, etc, in foreign countries who sell the horse meat.

    11. the citizens of foreign countries who pay top dollar ($18.00 a pound on up) for this delicacy.

    *Contrary to what the pro-slaughter people would have uninformed people believe, horsemeat is not going overseas to feed the poor and needy. It sells for a lot of money, so its not being given away.

    *It is also not typically being fed to zoo animals or big cats in rescues and sanctuaries. I have a friend who has a non-profit where he rescues and educates the public regarding the endangered species of Siberian Tigers (www.sabrefoundationinc.org). He is extremely fussy about what his big cats are fed, and does not ever feed horsemeat because he won’t take a chance of poisoning his cats with drug tainted meat. None of the other rescues and sanctuaries that he knows feed horse meat either.

    *And there is NO WAY we are going to feed criminals in the prisons and jails horse meat because of the liability risk of tainted meat. Aplastic anemia is one condition that is prevelant in humans who ingest even small amounts of Bute, a common anti-inflammatory used in a lot of horses (not just working horses, but also for arthritis in older horses, horses recuperating from wounds, surgeries, etc).

    *There is also NO WAY that horse meat will be fed to school children for reasons stated above.

    *Policing the administration of drugs given to horses would be impossible to do considering that many of these drugs have a very long life in a horses system, so it would not be cost effective (once again, with our taxpayer dollars I’m sure) to test all of the slaughter bound horses and then put a “hold” on the thousands upon thousands who would test positive for drugs. Wild horses are also not immune to having long lasting drugs in their systems such as birth control drugs that we have no idea what problems could be caused by the ingestion of their meat.

    *We as a culture in the United States do not eat horse meat as a rule (last sold in the US during World War II), so from an unemotional standpoint, horse slaughter does not benefit me or other taxpayers one iota, and in fact, it costs us money in various ways such as the use of our highways by big trucks hauling horses; towns, counties and cities where horse slaughter plants are located having higher crime rates (please visit http://www.animalstudies.msu.edu/Slaughterhouses_and_Increased_Crime_Rates.pdf for an interesting, impartial study that was done); inspectors at the borders; etc.

    If horse slaughter were banned entirely both here in the United States, and also banning the export of our American horses for slaughter, we would see the breeders “rein themselves in” (pun intended) in regard to not producing so many foals every year, owners not paying to start so many horses so young and crippling them, having so many breeding stock horses that have outlived their usefulness, etc, because when it would actually cost people to humanely euthanize their horses and discard the bodies, they would absolutely stop their irresponsible and greedy practices because they don’t want to spend the money.

    Our taxpayer dollars could also then be spent on euthanasia clinics, castration clinics, sanctuaries and rescues, education programs for horse owners on how to economically manage their horses while still keeping the horses healthy, and many other programs. I also wouldn’t have a problem with some of my taxpayer dollars going toward incentives to offer big purse 5-year-old futurities with the terms being that any horse competing in these events cannot have been competed AT ALL until after the age of 4. This would encourage the breeders, owners and trainers to breed fewer horses for more quality, not start them so young (because NO HORSE fully develops skeletally before the age of 4 years old, and many develop until they are 8) and physically and/or mentally ruin them, and take a little more time in starting them correctly under saddle so that if they aren’t used in a breeding program, they can be given away, or sold, as riding horses (and I have rehabilitated and retrained thousands of off-the-track Thoroughbreds for careers in hunter/jumpers, dressage, endurance, pleasure/trail riding, etc). We could also offer incentives to the breeders to either humanely euthanize their old breeding stock, or pay them a stipend to keep them at their farm in retirement. I will never agree however with ANY of my taxpayer dollars going to support horse slaughter and the greediness and unempathetic horse culture that we have now.

    As it is now, as long as horse slaughter is not banned entirely, the people who are creating the problem of excess horses have absolutely no incentives to be responsible as long as they have a FREE killing and disposal system in place for their unwanted horses.

    Regarding those who say usually one of three things as excuses for why we “need” horse slaughter, here’s my reply to them:

    1. Reason/excuse: “people neglect their horses that they can’t take care of anymore”–Reply: we already have laws in place to confiscate and prosecute people who neglect and abuse horses. If so much of our taxpayers dollars weren’t going to illogical and wasteful programs, more money could be spent on hiring more animal control officers, horse specialists, etc, to deal with this problem.

    2.Excuse/reason: “people are turning their horses loose because they can’t afford to feed them”–Reply–it is simply not true that there are herds of domestics running around all over our country. When I hear “reports”, I contact the various towns, cities, counties where there is supposedly a problem and their replies are always the same: they’ve had a few loose horses, and its usually a case of the horses escaping from a facility orhome and they are reunited with their owners. Also, if there were so many horses running around loose free for the taking, then it stands to reason that we should have horse theft going down, which is not the case because it’s on the rise again. I also live in Northern Nevada surrounded by BLM (public) land. I see small bands of wild horses quite frequently, however, I do not see any domestic horses crusing around alone or with the wild horse bands. They are definetely wild horses I see, NOT domestics as evidenced by the fact that when you approach them, they definetely have never been handled by humans (so not the typical evasiveness we see in many domestics) and want to have nothing to do with humans.

    3. Reason/excuse: “this is the only work these people know because they have been horsetraders, or killbuyers, or transporters, or breeders, or trainers, or etc, etc, etc, for many, many years” Reply–this is bogus because there are many of us (myself included) who have had to switch careers in middle age for various reasons. When people use this excuse it just tells me they are lazy in mind and body, not that they couldn’t be employed doing something else, they just don’t WANT to do anything else.

    If horse slaughter is not banned entirely, then I believe we the taxpaying public need some controls and mechanisms put in place to police those who will continue with their activities for as long as they can to the detriment of horses and other humans. For breeders, they should have a quota assigned for foals produced and if they go over that quota, they should be taxed or fined for each and every foal over the quota. Sure, we are a capitalistic society, but we also have laws in place for those people who are constantly using and abusing our system at costs to other taxpayers.

    Quite often, I ask people a few unemotional questions (as if I don’t even like horses):

    1. how do I benefit from horse slaughter? and 2. since we know I don’t benefit from horse slaughter in any way, how do we keep horse slaughter from costing me money as a taxpayer? NO ONE has been able to answer me those questions so that it has a positive spin in my favor.

    In closing, mostly I outlined the issues with horse slaughter, but I would be happy to also discuss my opinions regarding the capturing of wild horses, the ranching, mining and energy industries on our taxpayer public lands, cost to taxpayers for removing the wild horses and burros, the reasons they are being removed, their mismanagement both in the wild, long term “warehousing” holding. The majority of the American public is completely against horse slaughter here in the United States, and also the shipping of our American horses across the borders for slaughter. This actually comes from people who aren’t really that educated about this issue, but find the whole thing “distasteful” (pun intended again). Whenever I educate people both from an emotional and unemotional standpoint about horse slaughter, 9 out of 10 are completely against horse slaughter, and the ones who are in favor are usually people who directly or indirectly benefit from it. There is absoulutely no reason we “need” horse slaughter in the United States or shipping horses for slaughter over the borders, however, education is key in exposing the lies told by pro-horse slaughter people (who are very much in the minority, but with the backing of some very powerful lobbies in Washington D.C., it can seem like they are in the majority) and who are the ONLY ones who benefit from it. If anyone has any questions, or wishes to discuss any of my statements or opinions, please feel free to contact me.

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    1. Laura ~ What an incredible comment! Would it be okay with you if I re-blogged and re-posted this in as many places as I can think of? Everyone needs to see this!

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  3. I totally agree about banning horse slaughter being the only humane and viable option. Giving the USDA more funds for ANYTHING is a waste of money, at least judging from their performance in the past.

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    1. I agree with you 100%. NO MORE FUNDING FOR THE USDA, BUT ADD BLM for thier cruel and unnescesary roundups. Salazar and Abby should be run out of office, if not the country.

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