Thursday, August 2, 2012

Today's News

Equine Welfare Alliance

As promised, we are providing information should you wish to contact the USDA to correct the misinformation in Wallis' communication to the USDA. If you need clarification or have questions, please reply to this email and either John or I will respond.

I want to stress that you need to stay focused on the financial issues and detrimental impact to our meat industry. I know how difficult it is to remain level headed when refuting something from Wallis. She pushes everyone's buttons but you need to take every ounce of restraint and turn off the switch.

We have gone through what we feel are the pertinent points of her communication and provided responses below her drivel. Pick whatever you feel are the most important and in your own words, let your voice be heard. If you have a different take or slightly different way of presenting a particular point, go with what you feel comfortable with. If you choose to call rather than fax, you may be asked questions so it's important to use what you feel comfortable discussing. Stay professional and keep it short. If you feel several points need to be addressed, bullet points are a great way to make your statements with few words. They are probably receiving a lot of comments so the chances of anyone reading more than one page are slim.

Here is the contact information to call or fax. EWA will also be preparing a statement that we will share with you after it is sent.

Secretary Tom Vilsack
U.S. Department of Agriculture

Fax: 202.720.2166

Phone: 202.720.3631


On behalf of the International Equine Business Association and the horse businesses of the United States I am writing to urge your agency to immediately provide the inspection necessary to humanely and safely process horses in facilities that are ready to do so in the United States. The horse industry is already severely damaged because of the lack of market and options, and now with wide spread drought and wild fire damage, the situation is truly dire.

The horse industry does not produce meat. The horse industry is not suffering from lack of slaughter but for the same reason every other industry in this country is suffering; the economy.

Attached please find an urgent petition, and background information supporting this letter.
USDA stands squarely in the way of enterprises that could offer some relief and a humane option for many of these horses. It has come to our attention that USDA is promulgating directives to states that indicate the agency has no intention of providing the inspection they are required by long-standing U.S. law to provide, and are actively discouraging state departments of agriculture from implementing any kind of state inspection. This singles out one class of livestock owner for economic harm and persecution that is extremely detrimental-leaving many with no option except to destroy valuable animals, or to sell them at pathetically low prices and allow them to be hauled to other countries out of U.S. jurisdiction. In the face of widespread natural disaster, some would say this is the height of hypocrisy and completely counter to the mission of the USDA to promote and responsibly regulate agriculture in this country.

Horses are being singled out because they are not food animals in the US. Calling horses livestock does not make them food animals. Food animals are determined by how they are raised and regulated. Accordingly, US horses are non-food animals. They do not meet food safety laws by any stretch of the imagination. US horses are hauled out of the country with or without plants on US soil. According to USDA statistics, 775,474 horses were exported from 1989-2006 when all three foreign owned plants were operating on US soil.

Wallis is asking for a government handout rather than working on programs that would actually help horse owners during difficult times. US tax payers do not need valuable tax dollars funding yet another welfare program that will compromise our current meat industry. There is no reason the government should be spending millions of dollars we don't have to benefit owners of less than 2% of the horse population. A welfare program of this type promotes over breeding and does nothing to fix the core problem that perpetuates producing excess horses every year. Slaughter is symptom, not a cure.

Wallis is not getting the message that the US does not dispose of animals into the food chain. No animal should be sent to slaughter that was not raised or regulated as a food animal.

Since the US horse industry does not produce meat, this welfare program will not help the horse industry. It will not put money in consumer's pockets so they can afford to buy and care for horses, fill the seats at race tracks or attend equestrian performance or sporting events. A program such as this will only perpetuate over breeding and ensure there are more excess horses produced for years to come. History has proven this over and over again. Slaughter does not control the population nor does it prevent abuse, neglect or abandonment.

Several horse processing facilities are ready to offer horse owners a fair price for the animals they desperately need to sell - or could be within days - to provide much-needed emergency relief. Markets for the product are ready to accept it domestically and internationally if the meat is USDA-inspected exactly as it was in 2007.

The inspections done in 2007 do not meet today's food safety laws in the US or EU. The newly released 2013 requirements for third countries exporting horse meat into the EU clearly require full traceability at the farm level. There is no traceability in US horses and no way to guarantee horses are drug free. Horses must be proven drug free before going to slaughter, not by random testing on the back end. Slaughter is not a disposal service for emergency relief.

Slaughter is as available as it was when the US plants were open. If the Mexican and Canadian slaughter plants are rejecting horses, they are ineligible for export to the consuming countries no matter where they would be slaughtered. The US takes food safety seriously and slaughtering horses for human consumption will do nothing but give our meat industry a black eye that it can ill afford.

In addition to the two EU reports that revealed banned substances in US horses and falsified paperwork, Belgium issued a notice¹ on high levels of phenylbutazone and clenbuterol recently found in horse meat exported from Canada.

USDA should not stand in the way of much-needed, humane options for horses. Horses and horse people are uniquely suffering as a direct result of federal government inaction, and the Department's refusal to provide the inspection services federal law requires USDA to provide.
Across the nation, states, tribes and private citizens are working hand-in-hand with the federal government to provide relief to every other breed of livestock, and every other kind of business, yet USDA stands directly in the path of the same relief for the horse industry.

Slaughter is not an option, it is for food production. The USDA is doing their job by not issuing permits for horse slaughter inspections. Federal law provides for inspections of food animals. US horses are not food animals and we commend the USDA for acting accordingly. As it stands now, the USDA would be issuing permits to slaughter animals that are known to be unsafe for human consumption. With no traceability in US horses, they should not be considered a food source under any circumstance.

This is a moral and ethical imperative that USDA must address without delay.

It is morally and ethically wrong to send meat to any country that is not safe for human consumption. 

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