I read the recent cover story about the proposed horse slaughter plants in the U.S. (Agweek, Aug. 27) To say the plants are having problems getting opened is an understatement.
By: Jo-Claire Corcoran, Agweek
JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. — I read the recent cover story about the proposed horse slaughter plants in the U.S. (Agweek, Aug. 27) To say the plants are having problems getting opened is an understatement.
The New Mexico plant owners already have publicly stated they are no longer seeking to slaughter horses. Remember, this is a plant that was shut down in February for inhumane treatment of cattle and recently was fined more than $80,000 for environmental violations with the composting pile.
The plant in Rockville, Mo., has a miasma of legal problems that will have to be worked out and settled before anything can open there — horse, cattle or whatever. Fraud, liens and other issues are a part of a scheme by certain parties to bilk others out of funds.
The Oregon plant? Well, the local government is totally against a horse slaughter plant opening. The waterways there are protected. What everyone seems to forget is we don’t raise horses in the U.S. for food. The horses being sent to slaughter are obtained from sources such as auctions, Craigslist and others, some in illegal processes.
Horse meat is not safe for human consumption. As recently as July, a kill buyer was fined for falsifying the Equine Information Document form and knowingly sending a horse to slaughter which tested positive for bute and clenbuterol. Both are banned substances. There are no withdrawal times for banned substances. Additionally, before the defunding language was being placed in the bill, this country already was shipping horses to Canada and Mexico. No one seemed to be concerned about those horses then.
The horses going to slaughter are not old, sick or infirmed horses — they are sound, young, healthy horses per the U.S. Department of Agriculture records. Average ages are 5 to 9, with the majority being quarter horses. This stands to reason since the American Quarter Horse Association has been offering breeding incentives and trying to become the largest breed registry. Well, the AQHA succeeded, and the majority of the horses are going to slaughter. A Government Accountability Office report stated three options — one was make changes with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to lift the defunding language or completely ban the slaughter and transport of horses for slaughter.
A complete ban is the only way to have a positive effect on horse welfare.
Please explain to me how slaughtering a horse helps that horse. Slaughter doesn’t stop abuse and neglect. People who abuse and neglect horses do so no matter what options are available. Most people do not want to send their horses to slaughter. Abuse and neglect is directly related to the unemployment rate, and this holds true for all companion animals. (The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does classify horses as companion animals.) I have to question an ag publication that would promote the slaughter of animals not raised for food, knowing the medications we give our horses, and knowing those medications are known carcinogens.
Is our meat export industry worth the risk of people eating adulterated meat from an animal we did not raise for food? What happens to our beef exports or our pork exports then, when other countries determine U.S.-raised meat products are not safe to eat?
Next year, European Union regulations for exports of horse meat go into effect. By Aug. 1, the U.S. must have a “passport” program in place to track the medications and products used on our horses. This document must be assigned to the horse before it is 6 months old and must accompany the horse for life. Every medication and product must be administered by a veterinarian and documented. That means any de-wormer — if your horse starts to colic, you would not be able to administer banamine without a veterinarian. If the horse receives any medication from the banned list, that horse must be deemed unacceptable for slaughter for human consumption. Implementing a program like this would take more funding from our government, more personnel and, frankly, we can’t afford it.
Editor’s Note: Corcoran is a director of the nonprofit Equine Welfare Alliance based in Chicago.