Friday, June 17, 2011

Inspected & rejected: Animals' Angels investigation confirms EU report

Animals' Angels

In May AA investigated the Morton, TX Feedlot and 2 export pens (Del Rio, TX and Eagle Pass, TX) after EU reports alerted us about large numbers of horses being returned at the Mexican border. EU inspectors reported that on the day they were present at the export pen, 40% or 12 out of 30 horses were rejected (advanced pregnancy, health issues and injuries). OISA data revealed that over a 10 month period when EU inspectors were not present, roughly 9% or 5,336 horses of 62,560 horses were rejected.

Horse on trailer to Mexico
Horse on Mexican trailer at export pen
Further, the EU report echoed AA's concerns when the EU noted that sworn statements about past veterinary treatments and drug residues had no official controls in place, and are unverifiable for authenticity or reliability despite the seemingly official micro chipping that is done just before the horses cross the border.

On this investigation AA found that these horses rejected at the border are not provided food or rest but are immediately reloaded for the kill buyer to take away - Horses go without food or water for 25+ hours by the time they are returned by the shipper.

Another concern is that apparently there is no accountability for a shipper who brings injured or sick horses to the export pens or Morton. We found no records of the export pens or the Beltex feedlot reporting cases of unfit horses to APHIS or to local law enforcement. The rejected horses are not monitored or linked to their shipper since APHIS does not maintain a database to trace slaughter tags of individual horses.
truck with horses on route in Mexico
Chavez trailer loaded with horses en route to plant in Zacatecas

In addition, AA observations confirm that many horses that go to slaughter arrive at the pens from 12+ hours away, remain at the pens for 6-8 hours and then face another 17 hour transport to the plant - Horses are without food for 37+ hours by the time they finally arrive at the slaughter plant.

AA advocates the following:
Every horse rejected by the Mexican veterinarian must be given food, water and at least 6 hours rest before re-loading.
Pregnant mare refused at pen
Pregnant mare rejected at Eagle Pass Export Pen 

Every horse that arrives in a condition that qualifies as a cruelty case under Texas law, must be reported by pen operators. Every horse that arrives in a condition that qualifies as a violation of the Commercial Transport of Equines to Slaughter Regulations must be reported by pen operators to APHIS. To run a cover up for offenders is intolerable, and APHIS, the Texas Department of AG/Director of Export, and others should instruct pen operators of zero tolerance.

APHIS, in cooperation with the Texas Department of AG, should ensure documentation and improved accountability by creating a database of slaughter tag #s used by each owner/shipper and information such as the number of horses refused at the border and reason for refusal. It is inappropriate for APHIS to be incapable of identifying and tracing horses to shippers. Among other things, such a database would identify "regular offenders" and encourage improved care of horses.
Hole in trailer roof
Holes in trailer roof

Our investigation also revealed that at all pens operated by the Texas Department of AG, they habitually allow the use of trailers that are a deadly risk to horses. We observed trailers with large holes in the metal sides capable of terrible injuries, even cutting feet and legs off; trailers with gaps and holes in roofs capable of puncturing eyes or even decapitation; trailers with exposed nails and broken flooring. We observed many open roof trailers with no protection from wind or sun during the 17 hour transport. 

  AA advocates the following:

The USDA must stop the use of trailers that jeopardize horses and subject them to injury - allow no horse to be loaded onto a trailer that does not pass visual inspection.

Horses on open roof trailer
Open Roof trailer
Authority for this is covered by the protections of the Commercial Transport of Equines to Slaughter regulations until the truck crosses the border into Mexico. These trailers violate the regulation and the USDA -APHIS has both legal basis and duty to assist the export pens in banning the trailers permanently.

Animals Angels recommends that a USDA representative maintains a presence at the export pens to initiate the process. Transporters would be informed that trailers will be inspected and rejected if they do not comply with regulations. Transporters out of compliance will be fined as stipulated in the regulations.

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