Friday, June 3, 2011

Key Government Report Leaked

Horseback Magazine

June 3, 2011

By Steven Long
HOUSTON, (Horseback) – Horseback Magazine has confirmed that a long awaited report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has been leaked.  The report, titled The State of Horse Welfare in the United States Since the Cessation of Horse Slaughter in 2007, was quoted at the Summit of the Horse held in Las Vegas in early January.
A senior GAO public affairs specialist, Laura Kopelson, confirmed that the report was leaked. Asked if Horseback could obtain a copy of the document, the official refused saying it would be posted online June 22, 2011.
Horseback also asked longtime GAO Inspector General Frances Garcia via email if the agency would open an investigation of the leak. Thus far there has been no response.
Animal welfare advocates allege the report was leaked to former Rep. Charles Stenholm, now a lobbyist for the meat packing industry.
Kopelson did release key questions asked by government investigators in the report.
“In 2007, court action and state bans closed horse slaughter plants in the U.S. Since then, horses are exported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter. Congress also has prohibited use of funds or user fees for inspections of horses for human food. Pending bills would make it a crime to possess, transport, sell, or receive any horse or horse flesh intended for food. (Q1) How has the U.S. horse market changed since the cessation of domestic horse slaughter for food in 2007? (Q2) What has been the impact of these changes on state and local governments and animal protection organizations? (Q3) How effective is USDA oversight of the transport of U.S. horses exported for slaughter, including coordination with federal and state agencies and foreign governments?”
Last year, Animals Angels released a 90 page report obtained under the federal Freedom of Information Act by investigator Julie Caramonte that contained devastating photographs of maimed dead and dying slaughter bound horses taken by the U.S. Department of Agriculture during transport and withheld from public view.
GAO also released the official scope and methodology of the report.
“(Q1) Analyze USDA and industry data for 2005-2009 on sales, exports, adoptions, and abandonments; describe sources of horses and factors affecting them, analyze data to determine size and significance of factors to characterize changes to industry since cessation of slaughter; review studies and evaluate USDA data on farm income and trade to determine impact of plant closures; (Q2) with ARM assistance, conduct structured interviews of key national, state, local, Tribal and animal protection organizations (e.g., National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, Humane Society of the U.S.) to describe impacts; (Q3) Evaluate USDA’s Slaughter Horse Transport Program through sample of inspection forms, visits to key horse border crossings, and interviews with agency inspectors; interview federal, state, and foreign officials responsible for coordinating the transport of horses for export.”

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