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Horse Slaughter Issue Won’t Go Away

In the nearly five years since the last legal horse slaughterhouses in the United States shut down, strange events keep happening in Florida’s C-9 Basin, north of Okeechobee Road and west of the Florida Turnpike.

This time, Miami-Dade police are investigating the illegal sale of horse meat, specifically a brown bay thoroughbred they found without legs and with its heart cut out.

Neighbors who heard noises and saw the carcass called police back to the isolated area where evidence of slaughtered horses has been found before, including last year.

In the most recent case, police are benefiting from a tattooed identification number on the upper lip of the six-year old racehorse.  “This could have been the best race horse ever,  Richard Couto of the Animal Recovery Mission, told the Miami Herald. “We just don’t know who she was yet.”

Couto’s Animal Recovery Mission focuses exclusively on the horse meat trade in South Florida.

The C-9 Basis is a mix of small farms, wetlands, and trailer parks., where 21 horse carcasses were found in 2009, a year when joint task forces shut down 70 illegal horse slaughter operations.

Couto says horse meat can go for as much as $40 a pound in South Florida with some demand for its medicinal value and others who see it as a delicacy.  He said the horse was still alive when its heart was removed and died from slowly bleeding to death.

While its been nearly five years since the last legal horse slaughterhouses in the U.S. shut down, the Animal Law Coalition estimates that somewhere between 60,000 and 100,000 horses a year are exported — mostly to Mexico and Canada — for slaughter for human consumption.

That’s roughly the range that were previously slaughtered annually by the last three domestic slaughter operations, two in Texas and one In Illinois.

America’s Cowboy Culture has long spared the horse from the menu, but in much of Europe and Asia “Mr. Ed” is seen as just another choice for dinner.

Congress, which helped bring about the closure of domestic slaughterhouses without exactly making it illegal, is now getting involved in the issue again.  

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-LA, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, have introduced S.B. 1176, which would prohibit the sale or transport of horses or equine parts in interstate or foreign commerce with intent of processing for human consumption.

And earlier this year, an House amendment to the appropriations bill continues to de-fund inspections required for horses bound for slaughter for human consumption.

In rural America, however, states are moving in a different direction with Arkansas, Montana, Nebraska and North Dakota among those moving toward horse meat production under state regulation. Rural states are concerned about a crisis over horse populations, with expensive euthanasia and disposal the only option.

In Colorado, with more than 250,000 horses, a state group called the Colorado Unwanted Horse Alliance conducted a formal Environmental Assessment. It  found the horse crisis is due both to closure of the U.S. plants processing horses and the worsening economic conditions.

The Unwanted Horse Alliance said the state’s horse rescue facilities are full, sanctuaries are full, and euthanasia options are “limited and expensive.”

Colorado’s humane officers and sheriffs are reporting more horse surrender and abandonment, said the alliance’s environmental assessment.  It call for more options and resources for cost effective euthanasia and increased rescue capacity.

Just as it did five years ago, the horse slaughter issue largely pits animal rights groups against animal agriculture.   

Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of the Human Society of the United States (HSUS), recently wrote: “Today’s apologists for cruelty are most sophisticated and deceptive, now laying claim to the argument that they are best defenders of animals, and that when it comes to caring for them, they know best.”

For its part, horse country did an online petition asking the Obama Administration to restore horse slaughter for human consumption in the U.S., an action they said would “improve horse welfare, stop needless and wasteful suffering of horses and even create jobs.”

No incident of foodborne illnesses from horse meat can be found on the Foodborne Illness Outbreak Data Base.

© Food Safety News
  • Alan Frost

    Another interesting “Food Safety News” article where the subject of food safety does not appear until the 21st paragraph (and there is no 22nd paragraph).

  • Kelly

    I’m from rural southwestern Kansas. The closure of horse slaughter houses has led to animal cruelty, and I’m sure we aren’t the only ones seeing it. Some horse owners have gotten to the point where they can’t feed the animals, and there is no grass because of the drought. They can’t sell the animals, so they turn them loose in the country somewhere to starve to death.
    I’m sure that this is not what the animal rights activist or congress had in mind, but it is reality. Congress and the activists need to take a hard look at their perceptions and then look at the reality they have created. No animal should be left to starve or slaughtered while still alive as in the above story.

  • terri

    So why can’t these horses? Kill buyers still frequent the auctions. Horses are still purchased by them and still end up slaughtered. Rescuers still take the throwaways. There are the same numbers of horses slaughtered each year and bringing it back to this country is not going to solve any problems. These pro slaughter articles make me ill because they are lacking the truths such as the fact that some medications and zoonotic diseases in horsemeat have and do cause death in humans and other species of animals. Horses are still being stolen and some are being slaughtered in their own pastures. Get real. Tell the whole truth instead of the blatant lies. Horse slaughter is a disgusting business filled with deceitful and ignorant people who only care about monetary value no matter who or what they hurt to leach it off of. Bottom feeders. All of them. Oh and don’t try to say that I am city folk who doesn’t know about horses. I have slot of years and a wealth of good common sense.

  • Kathryn W

    The article refers to the ‘horse meat trade in South Florida’. Considering that this article appears in “Food Safety News”, a “web-based newspaper dedicated to reporting on issues surrounding food safety”, FSN should correctly and accurately describe these efforts for what they are. They are illegal, they are largely based on theft and misrepresentation, and its product is unregulated and undoubtedly unsafe for human consumption, per http://www.vetsforequinewelfare.org/medications.php
    FSN can not create a horse slaughter industry in the US merely by referring to it as “the horse meat trade”.
    Further, the following statement does not justify inhumane deaths and a failure of responsibility to society, area water supplies, and resources for a thousand pound carcass:
    “Rural states are concerned about a crisis over horse populations, with expensive euthanasia and disposal the only option.”
    Horse owners can realistically expect that their horse will die while in their care, and are right to be prepared for the disposal of their horse’s carcass. To believe otherwise is foolhardy and irresponsible, as any horse can suffer a fatal injury on any given day.
    The article states: “No incident of foodborne illnesses from horse meat can be found on the Foodborne Illness Outbreak Data Base”, and rightly so, as horse meat is unregulated in the US, and is not consumed here by Americans unless they had their own horse butchered and packaged, with each of the packages labeled ‘not for sale’.
    Lastly, for an “online daily web-based newspaper dedicated to reporting on issues surrounding food safety”, it is disappointing that Food Safety News fully fails to mention the common pharmaceuticals and compounds typically given to US equines which are recognized as toxic, carcinogenic or otherwise adverse to human health.
    I urge this publication to cover the food safety aspect.
    http://www.americanhorsemeat.com/Home.php
    http://www.vetsforequinewelfare.org/medications.php

  • Diana B

    That foodborne illness outbreak database; is that a European database? Or do you think someone getting sick due to eating black-market meat is going to admit what they ate?
    You say “horse country” did an online petition asking the Obama Administration to restore horse slaughter for human consumption in the U.S. That was WY lawmaker Sue Wallis, head of a radical fringe horseman’s group called United Horsemen. They support re-opening horse slaughter, as an alternative to reducing breeding to solve the current problem of a drastically reduced number or equine enthusiasts going from the horse crazed baby boomers to the geeky Gen X.

  • sharon

    just wanted to let everyone know what medicines can be found in horse meat they are as follows banamine,acepromazine,requmate,ivermectin,adequan just to name a few some give humans diareha or even worse so take a chance with you’re own life if u dare and hope you don’t get sick or worse. i think u should talk to the mayor or il. but she has retired now but she was there when the last plant closed down and she was ever so grateful said her town had all kinds of enviromental issues with the blood ,etc. issues and it made the town smell real bad. i pray they don’t open up anymore slaughter plants in the usa, if u ever watched a video of the entire process u would not want to eat one either.believe me!and for those who can actually do this to these horses i trually don’t know how u sleep at night but then again to u it’s just a job with a paycheck ,u trually can’t be a animal person . just makes me sick to even think about it!i wish the goverment would pass S.1176 already!!!!

  • nancy m

    Seriously? Do not know where your information was found, but there are more facts in the first 6 comments than your entire article. The article totally fails to address the ramifications of turning the US food chain into a dumping ground for someones overproduction. The EU gets it and has instituted a passport system for their horses. The horse is either food or an athlete. They do not magically become food when the owner tires of the horse. These new regulations will render the majority of US horses ineligible for consumption. THIS is why the big push for plants to reopen in the US. It has nothing to do with individual rights or humane treatment of horses. The horse slaughter promoters see their markets drying up and are in a panic. They see their “easy button” solution to poor business practices (overproduction, indiscriminate breeding,)vanishing. Its all about money. There is no consideration for food safety- supplements, vaccines, fly sprays, ivermectin etc are all given to horses regularly. Look in any tack box and you will see each and every one of these items are marked “not for use in horses intended for human consumption” Pretty simple- if an item has not been tested for wash out times, it does not belong in the food chain. Even more important is the fact that many horses are given bute. The FDA has excluded any animal that has EVER been given bute. If your magazine really wants to be a source of food safety news, how about concentrating on this true food safety issue instead of copying and pasting from a pro slaughter PR release.

  • Christy Lee

    Since this publication deals with food safety, I am including a link to a FACTUAL, SCIENTIFIC STUDY describing the dangers of consumption of horse meat. The bottom line is that not only is there NO, ZIP, ZILCH way to kill a horse humanely, the meat is dangerous. It is known to cause aplastic anemia and many other serious health issues. Here is the link. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20176071
    The pro horse slaughter faction would like to get funding to have inspections of slaughter facilities funded in their states. You cannot monitor the meat, you cannot monitor the inspections, and when horse slaughter was legal in the U.S., the city of Kaufman, TX, where Dallas Crown was located, nearly went broke from the fines levied due to the horrific environmental violations. Once again, if you are interested in facts, read this letter written by the former mayor of Kaufman, TX describing what REALLY happens when you have the abomination of horse slaughter locally. Here is the link to that from the Animal Law Coalition: FACTS, FACTS, FACTS. You need to know the facts before you step into the quagmire of misery associated with horse slaughter. http://www.animallawcoalition.com/horse-slaughter/article/686

  • Ann M. Marini, Ph.D., M.D.

    Mr. Flynn,
    I find it very ironic that you state: “America’s Cowboy Culture has long spared the horse from the menu, but in much of Europe and Asia “Mr. Ed” is seen as just another choice for dinner.”
    Mr. Ed?? These words are identical to those used by A.G. Sulzberger used in his article posted in the New York Times in the pro-horse slaughter rendition. So, are you two comparing notes and spinning from the same top?
    You also state: “In rural America, however, states are moving in a different direction with Arkansas, Montana, Nebraska and North Dakota among those moving toward horse meat production under state regulation. Rural states are concerned about a crisis over horse populations, with expensive euthanasia and disposal the only option.”
    So, do you realize that Federal law trumps state regulations?
    “Rural states are concerned about a crisis over horse populations, with expensive euthanasia and disposal the only option.”
    So, are you telling me that the people in those rural states don’t know about the birds and the bees? That is, all these people have to do is to separate the stallions from the mares or geld the stallions so they can’t produce babies (foals)?
    Again, you think these people in rural states are stupid by stating that euthanasia is expensive and disposal the only option? You must be kidding, right? You don’t give these people credit for thinking or planning when they buy horses that they need to save money for proper care and humane euthanasia by calling a licensed vet who knows how to euthanize a horse? Yup, that’s right….disposal should be the only option. One point for you Mr. Flynn.
    You also state: “In Colorado, with more than 250,000 horses, a state group called the Colorado Unwanted Horse Alliance conducted a formal Environmental Assessment. It found the horse crisis is due both to closure of the U.S. plants processing horses and the worsening economic conditions.”
    You realize, of course, that the Unwanted Horse Coalition is a pro-slaughter organization? So, is this the data that came from that indefensible GAO report that is filled with unsubstantiated hypotheses that are nothing more than wishful thinking? You understand, I hope, that Environmental Assessments need to be performed by a group or organization that is UNBIASED? Can’t do that when the organization is called “unwanted horse alliance” as the mere word “unwanted” shows a CLEAR BIAS.
    You state: “The Unwanted Horse Alliance said the state’s horse rescue facilities are full, sanctuaries are full, and euthanasia options are “limited and expensive.”
    Don’t people know that owning a horse is expensive? Don’t people run the numbers and their burn rate BEFORE they decide to own a horse? Euthanasia expensive? Easy solution: DON’T OWN HORSES.
    You state: “For its part, horse country did an online petition asking the Obama Administration to restore horse slaughter for human consumption in the U.S., an action they said would “improve horse welfare, stop needless and wasteful suffering of horses and even create jobs.”
    Horse country? Another euphemism for Sue Wallis from Wyoming as pointed out by others on this board.
    Finally, This is Food Safety News? I am astounded and shocked that you didn’t do your homework and find our article which clearly shows that all 18 American Thoroughbred horses were given the banned drug, phenylbutazone, and were sent to slaughter for human consumption. Phenylbutazone (bute) is banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in all food-producing animals, including horses. Bute causes idiosyncratic reactions including bone marrow failure with an over 90% mortality rate, hypersensitivity reactions and serum sickness-like illness. And, bute is a carcinogen. It causes cancer in laboratory animals.
    American horses are not raised for food. They don’t require health certificates and can be given all sorts of drugs, even those that are banned. Why? As you should have pointed out in your article, it is because American horses are not raised for food.
    So, my big question is where are the Food Safety news about horsemeat derived from American horses in your pro-horse slaughter article Mr. Flynn?

  • This is the answer: Cull all breeding incentives. This is upmost. Second, create a foal impact fee for all major horse breeders. Third, remove horses from USDA.
    These steps will gradually omit over-population and thus halt horse slaughter while making horses more valuable and redeeming their status as America’s National Treasure.
    Our 112th Congress is seated with progress and more likely than ever to make this happen, during this economic crisis. We must send our petitions! Let’s kick the door on horse slaughter closed, once and for all.
    USDA policies and IRS tax rulings enable wealthy elite breeders to utilize slaughter while given luxurious tax incentives. IT MUST STOP. Especially now when our Nation is in an economic crisis.
    “If you want to stop the over-production of, and consequent “culling” or “harvesting” of horses by means of slaughter, you MUST address the INCENTIVES for breeders and investors to focus on production that uses a 3-5 year cycle.”
    Mail and fax petitions from Horses as National Treasure. https://sites.google.com/site/horsesasnationaltreasure/
    And get this in your head right here and now, the underground horse meat market is everywhere there are illegal immigrants and ignorant citizens. Vote for FAIR. And do your part – observe, point and report.

  • Jan

    WHAT is this article doing on a Food Saftey Forum?????? There was nothing mentioned in it concerning food safety except for the last freaking line. “No incident of foodborne illnesses from horse meat can be found on the Foodborne Illness Outbreak Data Base” That should have been the entire article. I fail to see the purpose of this pile of unsubstantiated crap, unless the author is in bed with the Pro’s.

  • Elinor

    It would be a nice world if everyone could plan ahead for the next 25 or 30 years of their life and know that nothing would ever change. Unfortunately, that’s not how the world works. Someone may be able to afford or horse now and for the forseeable future, but what if they lose their job? What if something forces them to move out of a rural area (a job, a spouse’s job, an elderly or disabled relative, an unexpected illness, etc.)
    If they had to do it because of a financial situation, it is very possible that they literally cannot afford proper euthanasia and disposal. It can cost hundreds of dollars. It is a waste to spend hundreds of dollars putting an animal down and then throwing it away when horse meat (without drug residues) is a perfectly acceptable thing to eat in many cultures.
    Horses are going to get slaughtered for human consumption. It will be nearly impossible to stop it. Keep it in the US, where plants can be inspected by our federal regulators and subject to our animal welfare laws, rather than questionable rules in Mexico. Keep the jobs and the tax revenue here. The solution is spending a little money on getting drugs approved or not approved, or setting withdrawal periods for them just like we do in all other livestock. It is only common sense to do things that way, since plenty of US horses end up in the human food chain somewhere.

  • Brenda

    Mr Flynn, All can be said with this one article that Paula Bacon, the former Mayor of Kaufman, Tx has to say. This can’t be refuted, these are facts. No speculation on how it’s going to turn out, because we all know how it DID, turned out… Regulated? They were never regulated for the duration of, 30 yrs, .. If your going to post an article, about such a controversial subject such as horse slaughter, then you would behoove yourself to get the facts.. http://www.horsefund.org/horse-slaughter-comes-to-town-part-1.php

  • rowan

    It seems like most of the horses found are former race horses. Most of them have legendary lineage that have won multimillions in dollars. Just because the did not win the big bucks, they do not deserve to die the way they do. Also stop to think of all the chemicals are in them. Also horse breeders should have a legal limit on how many times they can breed their horses. Also the thoroughbreds that are “thrown away” should be traced by the tattoo back to the owners and just like a car, should have a transfer of title with the name of the new owner. When old cars are thrown away, the owner is fined. Perhaps we can do this with the horses. It may not end this horrible issue of horse slaughter but it might be a part of a solution