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Letter From The Editor: Winning Towns Might Not Get Much

Everybody in the federal government knows that if you have bad news to announce,  the best time to release it is on a Friday afternoon after most in Congress are on their outbound flights from Reagan National and most media figures have filed their last story for the week and moved on to liquid refreshments.

A more complex version of the Friday afternoon game is to make a series of controversial announcements going into a long weekend, especially one with a midweek 4th of July.    We’ve just gone through one of these exercises with USDA making announcements going into this weekend period involving the highly emotional subject of horse slaughter.

To catch us all up, I thought it would be a good idea to put on my “news analysis” hat and explain what’s happened and what might or might not happen from here depending on how events transpire.

Basically what’s occurred now is that two and maybe three small cities and towns have won a lottery of sorts with the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) approving grants of inspection for horse slaughter facilities.

But USDA’s green light for horse slaughter, “a grisly practice” that makes no sense according to those who claim to speak for the horses, is not going unchallenged.

Roswell, NM, Sigourney, IA, and maybe Gallatin, MO are getting USDA’s promise to provide inspection services so horse slaughter for human consumption for export can begin.  Those Midwestern and Western businesses have worked for close to two years with USDA in Washington D.C. to get equine meat inspectors provided to their plants.

But whether they will ever be able to begin exporting horsemeat to foreign markets will hinge on events outside of their control. Specifically:

  • Whether a U.S. District Court judge in San Francisco grants an emergency injunction to animal protection groups who claim USDA’s grant of inspection was not issued legally because no environmental review was conducted on impacts of horse slaughter on the environment.


  • Whether the on again, off again Congress maintains its current intention to again ban the use of federal money for inspection of equine slaughter facilities.

“America’s horses are not raised as food animals, and they receive numerous substances during their lives making them unfit and illegal for human consumption,” says Hilary Wood, president of the Larkspur, CO-based Front Range Equine Rescue. “Adding insult to injury, the suffering of the horses in the slaughter pipeline and the danger to humans makes this action more than inhumane.”

Wood says there are alternatives for horse bound for slaughter, including re-training, re-homing and humane euthanasia. “We remain committed to stopping this insult to justice and our sense of justice,” she says.

If the emergency injunction were granted in San Francisco, everything would be on hold until the court proceedings ran their course. Congress is suppose to make its budget decisions by Oct. 1, but frequently fails to make such deadlines and just extends current law.

Horse slaughter ended after 2007 when Congress banned it by eliminating money for the equine inspectors. That language was removed in 2011 after Congressional auditors found unwanted horses were in greater peril without domestic slaughter options.

The two businesses that have already received the grant of inspection from USDA are Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, NM and Responsible Transportation in Sigourney, IA, along with third expected to receive approval, Rains Natural Meats in Gallatin, MO, have spent about two years working through a process that USDA had to re-start from scratch.

The fact that just as these companies have jumped through the USDA hoops just as Congress wants to again enact the ban is confusing. Here’s how a spokesperson for USDA’s meat inspection branch explains it:

“Since Congress has not yet acted to ban horse slaughter inspection, FSIS is legally required to issue a grant of inspection… Under the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA), FSIS must issue a grant of inspection once an establishment has satisfied all federal requirements as this plant has done. FSIS anticipates one additional application for equine inspection could meet the mandated requirements in the coming days. 

The Administration has requested Congress to reinstate the ban on horse slaughter. Until Congress acts, the Department must continue to comply with current law.”

In the nearly seven years that elapsed under the ban, USDA found equine meat inspection had changed, including the need to ensure there is no comingling of horsemeat with other meat products. FSIS needed to establish stringent inspection processes including testing capabilities and labeling requirements.

FSIS enacted species testing for meat and poultry capable to detect beef, sheep, swine, poultry, deer and horse in order to avoid having one species sold as another as occurred on a large scale earlier this year in Europe.

FSIS also adopted validated testing methods and sampling methods to detect residues of animal drugs and or chemicals in equine tissues. It will test for approximately 130 pesticides and veterinary drugs in horses being slaughtered.

If Congress again prohibits using federal money for ante-mortem inspection of horses intended for slaughter for human consumption, equine slaughter in the U.S. could not continue. That is because without the USDA mark of inspection, no horsemeat could move in commerce.

Businesses in three other small towns have requested a grant of inspection: Rockville, MO, Woodbury, TN, and Washington, OK.

Unlike the last three horse slaughter businesses to operate in the U.S. none of the applicants are known to be foreign owned. Most are small businesses with slaughter experience, hoping to add 50 or so jobs to their small communities.

But with the Courts and Congress hanging in the wings, I wouldn’t bet the mortgage on horse slaughter returning to U.S.soil.


© Food Safety News
  • Marge Mullen

    Thanks Dan for telling it like it is!!

  • Evidently, the USDA conferred with the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, and it does sound like a hold has been placed on inspections until September.


  • Adahy Linda

    It is they have been bullied our paid off ! They stated , or Prez. Obama stated there were to be no inspection of said plants ,Well know what , Even was on Saturday Night Live . Well it is no joke people ,it effects us all !!! Aside the fact the mustangs are symbol of freedom , this killing of any horses is totally INHUMANE , no if’s & but’s about it!

  • Morgan Griffith

    Anyone counting on opening a horse slaughter plant has got to be a financial fool. With the Administration pushing to ban inspections the plants could be down before they are even up.

  • Lisa LeBlanc

    Among the issues that bug me most about ‘winning the lottery’ is …. where are they gonna sell this, once it’s ‘processed’?
    It’s been only a few short months ago that folks across the Pond were horrified to discover that foods they had been buying and trusted contained quantities of horse meat. While many food-safety ministries declared the ‘mix-up’ to be criminal or foreign in origin, the consumer didn’t really seem to care WHERE it came from; they were more concerned that their trust had been broken and their choices had been taken from them.
    So, with an abundance of carcasses hanging in US commercial freezers – and EU restrictions looming ugly and huge – where do these thoughtful businesses intend to off load their product?
    Not that trust with the USDA or the meat industry has EVER been an issue here…
    Horse slaughter could be likened to finding a huge herd of cattle on the hoof, with no brands and no way to trace where they came from. What could it possibly hurt to claim ownership and sell the meat on the open market?
    Let’s be honest: I am a horse-lover and find the notion of killing horses for food repugnant. I might be slightly less inclined toward distaste if horses were raised with an eye toward eventually ending up as human fodder (nope; scratch that. wouldn’t make a difference to me at all.), but taking any horse without a full knowledge of it’s history and blithely releasing it’s slaughtered remains on an unsuspecting public – for mere money – is just plain evil.

  • PA gal

    What would be the plan then to handle unwanted horses? Some years they may be thousands in certain parts of the country. This can be a issue as well. Having grown up on a farm, animals get injured and have to be put down when they cannot be saved. Because of the leg structure of horses any injury can put an animal down where it will not get up. Then one must terminate and destroy the carcass. This is costly and hard on owners fiscally and emotionally. So for unwanted horses, who will pay for caring for horses? for termination? for disposal of the carcass? Inspectors, humane termination, proper meat handling plants, and export would be better than reading about owners starving animals they cannot feed or worse.

    • I would much rather have my tax dollars go to programs that will help either feed or humanely put down a horse if there is no alternative. To have a horse that has worked for you and has been a friend and then be sent off to be tortured whipped into trucks and be put into the slaughter pipeline is horrific and inhumane. Is this really what you think we should do??? Could you really live with that thought?? The same tax money could set up programs for the people that can’t afford euthanasia or need help with food. Of course nothing will help unless we stop breeding.

    • Don’t pretend this is for the horses, it’s not. It’s another avenue of profit for irresponsible horse breeders.

      Your horse is ill or old? You call the vet and you do the right thing. Either that, or you stop owning horses.

      It really is that simple. It’s called being responsible.

  • tallen2007

    Are they going to test every single horse for wormers, bute, antibiotics, etc? Because they absolutely have to to ensure the meat is safe for human consumption. That’s going to be really expensive. The only way I can see around it is for the slaughter facilities to hold all horses in identified lots under FSIS supervision and process the whole lot after a 30 day (?) hold time for withdrawal.

  • elizabeth dana

    Bravo- Someone sees the light-Horse slaughter is a kin to making Orange juice out of Tang – It never was a good idea and it failed miserably after dumping all kinds of money into to it to find it caused kindey damage!!! Oh those minimum wage jobs of killing horses day in and day out for $7.50 willend up exposing the workers to EEE and West NileVirus which killed a butch of zoo alligators after they came incontact with diseased horse meat. Ever hear of Rabies? Will these three “local business” invited Pandora’s Box to open. Just because a business is locally owned does not make it right – ask your local drug dealers and while you are at it when the real estate values fall and the crime rate goes up – don’t be surprised -“Certain “business” attack certain type of people and violence begets violence!

  • countryboy

    There are millions of unwanted, unsuitable horses in this country. How many has Wood taken in for re-training, re-homing and humane euthanasia. Horse meat is eaten in many parts of the world and is suitable for pet food and zoo animals. Rendering has been carried out for many centuries, primarily for soap and candle making. The earliest rendering was done in a kettle over an open fire. Rendering plants can make fertilizer out dead animal that are not used for food.

  • debbie

    By the way I have heard these companies are being backed indeed by Foreign companies, they have invested money into making these outdated little out of business companies back and running to torture our horses, and I company that has jumped on board is the one that was in Kaufman TX> so yeah THERE BACKKKKKKKKK, unbelievable…..
    Horse Slaughter endorses over breeding it is there dumping grounds, until we stop this we will never see a difference have we seen a difference in 30 40 years cause we have always had slaughter here or over there, so NO, we need to stop this horse Slaughter once and for all NOT MY MONEY for Foreign interest’s foreign profit, how stupid can we be??? HONESTLY??????

  • dk

    Please sign the petition to ban horse slaughter in the U.S.:

    Here is another petition, this one to Stop Horse Slaughter Factory in Missouri: