Attorney: Horsemeat Not Safe for Consumption

By Alex Flippin FOX 26 KNPN

“…they can’t sell animals for whom they have no medical records…”

In December, the organization Front Range Equine Rescue began its challenge to stop Gallatin, Mo.-based Rains Natural Meats from slaughtering horses for human consumption.

Now this week, the group says it has uncovered information that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s own policies prohibit meat from animals of unknown origins or incomplete health records, like that of horses, according to the organization’s attorney, Bruce Wagman.

“We have discovered documents going back for years that the FDA has been sending to producers of animals for meat which consistently tell those producers they can’t sell animals for whom they have no medical records,” Mr. Wagman said.

He said all arguments aside, horsemeat simply isn’t safe for human consumption

“That’s based on all the drugs that American horses are given before they are turned out to be meat. Those drugs are dangerous,” he explained. “They’re prohibited for use of animals that are going to be food in America, and therefore would be adulterated on that basis.”

Mr. Wagman said Front Range Equine Rescue will continue its efforts to eradicate all horse slaughter for meat, and is now one step closer to that goal.

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Star Investigation: Drugged Slaughtered Canadian Horses Slipping Through ‘Inadequate’ Food System

Source: Mary Ormsby and Dale Brazao Staff Reporters of THESTAR.com

“I’m just buying the horse for the (meat) plant and that’s it”

Backstreet Bully, a former Frank Stronach racehorse, had been given a drug linked to bone-marrow disease in humans and yet was slaughtered at a Quebec abattoir in January, though it is unclear whether his meat entered the food chain. Photo by Michael Burns

The horse “passport” Canada relies on to keep toxic meat off dinner tables around the world is open to fraud and error, a Star investigation reveals.

Using undercover reporters, the Star found problems with passports — which are supposed to detail a horse’s complete medical history — for several horses headed to the slaughterhouse.

The Star also obtained 10 passports, nine of which were incomplete or mistake-filled.

In some cases, signatures did not match the names of people claiming to be the horse’s owner. In other interactions witnessed at a busy Waterloo-area auction house, the document was partially filled out by an auction-house worker instead of the owners.

What was seen at auction confirms the findings of an international audit obtained by the Star: that Canada’s ability to trace prohibited drugs in food-bound horses “is inadequate” to protect consumers. Some common horse medications, like “bute” and nitrofurazone, are linked to causing bone-marrow disease and cancer in people if eaten in meat.

Canada’s equine information document is the first step in protecting the public from drug-tainted meat. The document is a type of animal passport that relies on voluntary ownership disclosure of information such as a horse’s physical description, its primary use — racehorse, for example — and drug history.

About $90 million in horsemeat from more than 80,000 animals is exported from Canada annually. Each horse to be slaughtered is to have a passport stating it is free of drugs that would be dangerous to humans if consumed. Horsemeat is a common dish eaten in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Japan and Quebec, and is even available at select restaurants in Toronto.

Concerns over public exposure to tainted meat has intensified in recent years as thousands of racehorses — raised on powerful drugs to boost performance — enter the slaughter pipeline, most of them coming from the United States into Canada since the closure of U.S. slaughterhouse facilities in 2007.

Meanwhile, Ontario’s cash-strapped racing industry has fewer tracks, race dates and prize money than a year ago — rendering thousands of racing thoroughbreds, standardbreds, quarter horses and their breeding stock unnecessary.

European Union food safety regulators have pushed Canada for tighter passport and drug-testing controls for domestic and American horses. But the Star’s investigation, where we examined specific cases, found horses with drug histories that should prevent them from becoming food can easily slip through the system.

In two cases tracked by the Star, Backstreet Bully, a former Frank Stronach racehorse, and Holly, a 23-year-old trail horse, were sold at the Ontario Livestock Exchange auction near Waterloo with false or misleading claims on their passports.

Backstreet Bully was slaughtered in Quebec in January, though it is unclear whether his meat entered the food chain — neither the government or slaughterhouse officials would tell us. Backstreet Bully had been given multiple doses of phenylbutazone (bute) and nitrofurazone during his life.

Holly narrowly escaped the same fate in March, rescued from a meat buyer’s holding pen when the horse was tracked down and purchased for $805. Holly had also been given bute and nitrofurazone just weeks before she was sold at auction. (Read the Star’s full account of Holly’s rescue in Saturday’s Star.)

“If you come right down to the bottom of this and the majority of these racehorses have had some of these (prohibited) drugs administered, what good are any documents, really?” said B.C. New Democrat Alex Atamanenko, who is pushing a private member’s bill, C-322, to severely restrict horse slaughter in Canada.

The Star’s undercover investigation took reporters to the Tuesday horse sales at the Ontario Livestock Exchange. To see how carefully passports were completed by horse owners, Star reporters mingled with the public and horse dealers on two separate trips.

Dozens of horses were trucked in both mornings from around the province and herded from trailers into auction-house holding pens. Lot numbers were glued to their sides to identify them to the public, who wandered around the pens studying the animals until the noon bidding began. In the sales ring, there was little vigilance of passport accuracy; even when the auctioneer announced to potential buyers that the owners’ names and signatures didn’t match on some forms, those horses were still sold.

Auction houses are not responsible for overseeing passport accuracy; that is the role of slaughterhouse operators, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the country’s food safety watchdog. However, it is the horse owner’s duty to provide full and correct identity and medical history information for their animal; making false statements is illegal.

Most of the purchasing at the auction was done by slaughterhouse suppliers like Jeff Grof and Jonathan Lalonde, who are commonly called “kill buyers” — although farmers and families can pick up bargain-basement animals for pennies a pound. One dirty colt, with no takers, finally sold for $5.

“I’m just buying the horse for the (meat) plant and that’s it,” said Lalonde, who estimates he purchases between 25 and 30 horses every Tuesday from the auction, known to insiders simply as OLEX.

“When we’re buying the horses, they are supposed to have the papers filled out by the old owner,” he told the Star in a recent phone interview.

Lalonde bought Backstreet Bully for about 26 cents a pound on Jan. 8 and Holly for about 46 cents a pound on March 26. Unlike Backstreet Bully, who went directly to slaughter, Holly had a few days’ grace in an Ottawa-area feedlot because Lalonde thought he could resell her for $700, plus $105 for board — double what he reportedly paid for her at auction.

Many powerful veterinary drugs given to sport horses are prohibited in animals destined to become food because those drugs can be toxic to people. The passport is mandatory paperwork for slaughter-bound horses but additional information, such as veterinary records to support drug-free claims, is not required.

A five-page government passport template is available online but it is not mandatory to use that version. The horse industry is permitted to create a shorter form — usually a single sheet of paper, the Star found — that excludes some questions suggested by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

European Commission auditors twice visited Canadian slaughterhouse facilities in 2010 and 2011, to inspect areas from sanitation to drug-testing procedures for a variety of animals. With horses, auditors found particular fault with passports accompanying American animals trucked to slaughterhouses from the border.

“Those horses imported from the United States of America for direct slaughter, the equine identification documents received were not reliable, with verification only being made possible by residue (drug) testing,” the 2011 audit states.

The passport “doesn’t provide even a modicum of reassurance” that all horses are safe to eat, says lawyer and author Bruce Wagman, a San Francisco animal law expert who has studied the European audits.

Wagman calls the Canadian slaughter system unreliable, dangerous to the global food supply and one to avoid emulating should the U.S. resume slaughtering horses for human consumption after a seven-year shutdown, as is being proposed.

“The EID is not serving the purpose it’s purportedly intended to do, which is to ensure no adulterated meat goes into or out of the country,” said the lawyer.

“It can’t, because the document doesn’t guarantee anything.”

Wagman contends passports are “prone to abuse” by people “motivated by financial gain and have no way, really, of accurately filling out the document because many of them just got these horses within days (of completing the form).”

Wagman is petitioning federal U.S. food agencies on behalf of animal welfare groups — including the Humane Society of the United States — to drastically tighten federal drug requirements should horse slaughter south of the border be revived.

Nearly 300,000 horses have been slaughtered at Canadian plants since 2010, when the equine information document was introduced to better identify animals and the drugs. The European Union, whose member states trace domestic equine from birth to death with lifetime passports, has for years pushed for tighter horsemeat vigilance in Canada.

A proper passport system would do a great deal to protect the public, people involved in the horse world say, particularly as more and more horses are slaughtered. One equine expert recently estimated that Canada’s overall horse population of about 900,000 will be reduced to about 600,000 over the next few years because of reduced racing in Ontario.

Secrecy surrounds the passports once a horse reaches the slaughterhouse. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency can only access passports stored at the country’s four federally registered equine slaughter facilities.

Federal rules state that slaughterhouse operators “shall investigate incidences of potential (passport) falsification and take necessary action,” according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. It was unclear what slaughterhouses are to do if they find a problem and the government agency refused to disclose how many, if any, people have been prosecuted for passport fraud.

Jonathan Lalonde, who supplies Quebec abattoirs, told the Star he sometimes phones horse owners to supply the missing passport information and writes it in himself. Otherwise, the horse may be rejected at the slaughterhouse.

Equine Canada has been working on a birth-to-death traceability system for all horses in Canada built on existing industry data tracking programs (like racehorse registration papers) and may include the use of microchip implants. The system, called CanEQUID, would also track horses to be processed for meat. But government funding to fast track CanEQUID has not materialized for the past five years since horses aren’t considered a “priority species” for food safety and livestock traceability, according to Equine Canada.

Horsemeat is a lucrative business. It is Canada’s No. 1 red meat export to Europe; Canada supplies the continent with about 24 per cent of its total.

The top five purchasers of Canadian-processed horsemeat in 2012 were: Switzerland ($22 million); Japan ($19.8 million); France ($19.7 million); Belgium ($17.6 million) and Kazakhstan ($6.8 million).

The U.S. was next in line, spending nearly $2 million on horsemeat — but for zoo animals. Horsemeat is not allowed to be sold commercially for human consumption in the U.S.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency insists the current system is safe because government inspectors at the privately owned abattoirs will not allow any horse with incomplete or inaccurate passports to be slaughtered for food.

“The CFIA’s top priority is food safety,” the agency wrote in an email to the Star.

In addition, agency inspectors conduct visual examinations and random drug testing of horses and carcasses to ensure they are free of banned drugs. Some horses are targeted for testing if an inspector has cause for concern. Testing is so sensitive, drug residues can be detected in parts per billion — trace amounts.

In a recent email to the Star, the agency said it is working with the horse industry to “develop measures to enhance equine traceability.”

The agency says it does not directly act on fraudulent passport claims.

Click (HERE) to visit theSTAR.com

Wild Horse Advocates to get Court Hearing over Herd

From the pages of HorseTalk

Unified Advocacy Groups Advance Wild Horse Case Against BLM

A federal court rejected a request from the Bureau of Land Management to dismiss or limit a suit brought by wild horse advocates to save Colorado’s West Douglas wild horse herd.

Although the bureau withdrew its 2010 plans to cut the wild horse herd early in 2011, the consortium of wild horse advocacy groups and concerned citizens still want the courts to decide whether the bureau has the legal authority to zero out a herd.

By her ruling, Judge Rosemary Collyer agreed that advocates could proceed with their claim.

The battle over the West Douglas herd is nearly two decades old, and only through the efforts of concerned citizens and organizations have the horses been saved from the BLM’s desire to remove them all from their homelands.

In 2009, opponents won the first case in the United States against the bureau’s practices of eliminating wild horse herds when Judge Collyer set aside the department’s 2008 roundup plans.

In 2010 advocates again sued the bureau and it withdrew its plans to cut the herd.

“The court agreed that we have the right to challenge the decision to zero out the herd, originally made in the 2005 Amendment, despite the fact that the BLM has decided not to perform a round up and removal in 2010,” said Bruce Wagman of Schiff Hardin LLP, legal lead for the groups.

“BLM has been trying to avoid the issue with self-serving tactics, but the court found the BLM’s decision to hold off on this year’s gather ‘does not effect any change to the allegedly improper decision to eliminate the herd as soon as practicable’. This is, of course, exactly what we argued.”

Co-counsel Valerie Stanley said: “For years, BLM has issued cookie-cutter environmental assessments that purport to elicit public opinion on whether wild horses and burros should be removed from the public lands, all the time knowing that they set these eradication decisions in stone years previously.

“BLM has finally been called on their game plan to decimate the nation’s wild horses and burros.”

R.T. Fitch, president of the funding organization, the Wild Horse Freedom Federation, said: “We have made a commitment to not only the wild horses but to the American public, that we are in this battle for the long haul and will stand firm on the letter of the law until the BLM relents and agrees to follow its mandates.”

Hilary Wood, of Front Range Equine Rescue, added: “While the fight to preserve wild horses is far from over, this ‘win’ provides hope that justice can prevail in the courts for America’s mustangs.”

Plaintiffs in this action include, Habitat for Horses, Front Range Equine Rescue, The Cloud Foundation, Colorado Wild Horse and Burro Coalition, Dr Don Moore, Toni Moore and Barbara Flores who are collectively supported by the Wild Horse Freedom Federation.

Another Win in Saving Colorado Wild Horse Herd from BLM Eradication

Press Release from the Wild Horse Freedom Federation and Front Range Equine Rescue

Court Allows Wild Horse Group’s Challenge To BLM’s Zero Out Policy

A federal court rejected the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) request to dismiss or limit a suit brought by a consortium of wild horse advocacy groups and concerned citizens to save the West Douglas wild horse herd.  Although the BLM withdrew their 2010 plans to decimate this northwest Colorado wild horse herd early in 2011, the advocacy groups have remained vigilant in their stance to have the Court decide whether BLM has the legal authority to zero out a herd.  By her ruling, Judge Rosemary Collyer agreed that Plaintiffs could proceed with this claim and stated,

“the Bureau of Land Management’s 2005 West Douglas Herd Amendment to the White River Resource Management Plan violates the Wild Horses Act because it restates the decision by the BLM to eradicate the “West Douglas herd” of wild horses. The 2005 Amendment directed the BLM to eliminate the herd “at the earliest practicable date” and BLM’s recent withdrawal of its decision to gather the herd in 2011 does not effect any change to the allegedly improper decision to eliminate the herd as soon as practicable.”

The battle over the West Douglas herd is nearly two decades old, and only through the efforts of concerned citizens and organizations have the horses been saved from the BLM’s desire to remove them all from their homelands.  In 2009, concerned citizens and organizations won the first case in the United States against BLM’s practices of eliminating wild horse herds when Judge Collyer set aside BLM’s 2008 roundup plans.  In 2010 advocates again sued the BLM and the BLM withdrew its plans to decimate the herd.

“The court agreed that we have the right to challenge the decision to zero out the herd, originally made in the 2005 Amendment, despite the fact that the BLM has decided not to perform a round up and removal in 2010.”  explained Bruce Wagman of Schiff Hardin LLP, legal lead for the groups.  “BLM has been trying to avoid the issue with self-serving tactics, but the court found the BLM’s decision to hold off on this year’s gather ‘does not effect any change to the allegedly improper decision to eliminate the herd as soon as practicable.’  This is of course exactly what we argued.”

Co-counsel Valerie Stanley stated, “For years BLM has issued cookie cutter Environmental Assessments (EA) that purport to elicit public opinion on whether wild horses and burros should be removed from the public lands, all the time knowing that they set these eradication decisions in stone years previously. BLM has finally been called on their game plan to decimate the Nation’s wild horses and burros.”

“We have made a commitment to not only the wild horses but to the American public,” commented R.T. Fitch, President of the funding organization Wild Horse Freedom Federation, “that we are in this battle for the long haul and will stand firm on the letter of the law until the BLM relents and agrees to follow it’s mandates.”

Hilary Wood of Front Range Equine Rescue added, “While the fight to preserve wild horses is far from over, this ‘win’ provides hope that justice can prevail in the courts for America’s mustangs.”

Plaintiffs in this action include, Habitat for Horses, Front Range Equine Rescue, The Cloud Foundation, Colorado Wild Horse and Burro Coalition, Dr. Don Moore, Toni Moore and Barbara Flores who are collectively supported by the Wild Horse Freedom Federation.

 

Wild Horse Freedom Federation (WHFF) is a registered, Texas non-profit corporation with 501c3 status pending.  WHFF puts people between America’s wild equids and extinction through targeted litigation against governmental agencies whose documented agendas include the eradication of wild horse and burros from public, federal and state lands.

Front Range Equine Rescue (FRER) is a 501c3 non-profit organization working to prevent the abuse and neglect of horses through rescue and education.

A National Injustice: The Federal Government’s Systematic Removal and Eradication of an American Icon

article by Bruce Wagman & Lisa McCurdy an excerpt from Ecology Law Currents

America Destroys Itself from Within

Brutal captures and deaths of American wild horses are occurring on the range. This is not a fictional western gone bad but federal policy. The government tries to justify this cruelty with junk science and is sheltered in its actions by procedural barriers and judicial deference. For nearly four decades, federal contractors have been capturing wild horses and burros across the western United States under the guise of “management” pursuant to the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act.[1] The horses are often chased down by helicopters, sometimes for miles through rough terrain in the heat of summer, lassoed, and forced to the ground and then into trailers.

Wild horses live and move in very tight-knit families consisting of mothers, father and young. Captures disrupt natural social structures, with individuals sent off to an unknown fate based on the justification that the land on which they live cannot sustain their presence. In a battle for the limited resources found on America’s public lands, wild horses are losing out to more “lucrative” uses of the range, such as long-term livestock grazing and oil and gas leases. While the government would have the public believe that a “humane” solution has been found to balance competing interests, and that displaced animals are merely relocated to a new home, the treatment of the wild horses is an abdication of the government’s fiduciary responsibility to an American icon and fosters animal cruelty as part of an ongoing agency program.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is the primary federal agency in charge of wild horse management.[2] A complex and tortuous federal statutory and regulatory scheme insulates and protects the majority of agency decisions in the area.[3] A large body of case law exists regarding the removal of wild horses from public lands. Individuals and organizations interested in viewing, admiring and preserving the natural state of the horses bring claims under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), the Wild Horses Act, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the Information Quality Act. The challengers allege that the agencies are violating federal law by making eradication decisions based on incomplete and inaccurate data and without adequate consideration of wild horses as a vital part of public lands. In addition to courtroom challenges to agency actions, an equally active set of advocates is working to try and motivate legislative action to force changes in the statutory template upon which BLM operates its program.

It would take a thick book to even attempt to completely discuss and describe the internecine set of laws, regulations, policies, and guidelines that govern the wild horse issue. This Article briefly sets out the legal framework governing wild horse management, the key elements behind the government’s decisions, and the challenges facing those who oppose the roundups.

Although not directly addressed in the challenges brought, the subtext of these lawsuits is two-fold. First, advocates believe that wild horse homelands are being systematically converted to other purposes without sufficient analysis as required by the statutory framework. Second, as a visceral and somewhat emotional matter, it is the cruelty inherent in the roundups and the dissolution of thousands of horse families that drives much of the opposition. (continued)

PLEASE click (HERE) to read this article in it’s entirety!

Editor’s Note: “Mr. Wagman is the legal team lead for HfH Advisory Council‘s legal battles against the BLM’s ongoing attempts to “zero-out” significant and irreplaceable wild horse herds across the western United States.  The small excerpt, above, represents only a portion of an important statement that can be read by clicking the link as indicated.  We highly recommend that you visit the linked site to view the photographs, videos and comment on not only this fine example of timely information but on the topic of our national  heritage under siege by President Obama’s corrupt wild horse extinction agency, the BLM.” ~ R.T.

NYC Court May Open Door for Wild Horse Release

(The News as We See It) by R.T. Fitch

Judge to Render Ruling Tomorrow, Oct 21, 2010

Today, lead counsel Bruce Wagman, of the Schiff Hardin law firm, reported that the TRO hearing for the Habitat for Horses, ASPCA, Cloud Foundation, Toni and Dr. Don Moore suit against the BLM for rounding up wild horses in the Colorado North Piceance area has netted several positive results for both the horses and the American public.

“Of primary importance is the issue of venue has been ruled upon”, stated Wagman, “In the eyes of the court the ASPCA does have standing with these horses and the case will remain in New York”.  Last week the BLM attempted to persuade the court to move the case to a more BLM “friendly” western state or to Washington D.C. This request has now been withdrawn by the federal government.

Wagman went on to report that the court also found that plaintiff Dr. Don Moore has suffered irreparable harm by removing said horses who he has personally known for decades.  The BLM stated that Dr. Moore could just go elsewhere to see wild horses and the court agreed that such an option was not suitable or appropriate.

Still remaining to be decided is the main point of law, argued by the plaintiffs, that the BLM has not proven that the horses are indeed “excess”.  The law suit states that the BLM is in violation of the Data Quality Act and does not use contemporary and updated information in deciding how many horses should be removed from public lands and which herds should actually be “zeroed” out.

The judge intends to make his ruling, tomorrow, October 21st 2010.  If in favor of the horses the captured equines will be returned to the range and the helicopter stampede will be concluded.  If not, the BLM will continue to conduct their ill conceived stampede and additional wild horses will be added to the 40,000+ confined animals that the BLM holds in concentration camps across the U.S..