Forward by R.T. Fitch ~ Author/Director of HfH Advisory Council
Horse Eaters Just Can’t Get It Right
“Over the past four weeks Equine Welfare Alliance (EWA) President John Holland has been engaged in a publicly printed debate on the issue of predatory horse slaughter with Charles Stemholm in Nebraska’s North Platt Telegraph. As most are aware, Nebraska is burdened with a freshman senator that wants to bring bloody horse slaughter to his state while penalizing non-profits who do not take in horses. The bizarre behavior of Sen. Tyson Larson is fueled by the fringe, radical horse eating organization, United Horseman, and the deluded Senator has drank from the kool aide of “Slaughterhouse” Sue Wallis and Dave “Doink” Duquette.
John’s four installments in the debate are listed below. Mr. Stemholm’s articles can be read by clicking (HERE) and are not displayed on this site out of courtesy to him and respect for the horses, it’s just that inane.
Years of research have gone into the comments made by John and this singular post proves to be an online primer and reference to the issue of horse slaughter in the U.S.
We thank you and the horses thank you, John.” ~ R.T.
‘… horse slaughter is bad for the economy, the community and the taxpayer …’
EWA President John Holland
Senator Tyson Larson’s bills LB 305 and 306 are the latest examples of bad legislation introduced in an attempt to bring back the U.S. horse slaughter plants. LB 305 would require the taxpayers of Nebraska to pay for the establishment of an ante-mortem inspection program designed solely at circumventing the Congressional elimination of funding for mandatory USDA inspection of horses killed for human consumption.
LB 306 would make it a crime for a horse rescue to refuse to accept any horse offered to it. These bills are part of a proxy war between corporate agriculture, breeders and what they see as the “animal rights” movement. LB 306 penalizes those working to compensate for over-breeding and is more a vendetta than reasoned legislation.
Larson claims that opening a horse slaughter plant would be good for Nebraska’s economy, but Nebraska already enjoys the second lowest unemployment in the country (4.4 percent).
In fact, history tells us that it would bring only misery and loss to Nebraskans.
I will present evidence proving that horse slaughter is bad for the economy, the community, the taxpayers, horse owners and the horses themselves. American horse slaughter is a dying practice, and spending treasure to resuscitate it is folly.
Ignoring the worst economy in living memory, both [Charles] Stenholm and Larson claim that the closing of the slaughter plants has harmed the horse market and increased equine neglect. I will first prove this is impossible.
A brief history of horse slaughter:
In 1990, there were about 12 horse slaughter plants operating in the U.S. One of these was Central Nebraska Packing in North Platte. Along with plants in Canada and Mexico USDA statistics show they slaughtered a total of 419,133 American horses that year. Both the number of slaughterhouses and horses slaughtered declined steadily through the decade despite no legal restrictions until California banned slaughter in 1998. Nobody claimed that this 77.5 percent reduction caused any problems.
By 2000 there were only three, foreign owned, horse slaughter plants left in the U.S.; two in Texas and one in Illinois. Horse slaughter declined until 2002, and then rebounded slightly to a level just over 100,000 horses a year.
In January 2007 the two Texas plants were closed when the courts ruled that a 1949 law against selling horsemeat for human consumption was still in effect. The Dallas Crown plant in Kaufman Texas had earlier been ordered closed by the town Board of Adjustments because of pollution, but had successfully remained open through legal delaying.
The remaining Cavel plant in DeKalb, Ill., was shut down in September 2007 after unsuccessfully challenging a new state law against slaughtering horses for human consumption. The removal of funding for required inspections had also closed the plant temporarily and the work-around program allowing the plants to pay for their own inspections was eventuallyruled to be illegal. Like Dallas Crown, the plant was also facing massive fines for its sewage discharge.
The key to the issue is what happened after the plants closed; virtually nothing. The plants relocated their plants to Canada and Mexico in weeks.
In the 10 years before the closings an average of 117,121 American equines were slaughtered per year, and in the three years afterward the annual average was virtually the same at 116,867.
Just as many horses are being purchased at approximately the same prices from the same auctions as before the closings. Therefore, any claim that the closures harmed the horse market or caused horses to be neglected is inescapably false.
We have had slaughter available and it failed to protect the horse market from the recession.
Understanding the property rights issue
Using USDA statistics, I have previously debunked the myth that closing the U.S. horse slaughterhouses had any effect on the horse industry or on equine welfare. The statistics show there was no reduction in the number of American horses slaughtered, only a change in where they were slaughtered.
Mr. Stenholm then claimed that slaughter was a “property rights” issue and that horse owners have the absolute right to do what they want with their horses. But eliminating horse slaughter would in no way limit what ordinary horse owners could do with their horses. They could still sell them or euthanize them. It would merely limit the purposes for which someone could buy horses.
The real threat to property rights:
It is the horse slaughter industry itself that has repeatedly destroyed the property rights of horse owners, ordinary citizens and taxpayers. I will show this by revealing a little more of its dark history.
Behind the now closed Dallas Crown slaughterhouse there is a community called “Boggy Bottom.” The community lived with an indescribable stench caused by a mixture of the plant’s gore and a system of misters that constantly sprayed chlorine into the air in a vain attempt to mask the odor.
A nearby hospital was forced to spend precious funds to install an expensive air treatment system to protect its patients from the noxious odor.
The plant also had chronic waste disposal issues and refused to pay its fines for overwhelming the town’s treatment system. At one point they attempted to force the gory mess down the sewer with a pump, causing blood to rise into the bathtubs and drains of the Boggy Bottom neighborhood.
Worst of all, the Boggy Bottom residents were trapped there because the plant’s presence destroyed their property values and they could not sell their homes.
Eventually the Kaufman Board of Adjustments ordered the plant closed, but Dallas Crown won a restraining order and dragged the town to court on each of the violations, literally exhausting its budget. Yes, citizens of Kaufman know about having their property rights violated!
This pattern has become the norm. The rebuilt “state-of-the-art” Cavel plant was never in compliance on its discharge a single month between its opening and its closing. The neighbors awoke one morning to see a huge tank foaming over onto the ground and splitting at the seams.
The Natural Valley Farms plant in Canada (where Cavel relocated) was caught dumping millions of gallons of horse blood into the river and a lagoon as well as leaving mountains of entrails on the open ground causing the earth to become sterile.
Yet despite this grim record, Mr. Stenholm strongly supported Ed Butcher’s outrageous law in Montana. HB.418 stripped away property owner’s legal rights making it impossible for communities like Boggy Bottom to challenge the building of a horse slaughterhouse. Courts cannot block licensing on many environmental grounds, and any injunction requires a hefty bond and threatens substantial financial penalties to challengers.
When Butcher subsequently announced he was going to get a slaughter plant built in the town of Hardin, Mont., the town council studied the issue and immediately passed ordinance 2010-1 to block it!
Finally, there is the issue of the relation of horse theft to slaughter. In the years before California outlawed slaughter, horse theft had been increasing steadily, but in the seven years afterward horse theft dropped by over 84 percent. Horse theft emotionally devastates its victims. If slaughter returns to Nebraska, future victims’ rights will be forfeited.
It seems that Charlie only supports “property rights” for clients of his lobby firm and not as a general principle.
Far from an economic advantage
Mr. Stenholm referred to the USDA statistics that I referenced (to show that we still have as many horses as ever going to slaughter) as “dubious numbers”. He also referred to the 900 pages of horrific images of mangled horses arriving at slaughter in Texas as “dirty pictures”. Those photos were also from the USDA and were exposed under a FOIA request.
Since Charlie apparently favors debating with adjectives rather than facts and images, I will offer a few adjectives to describe the Larson legislation; impetuous, vindictive, feckless, misguided and futile. Those were the five kindest I could conjure, and here is why.
As amended, LB.306 is intended to force HSUS operated rescues to take any horse offered or face misdemeanor charges. Not only is this outrageously unfair, it is impotent because HSUS does not operate any rescues in Nebraska. So that leaves LB.305 and the “several hundred jobs” Charlie says it would bring to Nebraska.
Sorry Charlie! Sen. Larson apparently forgot to do his homework again. The farm bill language that allows states to perform inspections is limited to slaughter operations having 25 or fewer employees, and USDA officials say it doesn’t allow horse inspections at all. In the unlikely event the USDA relents on horsemeat inspections the prize is still just 25 low paying, dangerous, dehumanizing minimum wage jobs.
Let’s talk money and bureaucracy:
LB.305 would create a whole new state bureaucracy to manage an inspection system for an “industry” of no more than 25 workers. Once created, that bureaucracy would cost the taxpayers of Nebraska in perpetuity, and since antemortem inspections require licensed veterinarians, it is probable that the real employment boom would be in this taxpayer funded government boondoggle.
To gauge what this investment might provide in returns, consider the smallest of the US plants which employed between 33 and 42 people. Dallas Crown 2004 Tax filings, exposed during their fight with the town, show they had gross receipts of $12,007,611 on which they paid $5 in federal taxes and gave $3 to charity!
The horsemeat market is controlled by foreign corporations who have a stranglehold on the distribution. An American company would have no choice but to sell to this cartel at whatever price they were offered.
This is precisely what happened in Canada when the Natural Valley Farms plant began killing horses for Cavel’s parent corporation Velda, LLC (Belgium). The plant finally went bankrupt with losses of $44 million dollars and Velda moved on, leaving a financial and ecological wasteland behind them.
There is little in this for the horse industry either. A study by Deloitte Consulting estimated the horse industry produces a $102 billion total economic impact. Horse slaughter accounts for approximately $36 million of this income, meaning it contributes only about 3 cents of every $100 generated by the horse industry. And it gets worse.
Wyoming and Montana both passed similarly ill-conceived laws and have yet to attract a slaughter plant. Central Nebraska Packing has said it does not intend to reopen its horse slaughter operation and it is unlikely Nebraska will attract another plant given the substantial risk that federal legislation could eventually shut it down.
Moreover, it is entirely likely that the European Union will continue to restrict its horsemeat imports on safety grounds, and changes in federal law would put a new US plant under FDA oversight. The FDA bans most common horse medications from food animals and classifies horses as companion animals.
Larson’s bills are just the latest examples of reckless, ill-conceived and ineffective state legislation spurred on by the “animal rights” fear mongering of lobbyists like Charlie.
Slaughterhouses provide nothing positive
First, I want to thank the Telegraph for providing this unique venue for people to hear both sides of this issue. I also want to thank Mr. Stenholm for confirming that there has been no reduction in the number of US horses going to slaughter since the US plants closed. They have simply been shipped to Canada and Mexico for slaughter.
That admission is extremely important because it proves once and for all that the countless articles about horses being abandoned and neglected because of the plant closings were nothing but propaganda.
I said that I would show that horse slaughter is bad for the economy, the community, the tax payers, horse owners and the horses themselves. I have done just that by recounting the dark history of the industry.
I have shown that the horse slaughter plants in North America have provided nothing positive for their communities and that they have caused enormous loss to horse owners, neighbors and taxpayers, as well as posing a threat to the health of the people who consumed the meat. Each of these plants opened with the public promise it would be different and “state-of-the-art” and each became a brutal, foul cesspool.
Charlie promises to “bring back the jobs” lost as a result of the closings. In recent years, America has lost countless jobs in industries ranging from textiles to computers. Of all these, the horse slaughter jobs are the very last that any community should wish to recover. They are demeaning, dehumanizing, dangerous, low-paying jobs with no future and no self-respect.
Is this the career future Nebraska wants for its sons and daughters? Would you brag that your boy landed a job butchering horses? If returning horse slaughter to the US is a good idea, then how does Charlie explain the fact that Texas and Illinois have repeatedly defeated legislation aimed at overturning their state bans?
The idea of establishing a whole new state bureaucracy on the unlikely chance it might create 25 such jobs is not the kind of thinking that put Nebraska where it is today. It is a blind reaction to carefully nurtured prejudice about Eastern “animal rights activists” meddling in Nebraska’s affairs.
But it has not been PETA or the “Animal Rights” movement that has pushed so hard to eliminate horse slaughter. It has been horse owners and lovers along with people impacted by the horse slaughter business. The “animal rights” advocates hold different views than those of us in the equine welfare community. A few animal rights folks even believe that any use of an animal is immoral.
We on the other hand, relish the many amazing jobs equines do for us. From therapy to dressage to racing, we see them as our animal partners. Many of us are involved in these sports and therapies. We simply want our equine athletes treated with compassion and fairness.
We believe that the relationship between Americans and their equines has always been central to the American experience and history and we believe that selling out these magnificent creatures is morally indefensible. We should not be surprised that horse slaughter leads to human misery as well.
The horse business is not a meat industry. If folks like Larson succeed in making it so, then horse owners will inevitably pay a terrible price. Effective medications will become unavailable and our horses will be tracked from birth like cattle.
If Sen. Larson’s horse breeding business cannot produce horses people want to buy without using the state to kill off the current population, then perhaps he should consider another occupation.