Good Work if You Can Get It…..
In a membership communication distributed on January 30, the United Organizations of the Horse (a Wyoming based lobbying group whose mission is to open a horse slaughter facility in Wyoming – referred to as the UOH) applauded the financial support of various organizations and spoke of the attendance of Rep. Sue Wallis and David Duquette at the Simon Bucking Stock Sale in Oklahoma City, OK. Rep. Wallis is an elected state legislator from Wyoming, as well as Executive Director of the UOH, and Mr. Duquette is the President of the nonprofit 501 (c)(3) affiliate of the UOH, the United Horseman’s Front. The Simon Bucking Stock Sale is operated by Joe Simon Enterprises of Lakeville, MN.
In August of 2009, this same Joe Simon (aka Roy Joseph Simon) was found to have committed multiple violations of the Commercial Transportation of Equines for Slaughter Act (CTESA). The Act, part of the 1996 Farm Bill, is intended to assure that equines being transported for slaughter are not subjected to unsafe and inhumane conditions during shipment. Any owner/shipper that commercially transports more than 20 equines a year to a slaughter facility must comply with this law. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is charged with overseeing CTESA compliance. Among other things these regulations dictate that:
- stallions and other aggressive horses must be separated from the rest of the shipment
- adequate food, water, and rest should be provided to slaughter-bound horses six hours prior to being loaded onto a vehicle
- horses should not be confined in a vehicle longer than 24 hours without food and water
- An owner/shipper certificate must accompany the shipment (this contains details about the shipper and receiver as well as statement verifying that the horse is fit to travel. Horses must also be supplied with a “backtag” – a tag supplied by the USDA that sticks to the back of the horse)
- adequate floor space must be provided for the horses during shipment
In the decision issued by the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) that heard Simon’s case, it was recorded that Simon said he had been in business for over 30 years and estimated that he or his business transported approximately 3600 horses a year for slaughter. Mr. Simon was charged with numerous violations of the Act, ranging from minor paperwork irregularities, to more serious violations; including findings that during transport a horse severed an artery so severely that that blood was visibly running from the trailer (no vet was called, as required by regulations) and another horse sustained multiple fractures of a hind leg and no veterinarian was called, even though the driver attested to the horses “acting up” in the trailer (the horse was so seriously injured it was was euthanized immediately at the slaughterhouse upon arrival.)
In the course of the decision the ALJ commented:
“… I am somewhat puzzled why Complainant (the USDA) let such a large number of violations accumulate before issuing a complaint against Respondent (Simon). Given the importance of the regulations, strongly emphasized by the testimony of Dr. Cordes (Dr. Timothy Cordes, veterinarian and witness for the USDA) and by Complainant’s briefs, it is surprising that years (emphasis added) elapsed between the commission of some violations and the issuance of the complaint. The earliest violations were alleged to have occurred in August 2003, with the first serious violation occurring in November 2004, yet the complaint was not issued until May 2007. Respondent testified, without dispute, that he has not been cited for any further violations since the issuance of the complaint in this case, indicating that waiting for the accumulation of 42 alleged violations before the issuance of a complaint rather than prosecuting promptly is not fully consistent with either the remedial or deterrent aims of the Agency. Thus, Dr. Cordes statement that Respondent had far more violations than any other owner/shipper who had gone to hearing, is necessarily weighed against the fact that it is highly likely that there would have been far fewer violations if APHIS (USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) had taken action when the first violations were discovered.”
When reviewing multiple cases that were adjudicated by the ALJs having jurisdiction over CTESA prosecutions, it was found that this delay in bringing action against violators of the CTESA HAS BEEN THE RULE, rather than the exception for many years. In ruling after ruling, various ALJs expressed their frustration and incredulity that years passed before any formal complaints were filed against horse slaughter shippers, even those with the most serious and heinous of violations. And, the judges were especially frustrated because as these cases were presented as first offenses, they were limited in the amount of penalties they could assign in their decisions.
IT IS ALSO OF INTEREST TO NOTE THAT CURRENT DECISIONS SHOW THAT MOST OF THE VIOLATIONS OCCURRED WHEN HORSE SLAUGHTER WAS LEGAL IN THE UNITED STATES.
On April 30, 2010, an editorial was run in www.trib.com, which criticized the UOH’s plans to build a horse slaughter plant in Wyoming. That same day, the UOH released a press release in response. In this release Rep. Wallis said:
“Under the current situation, the only horses that have any value whatsoever are those that are big enough, healthy enough, and close enough to a border to be worth the trucking to Canada and Mexico where they are slaughtered under systems and circumstances we cannot control or regulate. We feel it is far better to do this under US regulation and in situations where we can monitor it…”
Clearly, according to the USDA’s own enforcement action documentation, there IS very little enforcement or monitoring of conditions of horses shipped for slaughter, and severe violations are allowed to continue for years before any actions are taken to enforce the regulations, and, when enforcement is attempted the damages issued are hardly in line with the number and severity of violations. One cannot help but wonder if the USDA does such a poor job of overseeing something as basic as transport, what are its capabilities and priorities as far as overseeing a equine slaughter facility? Plus, the USDA has a difficult time just keeping up with basic safety of the current food supply (as is evident by the nearly monthly news reports of various food-born illnesses affecting large numbers of Americans).
Rep. Wallis went on to say:
“…We cannot let this (or any public expression of misinformation, outright lies, and exaggerations) go unanswered.….You all understand that if we lose this battle over the hearts and minds of the pet owning public, that our entire animal agriculture and horse based livelihoods are lost….If you want to drive change, you have to get out of the back of the truck. That is what we are trying to do. Animal rights organizations like HSUS/PETA create problems, inflame problems, and make money off of problems…we solve problems, and create value out of good solutions. ….”
Rep. Wallis goes onto urge UOH membership to “become an advocate for animal agriculture and for the rightful place of horses within that framework. … Don’t let misinformation go unchecked. .. most of these people are true horse lovers who consider their horses as pets, and who are being emotionally manipulated by animal rights ideologues who have a much darker agenda…..”
In some of her “talking points” Rep. Wallis makes the following assertions:
- Without the option of slaughter, and using the meat to feed hungry animals or hungry people, those who can no longer afford to keep a horse, and cannot sell it, have literally no option…you can’t bury a 1,000 lb horse in the back yard like a cat or a dog…..Contrast that viewpoint with the total waste of at least 200,000 horse carcasses per year which, if euthanized with lethal drugs, become no more than a colossal disposal problem with toxic carcasses that cannot even be buried because of fear that it will leach into groundwater.
Actually, in most states it is perfectly legal to bury a horse on an owner’s property, and this method is what most horse-owners utilize when they lose an animal. There is no research or studies to indicate that there is groundwater contamination from the burying of chemically euthanized horses. The American Veterinary Medical Association does say that any chemically euthanized horse carcasses that are left unburied could be toxic to birds and predatory species.
- Some Americans always have and always will eat horse meat. It is what filled the bellies of our soldiers who won World War II, and kept the families here at home fed throughout the 1940s when there was a shortage of all other meat…
Multiple polls indicate differently. In a variety of polls conducted since 1993, anywhere from 57-89% of Americans have stated that they feel horse slaughter is cruel and inhumane, and the eating of horse meat abhorrent.
- One billion people on the planet today rarely get enough to eat, and another billion do not get enough protein and nutrients for health. Ten million children a year die of starvation. From a moral standpoint, can we afford to put any viable protein source off limits?
Currently, as horse meat cannot be transported state to state (the USDA has no operating budget for meat inspectors at horse slaughter facilities) it is hard to understand the even basic feasibility of Rep. Wallis’ argument; unless, of course, there are 10 million children dying of starvation in Wyoming.
- Because of the closure of the US slaughter plants in the US in 2007 by state action in Illinois and Texas, the entire horse industry from top to bottom has been deeply affected. What was a 1.2 Billion dollar industry supporting 460,000 full-time direct jobs, and another 1.6 million indirect jobs has been cut in half. There has been a loss of a minimum of 500,000 direct and indirect jobs, and horses that were worth $1,000 are now worthless, horses once worth $2,500 are lucky to bring $750, horses that would have sold for $85,000 to $100,000 are now being liquidated for $10,000 each.
None of these figures could be independently verified and Rep. Wallis did not quote her source. In fact, according to a detailed study done by the Animal Law Coalition, horse slaughter numbers began declining in 1993 and the number of horses slaughtered has been relatively flat and stable (approximately 100,000 per year) since 1997, so the only accurate correlation in regards to economic impact is the number of direct jobs lost when the two slaughter plant facilities in Illinois and Texas closed in 2007.
- …The ultimate goal of animal rightists, which is a very, very radical and idealogic agenda, is to end all human use of animals and to eliminate all domestic animals which is to many of us a gross perversion of the moral and ethical underpinnings of our society, not to mention a dangerous, unhealthy, and unnatural way of being.
As no sources or facts were associated with this statement, it must be assumed that this is Rep. Wallis’ own personal opinion.
In a recent article by Chelsea Good, published in Kansas Stockman, Ms. Good attempts to make the case that horse abandonment and neglect has increased dramatically in the United States since the closure of the slaughter plants in 2007:
The American Quarter Horse Association, American Veterinary Medical Association and many animal agriculture groups opposed the forced (horse slaughter) plant closings, claiming there would be an increase in horse abandonment. Since 2007, horse prices have plummeted to the point where many cannot even be given away. The web site wwww.amillionhorses.com tracks print, television and radio news reports about horse neglect and abandonment. Prior to 2007, stories numbered less than 35 a year. In 2008, the group tracked 310 stories. Reports increased 400% from 2008 to 2009, when 1,241 stories detailing neglect and abandonment of horses were published online.
However, again, the argument that slaughterhouse plant closings have increased the incidence of horse abandonment and neglect, does not even pass a basic common sense test, as the numbers of horses slaughtered has remained essentially the same since 1997. It is highly more likely that since 2007, basic market economics have come into play, i.e. the supply has exceeded the demand for horses, due to the world-wide recession and (perhaps) overbreeding of horses. Additionally, the information Ms. Good cites from the website www.amillionhorses.com could not be verified or even located.
So, as one steps through the various position statements and information being distributed by the UOH and Rep. Wallis, it is clear that very little of it is fact-based – most is just hyperbole and rhetoric designed to inflame the UOH membership and people who make their living from livestock and poultry, and manipulate them into helping the UOH push forth its own agenda. And, upon close examination that agenda becomes painfully clear.
One obvious clue can be found in the UOH’s old website under FAQs. On this web page, Rep. Wallis responds to an email she has received from “Sandra I” (location unknown):
“Dear Ms Wallis–maybe I am being naive, but wonder how it is that an elected Federal member of the House, can also be a lobbyist at the same time… I hope to hear from you, as I am curious re this issue. Sandra I.”
Rep. Wallis response included the following statement:
“First of all, I am a State Representative, not a Federal one. I represent a very rural area, and one small town, in Campbell County. In my state, serving in the Legislature is a small, small part of my livelihood. The most we are ever in session in any one year is 40 days. I make my living as a rancher……….” (emphasis added)
In this response, Rep. Wallis fails to address this most pertinent question in regards to the ethics of a legislator also being a lobbyist, and sponsoring legislative bills that promote her own enterprises.
In fact, an analysis of the UOH supporters shows that only a small percentage of the UOH membership is actually from Wyoming (one supporter being Jim Schwartz, the Director of the Wyoming Livestock Board). Most are from other parts of the country, and, Dave Duquette, president of the UOH’s nonprofit affiliate resides and runs a business in Oregon.
It is hard to fathom how the people of Wyoming, nor the powers-that-be that oversee Wyoming legislative ethics stand for this.
As an exercise in impartiality let’s remove horse slaughter issue from the scenario, and replace it with a hypothetical casino project in a hypothetical state. State Rep. Jane Doe decides she wants a casino. There had been a similar situation in neighboring Nevada, where a state legislator had sponsored a successful bill to have a casino built on state property (he was the President of corporation that owned the casino, and profited from it, along with his out-of-state backers). The casino had operated for a number of years. However, it had recently been closed, due to public outcry over corruption in the state legislature.
Despite the controversy surrounding the Nevada casino, Rep. Doe sponsors a bill for her casino, clearly stating her casino will be different than the Nevada casino, hers will be a “fair, family friendly” casino, which will be much better for the gamblers and their families. Rep. Doe says the casino will provide thousands of jobs, and ancillary income to her state, although no facts or studies are used to illustrate how this will work exactly. She finds an individual from another state that is willing to become president of a tax-exempt nonprofit “affiliate” of her casino project. Plans are made for him to operate a “nature park and dude ranch” on the casino grounds, that will be solely dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating abused and neglected children. She uses this as a selling feature to the State Legislature (never mind the fact that the president of this nonprofit has absolutely no experience in rescuing and rehabilitating abused and neglected children, he has had several chilren though, so therefore he is an expert). She also forms a tax-exempt nonprofit lobbying group mainly consisting of out-of-state backers to not only invest in the casino and give Rep. Doe’s activities financial support, but they also work out deals to ship in gamblers from their various states, so that they will have the opportunity to gamble at a “fair, family friendly” casino. Rep. Doe and her out-of-state backers form a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) to handle the income of their “fair, family friendly” casino; exact details on how much of this income will actually make it into Rep. Doe State’s coffers remains undiscussed. Nevertheless, the Governor of Rep. Doe’s state and the State Legislature nod wisely in agreement that Rep. Doe has an excellent plan to help the people of her state and said casino project is approved lickety-split with little to no input from these same people.
Well, as they say, its good work if you can get it.