Horse News

Wyoming Slaughterhouse May Not Happen

Story by Terri Adams of the Prairie Star

EWA Prez Cites Facts on Horse Slaughter

John Holland, President of the Equine Welfare Alliance

With all the on-going talk about building a horse slaughter facility in Wyoming, John Holland is concerned that people understand the legal concerns of such a venture. Holland is president and CEO of Equine Welfare Alliance.

“We’ve been following slaughter plants here in the U.S. and Canada for years,” he said.

He and his volunteer team of lawyers, accountants, doctors and other professionals are up-to-date on legal issues surrounding horse slaughter plants.

In fact, legal issues shut down the U.S. horse plants in Texas and Illinois.

The Texas plants were closed because of a long overlooked 1949 law that said it was illegal to sell or transport horsemeat anywhere in Texas.

The Illinois plant, a brand-new state-of-the-art facility, was closed by a new state law in Illinois banning the slaughter of horses for human consumption.

The Kaufman Texas plant and the Illinois plant were also in danger of being closed down because of repeated sanitation and pollution violations.

At almost the same time, Congress withdrew funding for required federal inspectors in horse meat plants.

Without them, the meat can not be exported out of the state for human consumption.

“In order to open a horse slaughter plant you have to be able to legally dispose of every product and byproduct that comes out of that plant; and you have to have adequate revenues to pay back the cost of the plant and its operation,” he said.

That includes disposing of more than just horsemeat. Plants must also be able to properly dispose of the bones, teeth, hooves, hides, blood, entrails and manure.

Drugs used to treat horses for a variety of ailments from worms and parasites, to injuries and infections, are having negative consequences even after the animal is slaughtered.

Because many of these drugs stay in the horse’s system, the meat and byproducts cannot be used., he said. Those that can be used often cannot be shipped.

Holland said in order to ship horsemeat out of Wyoming, the proposed plant must meet federal standards and maintain federal inspectors on the kill floor and out in the yard.

By law, these inspectors must be paid by the federal government, and that funding has been terminated. In 2007, the USDA temporarily allowed the plants to pay for their own inspections, but the courts ruled that was illegal.

Proponents of the Wyoming slaughter plant say they will simply use all the horsemeat produced by the plant inside state lines, either by selling it or donating the meat to foodbanks and prisons system.

“The entire population of Wyoming is only 540,000. That is their potential market. American’s don’t eat horsemeat. For people in Wyoming to use it all, I calculated every man, woman and child in Wyoming would have to consume 18 pounds of horsemeat a year.”

As for donating the meat, Holland expressed concerns about the legality and the ethics of that move.

“The European market is tightening down because U.S. horses are not raised for consumption,” he said.

In Europe, the final destination of a horse — be it consumption or pleasure —is designated at birth.

“You can’t just take a pleasure horse when you’re done with it and send it to slaughter,” he said.

That is because, in Europe, every drug given to the horse is recorded and if the horse has certain drugs, like Bute, they are automatically ineligible for slaughter, he explained.

Bute, short for phenylbutazone (PBZ), is the most commonly used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) in equine practice.

“Here they give it to horses like aspirin,” he said.

But bute remains in a horse’s system and is dangerous, even deadly, when consumed by humans. Because of that, the FDA does not allow any use of PBZ in animals destined for human consumption, regardless of withdrawal time. Neither does Europe.

“It is not only a carcinogen, but causes liver failure and bone marrow suppression leading  to aplastic anemia and low platelet counts and it’s even been linked to leukemia.”

Currently, U.S. horses destined for slaughter are supposed to have paperwork stating their drug history, but Holland said sellers often don’t have those records, so meat buyers ask a few questions and fill out the papers.

In a 2010 report on Food and Chemical Toxicology by Nicholas Dodman, Nicolas Blondeau and Ann M. Marini, track records of 68 Thoroughbred horses headed for slaughter were requested.

The report was able to access drug history for 32 of the horses and discovered that all 32 horses had received bute, some only a short time before slaughter.

In their report, they wrote: “Sixty-seven million pounds of horsemeat derived from American horses were sent abroad for human consumption last year (2008). Horses are not raised as food animals in the United States and, mechanisms to ensure the removal of horses treated with banned substances from the food chain are inadequate at best.”

Holland agreed.

In the papers his group examined, they did not find a single document completely filled out with health records.

They also found errors in the paperwork, including certificates made out for mares being presented as geldings.

To avoid the problems with banned substances in horsemeat, Europe has announced “a tough, three-year program to bring our horsemeat requirements in line with theirs,” he said. If the U.S. cannot comply “we won’t have any horses going to slaughter.”

Banned substances are also causing problems with other industries. Many zoos and all major pet food companies are refusing to use horsemeat or horse by-products so they can avoid the risk to their animals.

“Dogs, collies especially, have a problem with tainted horsemeat. They can eat horsemeat but if there is (dewormer) in the meat, it collects in their brain until it eventually causes seizures and then death,” he said.

And the same residual drug problem exists with horse byproducts and blood.

“You can’t send their blood down the sewer. It clogs the sewer, infects the water supply, and grows bacteria. Plants are supposed to pretreat the blood and sell it off to a rendering plant but many rendering plants won’t take horse by-products anymore because they are contaminated with drugs. You can’t even sell horse manure to farms producing food for human consumption because of the drugs that are given to horses pass out into the manure and can be taken up into the vegetables.”

Despite the problems with horsemeat and byproducts, Holland said that just as many American horses are being slaughtered now as before the closures.

“The same kill buyers are at work, but instead of shipping the horses to Texas or Illinois they’re shipping them just a little bit further, to Mexico or Canada,” Holland said.

And now Canada is thinking of closing its horse slaughter facilities as well.

With all the legal problems of exportation, sanitation and residual drugs in the meat and byproducts, Holland said the issue of horse slaughter facilities may well be doomed.

“There are people who want to see slaughter plants return for horses. They see it as a way to employ people, feed the poor, and take care of extra, unwanted horses but they don’t really understand the big picture. At the same time, the animal welfare advocates the closed plants as a personal victory, and it’s all become part of this big cultural war. Everyone needs to take a look at the facts, at all the legal issues involved, and the numbers. They don’t lie,” he concluded.

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7 replies »

  1. It would also give the state of Wyoming SUCH A BLACK EYE. Wyoming has so much more to offer it’s constituents. Slaughter plants don’t attract entrepeneurs, and that is what is needed to stimulate any economy. Start with a GOOD idea, and the money will follow.


  2. THANK YOU FOR THIS!! this is the truth and we NEED to see this. i know when we sell our calves their vac. history goes with them. it should be the same for all.
    this is why it is so bad to eat horsemeat. look at all the drugs that are used in them and no other livestock uses these drugs! these drugs have far reaching side effects.
    keep up the good work.


    Galloping across the prairie with manes and tails flying and hooves kicking up dust, there is nothing more iconic in the West than a wild horse. Whether you spot them racing like the wind, clustered around a waterhole or grazing contentedly, wild horses evoke a bit of the Old West, erasing the 21st and 20th centuries and shuttling you back to the 1800s.
    One of the best spots to see wild horses galloping across the prairie with manes and tails flying and hooves kicking up dust is in southwestern Wyoming, just a tad north of Rock Springs on a landscape of sagebrush, native grasses and rock. Here, on the mesa-like summit of White Mountain, the Pilot Butte Wild Horse Scenic Loop Tour skitters roughly 23 miles along good, gravel-base roads. Travel this route and along the way you gain not only many chances to spy roans, blacks, paints, appaloosas and sorrels, but panoramic views of the Wyoming Range to the west, the Wind River Range to the northeast and the Uinta Range to the south


  4. Except for the few, the horse advocate’s army, &, fellow animal lovers, humans are nothing more than PARASITES!! NO other creature on this planet kills just to kill, or, kills & takes more than they need at any given time. We, on the other hand, harvest other living creatures, utilize mass production/slaughter, of fellow sentient beings, without even flinching!! When I see, or think of animals, I DON’T envision “groceries”, I see a living creature who wants to live as much as we do. For us to have the “gift” of reason, &, the “gift” of having a conscience, it surely does NOT show! Those that kill animals are fully aware before they do, during the horrific act, &, after the fact. We are NOT wild predators, who usually only kill for food(of the immediate sort, or perhaps a couple to few days worth), or, kill in defense, for survival. Horse are a special gift from our Creator, they were NOT put here to be food, but to be our companions, our helpers, our transportation…..our FRIENDS!! Humans make me sick to my stomach!!


  5. Thanks again for the continued education of all of us on this controversial issue. You Got The Facts, John! mar


  6. I believe that this single statement is enough to stop the process everywhere: “It is not only a carcinogen, but causes liver failure and bone marrow suppression leading to aplastic anemia and low platelet counts and it’s even been linked to leukemia.”

    A problem we all have sometimes is trying to be so informative that we overwhelm others with information in our advocacy work in general. We need to learn to glean the information, pull out the facts that really hit home, and put it out to the public in a format that makes it easily absorbed by laymen.

    This article is exemplary of what we need more of- written without ranting and with bullet point clarity- with those bullets hitting home, right on target!

    Thank you, Mr. Holland.


  7. Once again John Holland really strikes a home run. This is a great testament to the “FACTS.” If only the constituents of these elected officials that are pro slaughter could see this…and if the politicians touting horse slaughter facilities would stop playing the “money and jobs” card to fit the current economic situation, I know a lot of horses’ lives can be saved. I think it is a great idea to share this article with media in EVERY state that is considering the abomination of horse slaughter. Many, many people do not understand the truth; they only know what they are being fed by elected “so called” officials.


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