Horse News

USDA: Horse Slaughter Environmental Review Pointless

Source: By Josh Long as published at Food Product Design

“…individuals in the vicinity of previous horse slaughter plants were forced to endure a noxious stench, dealt with blood in streams, and sometimes even found blood and horse tissue running through their water faucets…”

Americans say NO to Horse Slaughter in U.S. ~ photo by R.T. Fitch

Americans say NO to Horse Slaughter in U.S. ~ photo by R.T. Fitch

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—An agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) lacks discretion to deny requests to inspect horse slaughter facilities if they meet requirements under the Federal Meat Inspection Act, rendering an environmental review essentially meaningless, government lawyers argue.

Citing the failure of the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to follow the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), animal welfare groups—including Front Range Equine Rescue, Horses for Life Foundation and Humane Society of the United States among others—have sued the agency in federal court.

The lawsuit has at least temporarily thwarted the plans of three facilities in Iowa, Missouri and New Mexico to slaughter horses for human consumption. The controversial practice has infuriated animal rights groups and divided Native American tribes.

In a brief filed last month, Justice Department lawyers argue NEPA doesn’t apply to its horse slaughter oversight because FSIS lacks the authority to impose environmental conditions or deny a proposal for inspection on environmental grounds.

Since federal law requires FSIS to grant inspections to facilities that meet eligibility requirements under the Federal Meat Inspection Act, “environmental considerations pursuant to a NEPA analysis could not have changed FSIS’ decision,” the government lawyers wrote.

The animal rights groups that have sued FSIS vigorously disagree, and a federal judge is leaning in their favor. In temporary restraining orders that enjoin FSIS from dispatching inspectors to the horse slaughter facilities, Chief U.S. District Judge Christine Armijo has found plaintiffs are likely to prevail on their claims.

The judge is expected to make her final decision—whether to grant a permanent injunction—by the end of October. A final ruling is likely to be challenged before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

Plaintiffs have challenged FSIS’s decisions to grant inspections and a directive that relates to a drug residue testing program for equines. FSIS Directive 6130.1 provides instructions to government personnel on how to inspect horses before and after they are slaughtered, including instructions for drug residue testing.

In the lawsuit, plaintiffs cite a number of environmental hazards associated with horse slaughter facilities before three plants closed six years ago.

“As described in the record, individuals in the vicinity of previous horse slaughter plants were forced to endure a noxious stench, dealt with blood in streams, and sometimes even found blood and horse tissue running through their water faucets,” plaintiffs wrote in a brief. “Whether this will happen again is precisely the question that should be explored in a properly prepared NEPA document.”

NEPA

NEPA typically requires federal agencies to assess the environmental consequences of a proposed action through an “environmental assessment” (EA) and/or a more comprehensive “environmental impact statement” (EIS). FSIS has conducted neither an EA nor an EIS in connection with the horse slaughter facilities or the agency’s drug residue testing program.

NEPA’s requirements don’t apply to a federal agency if a proposed action will not have a “significant” impact either individually or cumulatively on the human environment. Regulations excuse FSIS from preparing an EA or EIS unless the agency’s administrator, Al Almanza, decides “an action may have a significant environmental effect,” according to a memo from FSIS that granted federal meat inspection services to Roswell, N.M.-based Valley Meat Company, LLC.

FSIS’s action “is purely ministerial” since it must grant federal inspection if a facility has met statutory and regulatory requirements, the agency concluded in the June 27 memo.

“A grant of federal inspection likewise does not and will not allow FSIS to exercise sufficient control over the commercial horse slaughter activities at Valley Meat such that the grant will constitute a major federal action that triggers NEPA requirements,” the memo declared.

The agency explained it only has authority to regulate a facility to the extent necessary to verify that meat produced for human consumption is properly labeled, packaged and wholesome as well as free of adulterants.

Drug Residues  

Plaintiffs have expressed fears that the horse slaughter plants are potentially dangerous in part because drugs that are administered to horses are not safe for human consumption and have the potential to contaminate “local ecosystems and water and soil supplies.”

Between 1996 and 2006, when FSIS tested horses for drugs before funding for horse inspections was withdrawn, few equines tested positive, according to the agency. But plaintiffs contend FSIS failed to test the animals for many drugs that are commonly administered to horses.

Documents submitted to the federal government have listed 115 drugs and categories of drugs that have been approved for use in horses and have been known to cause problems for humans, according to Bruce Wagman, an attorney representing a number of plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

The Attorney General of New Mexico has expressed similar fears, pointing out in a letter to Valley Meat that horse meat containing such dangerous substances as the anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone (PBZ) would be considered “adulterated” in violation of state law.

FSIS has defended the drug testing program, citing a number of safeguards—including random tests of horses after they are slaughtered—that are intended to protect the public from exposure to harmful chemicals and pesticide residues.

State agencies and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigate companies whose meat has tested positive for unpermitted drug residues, and FDA has authority to prosecute a business and take other enforcement action, FSIS pointed out.

Although FSIS has acknowledged it will conduct fewer samples under its new program, the agency said it will analyze them for a larger number of chemical compounds. But plaintiffs gripe the new program “ignores several dozen other substances commonly given to horses that may be harmful to humans.”

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16 replies »

  1. Another issue that is important to note is that these plants are generally built in depressed areas where the typical residents are no able to just move to avoid these hazards. They are forced by circumstances to simply endure and certainly cannot afford the attorneys to represent themselves to stop from becoming a dumping ground for hides, bones and other waste that draws rats, snakes, feral dogs and other hazards. The people that lived near those other plants suffered for years because the plants employed high power attorneys to fight the violations the plants racked up. The issues are so many and so varied, I cannot imagine anyone actually WANTING one of these plants in their communities if they ever really read the issues endured by the residents in Texas and Illinois.

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    • Exactly true, ahdfprez. I live 23 miles from where David Duquette wants to build a horse house of terror near Hermiston, OR. People here are very polarized about it. The president of the local cattlemen’s association wants to invest in the plant. He argues that cheval (horse) is another kind of beef. Another reason to boycott their nasty, unhealthy “product.”

      The land for this proposed slaughterhouse was purchased along I-84. I consulted an attorney and was told that there would be no way such an operation could pass Oregon’s environmental laws. The late Mayor of Hermiston and the city manager, along with past and present city council people, led the charge to let Duquette know that this very small city would not be giving him a business permit. He initiated a suit, but I think it must have been dropped. He felt he was being discriminated against, but I am not aware that there is a category for discrimination against cruel, greedy, unsavory types (snark).

      Until the federal SAFE Act passes, it is up to each state, and/or each county, to protect themselves.

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    • If horse meat can get mixed with beef & contaminate meat supplies all over the world, then it stands to reason that horsemeat with Bute & other drugs in them can & will contaminate the other meat at a horse slaughter facility that might “claim” most of their horses don’t have bute (or any of the other 114 drugs) – also the felonious nature of the horse slaughter industry & the people who run it preclude any confidence in their ability to properly (or honestly) administer the drug tests. One slaughtered horse for drug testing is one too many.

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  2. Another fine example of the ineptitude of our government, it’s employees, and worst of all it’s lawyers! Maybe it’s better for us, for the animals and everything else that the government is shutdown. Maybe it’s time for us to flush Washington of all the ignorant folks who are riding on our dime.

    Sure…let’s test the horse’s for drug residue AFTER we KILL them! Godless whoremongers!

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    • Certainly makes sense to those idiots! Why attempt to prevent more horses from dying? I hope this judge continues to see the truth. Honestly, it boggles my mind reading these articles – as I said in my comment – are they able to read AND comprehend whats right in front of them?

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  3. It is really sickening to know that our Government Agencies work against their own citizens that pay their salaries. Something has to be done against these know it all type agencies with their lying sh.. head lawyers. Doesn’t the history of horses slaughter facilities speak for themselves through the residents own horrific experiences with them. That should absolutely be enough to keep the slaughterhouses for horses out of the United States. Plus the fact that most Americans are against horses being slaughtered. We do not eat horse meat in the United States.

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  4. Fsis tests for More Drugs Less of the time. Thats their words. We will do Random testing after, like it matterz then cause this is not herded cattle from a farm in large groups given same regimen since birth. Every single horse varies in drugs, pesticides, etc. Why dont they just put out a sign that says Good Ol Boys program repeat offenders Welcomed! Prosecution authority for who? Definitely Not the Violators, they state clearly they were drug free for years. Wait! Read the docket on USDA again because it shows violations In those years as well the.center for disease control has documented tge meat coming from plant in dekalb illinois made people in france ill in 2006. I know now why sue walrus hasnt hit the panic button yet. That cartoon of an agency has her believing its in the bag! They are going to random test for more drugs. Really, what good is that going to do? Anyone with a brain sees clearly each horse requires testing or its not accurate. So is this full testing of all drugs on one random carcass or one test for this horse and a different one for another, like russian roulette? Which one is good or bad but all others are approved? Theres another lawsuit forming for their defective program analysis of the meats. Intentional misuse of their program and ineffectively planning to bypass some horses relying on killbuyer bogus documents of safety and made up withdrawal times that didnt happen. This is blantant disregard for all persons consuming the meats. This is a dangerous liason with foreign dinner tables, they wont ever have Mexico turning horses down, these plants will kill everything and fsis will stroll in every once on a blue moon and peek at it! This is really sick!

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    • The Good Ole Boy Syndrome is dangerous to everyone not participating in it. Especially since the Good Ol Boys are Government Agencies they are MORE dangerous, they sedate people who WANT to believe the agencies story. I Hope and Pray every night and day JudgeArmijo will rule in the horses favor because its for the peoples health and safety as well. Please speak out everyone who can and will, keep our voices,loud and strong, we still need to be heard. I know yourtired, weary, and its taking forever but please keep it out there reminding people to speak up! They only tend the sqeaky wheel so be Louder than the opposition, not angry, just Louder! Truth will Set the Horses Free, so keep it served up to everybody.

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  5. what about the horrible screaming from horses (cows and pigs)? You don’t think that that affects our kids? our own peace of mind/sanity? The message we are sending out is that cruelty of any kind is OK.

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    • This just makes me crazy that these heartless slaughtering monsters have not hearts. This world is going down the toliet with greed and stupidity. With such disregard for mankind and our beloved horses. Something good must come out of this and we must keep up the fight for everything that is right. Do not slaughter horses period.

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  6. Just think, and some of us had the now obviously grossly mistaken position that this President wanted to end horse slaughter. Yet, he has Eric Holder’s Justice Department arguing forcefully that a federal law is irrelevant in this case. It should be clear by now that this administration has an almost sadistic love for inficting suffering on those least able to protect themselves.

    Some people forgot that this is thie President’s second time around the miserable death and destruction wrought by horse slaughter. He should have received his primary education while still a state senator from Illinois. Details arei important, and the details were that he was one of the very last senators to cast his vote. He didn’t lead the way or demonstrate any moral or ethical principles with his vote. He tested the wind—obviously with his thumb and not his nose.

    Yet, we were told again and again that he wanted to end horse slaughter, even though he had time for just about anything but personally talking to anti-horse slaughter advocates. He has weighed in on many issues no president before him has throught it appropriate to address, but not one from him to us.

    We claim to be horse advocates, but we deliveredd our horses to the very gates of hell.

    If our horses are going only for foreign consumption, the principles of the WTO will be sovereign to U.S. law. Just as some countries allow higher percentages of copper or phenylbutazone residue in their beef, some countries may be willing to accept higher concentrations of drugs that are commonly used on U.S. horses.

    This may have been the reason that the failure of F.S.I.S. testing methods to detect drug residues did not seem to be a great concern to U.S.D.A.

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  7. American tax dollars that fund the USDA should be used to ensure the safety of the beef, pork, and poultry we Americans do eat! Just this week a salmonella outbreak was traced back to bad poultry. Where were the USDA inspectors? Most Americans do not want the cruel and inhumane practice of horse slaughter in our great nation. If the evil and human greed that is horse slaughter is allowed, I, for one, will be ashamed to call myself an American!

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  8. Google Horse meat. Why? This article is supported by persons wanting to keep the horse meat scandal going. Google horsemeat today and find a daily mail article stating Pizza Has 35 of 60 ingredients from all separate countries outlining the food safety issue. The cattlemen in usa and farmers with their leader sue walrus want to get Rid of COOL labeling and i am sure USDA agrees. Tgey no longer care abour the public. These articles Prove that! An article on Billings horse sale states they are still support of slaughter, do you know that auctions had become a thing of the past? They just havent realized it. With technology people dont require auctions to sell horses, but they stikl opt for it in some areas, because its a supposed tradition. If tge auctions are required to sell to slaughter to survive they should sell something else now or close down. Harsh reality? Yes. Why, because times have changed and they have not, theres no reason for food scandal, but i will point out that sue supports marijuana sales also…..need i say more? We are still waiting to see when controls will be put in place for americas food supplies to be tested by the usda. Not simply at the initial sample at port of entry. We know they smuggle in everything and if guns can get through hidden then so can horse meat!

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