Horse News

USDA Responds to Horse Slaughter Plant Appeal

By Pat Raia as published in The Horse

“…the USDA has consistently ignored those obligations in a rush to begin horse slaughter…”

USDAThe USDA said its Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) is not forbidden by law from inspecting horse processing plants, according to the agency’s response to an appeal filed in the 10th District Circuit Count to stop horse processing in at a New Mexico plant and elsewhere.

Horse slaughter has not taken place in the United States since 2007 when court rulings and legislation shuttered the last domestic processing plants. Prior to 2007, USDA personnel carried out inspections at horse processing plants until Congress voted to strip the USDA of funds to pay personnel conducting those inspections. In 2011, legislation reinstated USDA funding for U.S. horse processing plants and, in June 2013, Valley Meats Co. LLC in Roswell, N.M., received FSIS permit, which allows placement of personnel at the plant to carry out horsemeat inspections.

In April 2013, the Front Range Equine Rescue and the Humane Society of the United States announced that they would bring a federal lawsuit challenging any permit issued to Valley Meats on grounds that the USDA failed to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about the plant’s potential environmental impact.

On Oct. 31, Albuquerque, N.M.-based U.S. District Judge Christina Armijo allowed the lawsuit to expire without ruling on the case. Attorney Blair Dunn—who represents the owners of Valley Meats as well as the owners of Rains Natural Meats, another plant hoping to process horses in Gallatin, Mo. —said the expiration cleared the way for Valley Meats to begin processing horses in New Mexico.

However, on Nov. 4 the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Colo., issued an emergency temporary injunction barring the USDA from inspecting the plants pending further order of the court. The ruling once again stops the opening of both the Valley Meats and Rains Natural Meats plant.

In a Nov. 6 response to the appeal, the USDA cited the Federal Meat Inspection Act saying that the act applies to “cattle, sheep, swine, goats, horses, mules, and other equines,” and “imposes a non-discretionary duty on FSIS to grant inspections at slaughter facilities meeting the requirements of the act.” At the same time, the USDA response said claims that the Valley Meats and Rains Natural Meats plants, in addition to a horse processing plant currently processing cattle in Iowa, will do “irreparable harm” to their environments are unsubstantiated.

Hilary T. Wood, president and founder of Front Range Equine, believes the USDA has long ignored its legal requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act.

“Rather than undertake the Congressionally mandated and open public review of the potential tragic environmental consequences of horses slaughter, the USDA has consistently ignored those obligations in a rush to begin horse slaughter,” she said.

The case remains pending.

Click (HERE) to read the story in it’s entirety at The Horse

22 replies »

    • Elaine I think that most of the confusion is which fed is in this wrestling ring. I honestly hope I am giving you mostly correct info and I sure don’t mind being corrected. I am certain I have over simplified the process. Jeez. You need a playbook for this stuff.

      The FSIS is an agency under the authority of the USDA. Since Congress reintroduce the funding for inspection of the horse slaughter facilities, they are required by law to grant inspection. Done. Unfortunately, de Los Santos won that round. Hopefully it will be defunded in the 2014 Ag appropriations and we can be done with this mess. At least in this country. They are, however, outside of their purview with regard to the environmental impact which is at the heart of this injunction. They cite the Federal Meat Inspection Act as their legal authority, but they may very likely be in violation of NEPA.

      Federal agencies are required to prepare Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) for review by the EPA under NEPA – The EPA is a separate Cabinet within the Executive branch. The argument presented by Front Range et.al. is that the USDA has more or less thumbed it’s nose at this requirement and this is the heart of their fight.

      Enter the US Fish and Wildlife. They are an agency of the DOI. “The Fish and Wildlife Service is involved in the preparation of about 65 environmental impact statements and 1,000 environmental assessments annually for Service actions or activity on Service lands. In addition, the Service reviews over 2,000 environmental documents annually from other Federal agencies, providing comments from Service field, Regional and other offices and facilities.” I am citing their dot.gov site – stole it without permission.

      I am so sorry if this is not what you were trying to get clarified. I certainly hope I did not overstep. I am grateful that there are waaaaay smarter people than me litigating on our behalf and I pray that the 10th Circuit will act on the side of the horses. I am also grateful for that injunction. So no – there will be no inspections and no slaughter while this in effect – legally anyway.

      I just hope we win this. The feds need a good ole WWE smackdown. Ironic, it is their own laws that’ll choke them. When you consider the events of the last few months, “they” “them” have been allowed to run amok for too long. I just wish someone would put a dirty sock in Dunns’ mouth. His quotes are so full of . . . . . His posturing is pathetic.

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      • The USDA/FSIS is required to issue an inspection permit IF the slaughter plant in question has met all the requirements which includes what they have done in the past. They did NOT have to issue a permit to De Los Santos at least. I don’t see how that judge who started off so well could be so easily fooled by this obvious twisting of the intent of the regulations.

        Let’s hope the Appeals Court sees more clearly.

        There are errors in this article. The judge did allow the TRO to expire without a ruling, but she DID issue her ruling the next day. She dismissed the suit because the Justice Dept. lawyers came on the scene and managed to convince her somehow that the USDA/FSIS had no recourse but to issue inspections to anyone who requests them. What utter CRAP! Of course they have discretion! And they had a bunch of perfectly legal reasons to deny De Los Santos an inspection permit.

        However, I don’t think they can open without having a waste water discharge permit, and the governor will make that decision in February.

        You can read the briefs on the appeals case here: http://docs.burningbird.net/horse/courtcase/appeal/

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      • Thanks Suzanne. You certainly kept it to a much simpler explanation than I could. I understand the gist of the suit, but the intricacies are another matter. Hence my nod to the smarter folk – who are working for our horses. I did ATTEMPT to read/interpret the brief submitted by the DOJ. With all the legalese double talk and redundancy I believe my eyes began bleeding spontaneously. I did try to explore the cases that were presented as precedent for their points of arguments. They are so vague as to make me sit back in my chair and go – Huh?
        In my opinion, with my global capability to understand these type of proceedings, the DOJ brief was a document strife with statements intent to bully and malign. I suppose that’s how it’s done.
        Thank you for the additional clarification.

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  1. What will happen if the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals fails to makes a ruling forbidding horse slaughter based on the very real evidence regarding environmental impacts. Don’t they serve as the final arbiter on most federal cases? This is so nerve racking. Surely, hopefully, praying they will carefully examine all evidence that supports the environmental argument. I’m so sick of Dunn yammering about how the FSIS and the USDA inspections should be allowing the plants to operate. We know the funding has been restored already. The states that managed to get the plants shut down in 2007 are due to the multiple state environmental violations. That is the precedent for this injunction. That was the “gotcha” then, why not now?
    Is anyone (especially the media mannequins) going to tell that troll Dunn to sit down and shut-up because “we heard you the first time”? I can’t believe they constantly quote him and that slimy de Los Santos in almost every article about this subject. Where is their money coming from? I don’t know of anyone who has no visible means of income, being out of business for 2 years, and who cites his poverty that can afford to keep up this BS. I Just hope we can “Al Capone” that sorry bastard and put an end to this despicable business. Can’t get em one way, we can get in a way they can’t possibly win.

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  2. The slaughter house may well be in violation of the Clean Water Act. It is certainly in violation of the Toxic Substances Control Act and similar legislation for willfully selling a toxic substance and worse a toxin that will be used for human consumption. The US (we the taxpayers) would be liable for lawsuits even by foreign litigants. One person signing an affidavit stating that he administered bute to his horse before it was rendered would be proof of such a violation.

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    • HD, it seemed from some of the posturing in the hearing documents I read that the pro-slaughter lawyer was trying to make a case that everyday horses excrete these same drugs into the environment and it causes no environmental problems or complaints. The difference to be emphasized (if anyone is reading this who can speak at the hearings) is that everyday owners don’t medicate constantly, and they do clean up and/or compost the manure. The horse populations also don’t typically change a lot from day to day.

      In a slaughter environment you will have horses from all over creation coming in mixed lots with no known history of medication use or disease, and the turnover is by definition constant. So the environmental threat would very likely be much greater, and will of necessity be highly concentrated. The question of organs and blood etc. has been discussed elsewhere but not the inherent perpetual concentration of any toxic environmental hazards released by a slaughter facility.

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      • To have “standing” in a Federal Lawsuit a person or persons must be directly effected by the toxin, and proof of some reaction. It keeps companies well insulated from litigation. BUT as in asbestos cases it can happen. Unfortunately cases as these often take years. Now if horse DNA found its way into Americans food, something Congress people eat things may happen faster. I’d assume it’s already there.

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  3. All of my horses have had phenylbutazone and other meds, supplements and wormers that clearly state on the label “not to be used in horses intended for human consumption”. I wouldn’t sell my horses to slaughter. Only evil, greedy people would do such a thing. You know. People like Jack Kingston, Roy Blunt and $ue Walli$.

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  4. From what I have read, he built his ‘retention’ based on slaughtering less than 40 cattle a day for initial submission and exceeded that almost by three times and he claims they don’t ‘regulate’ the numbers slaughtered. so they can put whatever they want and get approval and then overfill until someone complains….. if I am reading correctly, they didn’t even require a total reassessment when he had to build another retention lagoon… and they don’t even know the requirements involved of any maintenance – they buried the flow meter that is suppose to be calibrated. The ‘discretional’ authority needs to be stripped. It would seem that capacity would have a number attached and the monitoring system would need to have the ability to be checked – amazing… the more I read, the more ludicrous any perceived regulations appear to be – because they don’t exist! All under the ‘discretion’ of the Secretary of AG….

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    • New Mexico’s Environmental Agency “settled” for ONLY $5k of an $86K environmental fine they gave De Los Santos – It’s rumored that his “silent” partner is the Roswell Mayor (unknown if true) – In the case of New Mexico’s obvious carelessness, passing the buck & greasing the wheels politics as usual, as well as with certain Federal Agencies (who aren’t much more ethical) – I guess its better for the courts to decide in a law suit. At least, records will be kept & it will be in full view of the public, instead of back-room politics.

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  5. Believe it or not in environmental regulations the polluter is often allowed to monitor his own actions. Unfortunately some litigation is required to trigger an action. Some person buying horse meat, eating it then finding out it is toxic would suffice. Better yet someone eating burger that has been substituted with horse meat. It is illegal to sell a toxic substance as food. Bute up your horses. I can quote the laws but it would take up too much space, they are quite numerous.

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  6. You know they word everythig in the Government so if they don’t want or do want to do something they can espouse it to their own end.

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  7. Best wishes to the FREER, HSUS, and to all of the groups and individuals that are working to prevent the slaughter of two species that known to be native to North America just about every where in the world except in Washington, D.C. and Narobi, Kenya.

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  8. Wild horses are native to North America. Mustangs do not occur naturally in Washingon, D.C., Nairobi, Kenya or anyplace else. Another species is being driven to extinction in the US (grey wolves beith the other) and you make a mocking comment about those who care enough to fight these pre-planned extinction drives. Too bad cattle aren’t going extinct. They are not native and their presence is the pretext for destroying ecosystems so that these bovine freeloaders can gain some weight and be turned into hamburger. I will choose live viable wild animals and healthy ecosystems over a Big Mac any day.

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    • I guess I missed it – but didn’t see any mocking comment above. I do agree that the USFSW only knows how to manage by killing animals. Just commented on the gov. site about that! The horses are native here & if the BLM doesn’t eliminate all of them they may be here after WE are gone. And live wild animals (free) & healthy ecosystems are what we all should be choosing.

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  9. Posted on November 7, 2013 at 8:7 PM
    By Clarion-Ledger http://www.clarionledger.com/article/20131107/NEWS/311070052/Horse-preservation-group-alleges-Pelahatchie-man-remains-slaughterhouse-middleman-?nclick_check=1

    A Pelahatchie man embroiled in a national controversy over the fate of wild horses rounded up from federal land in northern Nevada received a shipment of wild horses on Monday, despite warnings he was giving them away, a national preservation group claims.

    The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign this week sent an official request to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Committee for immediate action and investigation of the Fish and Wildlife Service for the shipment of 252 wild mustangs to Stan Palmer of J&S Associates, the campaign said in a news release.

    In October, Sheldon began shipping wild horses captured the previous month from refuge lands, to Mississippi, the campaign says. Horses began leaving the Palmer property by the truckload, the campaign said.
    The horses were captured from the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada; the campaign calls Palmer a “slaughter middleman in Mississippi.” Sheldon officials sent the last of the horses to Mississippi on Monday, “despite warnings that the middleman, government contractor Stan Palmer of J&S Associates, was giving away horses by the truckload,” the campaign’s release says.

    The campaign is asking the Senate committee to investigate the FWS/Palmer government contract, and to put a hold on Palmer’s dispersal of any additional Sheldon horses while the investigation is under way. The campaign also hopes that the committee will ask the refuge to reconsider its plan to eradicate wild horses and due to their historic and cultural significance to the area.

    The government pays Palmer more than $1,000 per horse “to take the horses off the government’s hands, despite the department’s own internal investigation that showed wild horses previously sent to Palmer have ended up in the slaughter pipeline,” the campaign says.

    The ancestors of the Sheldon horses fought in battles as cavalry mounts through World War I, the campaign says. In a letter to the chair and members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, which has jurisdiction over FWS refuges, the campaign wrote, “The FWS has gone to great lengths to continue its relationship with J&S in order to continue the laundering of wild horses captured from the Sheldon Refuge. The FWS has spent nearly $1 million tax dollars in this scheme that has placed the fate of hundreds of mustangs in jeopardy.

    “The actions of the FWS in this matter are inconsistent with the Obama Administration’s public stance against horse slaughter. You are the last hope for holding this government agency accountable and securing a humane fate for these horses.”

    The FWS continued to contract with Palmer in 2013 despite an internal investigation documenting that Palmer could not verify the whereabouts of as many as 200 of the 262 horses placed with him between 2010 and 2013, the campaign says. Under the government contract, Palmer is supposed to find quality, long-term homes for the horses. He is prohibited from selling them for auction or slaughter, the campaign says.

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    • This really does not make sense whatsoever “why our Government would continue to contract with Palmer when he is under investigation.” I smell a big smelly rat!

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