Quietly, while most Americans made plans for holiday festivities several major milestones occurred this month that will enhance the safety and security of American equines during the upcoming new year. The activities of salvation seemed to occur unnoticed but we at SFTHH and WHFF want you to be well informed and perhaps even celebrate a bit over what has occurred.
First, Congress passed the Omnibus Bill on December 13th. The bill is a package that includes parts of the fiscal year 2015 appropriations bills and will fund most government agencies and programs until the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30, 2015.
The legislation included language that prohibits the USDA from using any funds to provide inspectors at meat processing facilities that slaughter horses, continuing an effective block that has been in place since 2005, except for a brief period in 2012-13.
No horse slaughter facilities are operating in the United States, and the bill will prevent any such facility from opening until Sept. 30, 2015.
The language was included in the omnibus bill because both the Senate and House Appropriations Committees adopted amendments that prohibited funding for inspectors at horse slaughter facilities when they debated and approved their respective versions of the 2015 USDA appropriations bill. Many thanks to those who lobby on behalf of our horses in Washington D.C..
As a bonus the bill also contains a provision that would prohibit the Bureau of Land Management from euthanizing healthy wild horses in its care or from selling wild horses or burros that result in their being processed into commercial products. Small step forward for the wild ones but a move forward none the less.
Secondly, and this may be the final death blow to the predatory business of horse slaughter, the European Commission has suspended the import of horsemeat from Mexico to the European Union (EU) due to food safety concerns. We equine advocates have tried to stay focused on the issue of food safety for years and it appears that such perseverance has finally paid off.
Effective Jan. 15, the commission has suspended a residue monitoring plan that tests for the presence of horse meat in other imported meat products, according to Aikaterini Apostola, press officer for health for the European Commission, during a recent published interview.
“Such suspension results in a ban of the import of horse meat, meat preparations, and meat products from Mexico,” Apostola stated in an email. “The measure has been taken after repeated negative outcomes of the audits carried out by the Food and Veterinary Office of the Commission’s Health and Consumers Directorate General in Mexico, the last of them in June 2014. This last audit also showed that many of the corrective actions that Mexico committed to take following previous audits were not yet taken.”
A key issue for the 28-member commission was inhumane treatment of the horses being shipped from the United States to Mexican slaughterhouses.
Michael Scannell, director of the Food and Veterinary Office, addressed the issue Nov. 30 at a European Parliament Intergroup meeting in Brussels by stating;
“In general, the worst contraventions we know are in relation to transport,” Scannell said. “By way of example, we will publish a report in the next number of weeks in relation to Mexico where we saw animals which arrived dead from the United States or non-ambulatory, i.e., they weren’t even able to stand.”
The transportation problem is also expected to affect slaughter operations in Canada, according to Scannell, who added the commission is close to imposing a “six-month” rule for Canada.
“So, in both cases, this will make it a lot more difficult — impossible in the case of Mexico, difficult in the case of Canada — to continue importing horses from the United States for subsequent export of horse meat to the European Union,” Scannell said.
So as you can see, American equine advocates truly do have something to celebrate this holiday season and we can look forward to the new year with vigor and anticipation as we push towards resolution the outstanding issues which still plague our American horses, both domestic and wild.
By “keeping the faith” we are trotting into a new era for our horses and donkeys…keep up the great works and take a moment to bask in the afterglow of these two great victories.
Thanks to all who work so hard for those who cannot speak for themselves. You are very special, indeed.