Wild Horse Freedom Federation and Equine Welfare Alliance Investigators recently completed an investigation at the Eagle Pass Export Pens and Mexico border. The investigation focused on the activity in relationship to the EU ban on horse meat from Mexico.
February 10, 2015
Jan 12, 2015 – Jan 16, 2015
Observe Eagle Pass Export Pens
[Run by the Texas Department of Agriculture]
Investigators were at the Eagle Pass, Texas export pens to observe the impact on activity resulting from the approaching Jan 15 European Union [EU] regulation banning horse meat from Mexico. Despite the declaration that US horse meat is not safe for consumers, during the time the investigators were observing it appeared that there was no apparent change in the number of US equines sent to Mexico for slaughter.
During the entire week a total of 20 loads shipped to Mexico for slaughter. The number of shipments did not decrease after Jan 15, as had been anticipated. The day with the highest number of loads exported was Jan 16. The investigators also discovered during their time at the export pens that there were multiple violations of the Commercial Transportation of Equines to Slaughter regulations [9CFR88]. Specifically, violations of the mandatory 6-hour offload rest period for the horses were noted. The investigators also observed one violation of a rejected blind horse.
On Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday the investigators observed someone at the pens who appeared to be a USDA/APHIS Compliance Specialist for slaughter horse transportation. The investigators questioned the USDA to determine if there was a compliance officer present and are awaiting confirmation..
On Wednesday morning Jan. 14 the investigators contacted the USDA via email with questions regarding the EU ban and the responses were vague. The investigators contacted them again later in the week and informed them of violations that occurred during the week. They responded and indicated they were looking into it. On Friday the investigators contacted the USDA to inform them that they observed a hauler arriving too late for horses to get a 6-hour rest period and that this happened three times during the week. Later that day the investigators once again contacted them regarding a donkey that went down in a trailer being hauled by a regular pickup truck and was trampled by other equines. The animals all had slaughter tags.
Synopsis of Observations by the Investigators:
Monday Jan 12
- The investigators observed three semi loads and two pick-up loads delivered to the pens and three semi loads departed the pens for Mexico.
- The investigators determined that only one load met the legal requirement of a 6-hour rest period before leaving.
Tuesday Jan 13
- The investigators observed three semi loads delivered to the pens and four semi loads that departed for Mexico.
- The investigators determined that there was at least one violation per the 6-hour rest period requirement.
Wednesday Jan 14
- The investigators observed four semi loads delivered to the pens and four semi loads that departed the pens for Mexico. Note: it is possible the investigators missed a load arriving at the pens as the pens opened before the investigators arrived in the morning.
- The investigators determined there are two violations, one violation of the 6-hour rest period requirement and one blind horse.
Thursday Jan 15
- Two semi loads and several pickup truck loads were observed being dropped off at the pens.
- Four semi loads departed for Mexico.
- The investigators determined that all loads, except the load that was dropped off at the pens the night before, were in violation of the 6-hour rest period requirement. The horses loaded for slaughter very early that day, making all loads dropped off during the morning and throughout the day in violation of the 6-hour requirement.
Friday Jan 16
- Six semi loads and several pickup truck loads were delivered to the pens.
- Five semi loads departed for Mexico.
- The investigators believe one 6 hour rest period violation occurred before the [believed to be] USDA inspector arrived at the pens at 2:05p. No 6-hour rest violations appeared to have taken place after the person [believed to be] the USDA inspector arrived. The investigators believe this is because they informed the USDA of their findings.
- At 2:40p a white pickup departed the pens hauling a mixture of horses, donkeys and burros. Upon leaving the pen property, a donkey fell down at the very back of the trailer. It tried to get up but could not. The investigators stopped the driver around the corner from the pens and informed them. They stopped but then continued on. The investigators followed them and watched the donkey struggle and get trampled by the other equines in the trailer. The investigators called law enforcement and provided information. At one point, the driver and passenger in the vehicle pulled over at a gas station and tried to get the donkey up. At that time the investigators observed a second animal down in the trailer. They did not succeed in getting the animals up and continued on. The investigators also called the Sheriff’s Department once the investigators left the town of Eagle Pass.
- The investigators followed-up with Deputy Mario Garza of the Sheriff’s Department and were informed that the matter was taken care of. The investigators requested a report but were told that no report was ever made.
- After the investigation was completed, multiple violations of 9CRF 88, USDA Commercial Transportation of Equines to Slaughter Regulations, were filed with USDA OIG.