February 1, 2012:
letter to USDA
RE: Notice of Domestic and International Legal Issues Concerning
the Resumption of Horse Slaughter
November 21, 2011, as
Bill Passes without Defunding Horsemeat
June 22, 2011: General
Accountability Office (GAO) releases report of investigation ordered by Senate
Ag Appropriations Committee entitled,
Welfare: Action Needed to Address Unintended Consequences
from Cessation of Domestic Slaughter
stopped processing horses in 2007 after successful lobbing by animal
rights groups including
The Humane Society of the United States.
Coupled with the closure of plants in Illinois and Texas, advocates also
lobbied Congress to
withhold funding under the
1906 Federal Meat Inspection
facilities where horses were processed for zoo and
circus carnivores, and
This mare, photographed March 11, 2008, in
the ground. She was still alive when this picture was taken. A vet
her where she lay. The rescuers posthumously named her Spirit.
In the year prior to the
horses were processed in America, with horsemeat exports valued at $65
million. Besides the export market, the lean, high-quality horsemeat was
consumed by carnivores within American
zoos, circuses, and wildlife parks.
Since the closings, there has been an up-tick in the
reports of neglected,
and abused horses.
Current economic conditions are
compounding the problem for cash-strapped owners who find it nearly
impossible to sell their infirmed, unneeded, or
unwanted horses, regardless of age and condition. It is not
unusual for lower classes of horse to sell for as little as $1, if they sell at
all. Commission fees charged owners are frequently more than the selling price.
Some sale barns no longer handle horses because of the slim profit
margin and because owners sometimes leave unsold horses behind.
The average lifespan of a
horse is 30 years.
For a healthy animal, it costs approximately
$1,825 annually(2) to provide basic care for a horse, not including veterinary medical or farrier (hoof) care, or about $54,750
over the life of the animal.
2010 University of California-Davis report
noted that 144 registered non-profit horse rescues responding (out of
326 contacted) spent an average $3,648/horse/year. The study suggests an average annual
cost of $50 million for 13,700 animals in
registered non-profit care facilities. And, more horses
need rescue care every year.
The majority of rescues are at or above capacity.
Some no longer accept horses. Most are strapped for funds. Some have
closed for lack of funds.
the road in Clackamas County, Oregon, in August 2008, this
was one of 11 horses that were
malnourished, neglected and close
They were sold at auction by the Oregon Department of Agriculture.
Most sold for $5 to $10. The top bid was $42.
Some owners opt
to have their animals put down. The
veterinarian to chemically euthanize a
horse by intravenous
injection is $66, which does
not include carcass disposal. According to the
Unwanted Horse Coalition's 2009 survey,
the average cost of euthanasia and carcass disposal (as reported by
horse owners) is $385 per horse.
Chemically euthanized carcasses must be
carefully disposed of through deep burial or incineration. If eaten by
an unsuspecting dog, coyote, cougar, or eagle, the
poisoned meat will kill the
scavenger. Likewise, whole or
composted carcasses can contaminate
runoff, poisoning drinking or recreational water sources.
This mare, photographed June 25, 2009, in
was found roaming
north of Tonopah. An identifying brand had been cut from her hide to
obscure ownership before she was abandoned in the desert to fend for
Lacking a market for horses that otherwise would have been utilized through
processing (102,260 head in 2006), some theorized that in 10 years' time America could
be faced with
a million horses.
record-high numbers of horses being sent to Canada
and Mexico for processing, this projection appears to have
been over stated. Instead, horses must travel farther to reach a
The Animal and Plant
Health Inspection Service (APHIS), an agency of the US Dept. of
Agriculture, reports 130,900 horses were shipped outside the U.S. for
immediate slaughter in 2011: 62,500 to Canada; 68,400 to Mexico.
Additionally, 2,590 head went to Canada as feeders.
(Caring for these horses in rescues would cost
approximately $480 million annually.)
Thousands more are starving at the
hands of animal hoarders and well-meaning but naive individuals. They
are neglected and in need of food, water, veterinary, hoof and dental
care. Their suffering knows no end. This segment of America's horse
population is not being protected by the plant closures and will not be
served by closing the borders to export.