Update Jan. 31, 2009: We need your help!
H.B. 1496 which proposes to spend at least $100,000 of taxpayers' dollars to find a way to open a horse slaughter facility in North Dakota, is set for hearing before the House Agriculture committee on Friday, Feb. 6 at 9:00 a.m. in the Peace Garden Rm. of the State Capitol at 600 E. Boulevard in Bismarck.
Contact House Agriculture Committee members and urge them to vote NO on H.B. 1496! You can also call 701-328-2916 or send a fax to 701-328-3615 or email email@example.com
Please be polite. For more information about this bill and the cruelty of horse slaughter, read Animal Law Coalition's earlier report below.
Original report: While the rest of the United States is struggling economically, especially state and local governments, hit hard by what has been called the worst recession since the Great Depression, money seems to be overflowing the coffers of North Dakota.
State Rep. Rod Froelich and Sen. Joe Miller propose that the state's Department of Commerce spend $100,000 studying the feasibility of opening an "equine processing facility" aka horse slaughter house in that state. Their proposal is contained in a bill, H.B. 1496, which they are asking the state legislature to approve.
The bill explains that the costly study would involve examining the markets for horse meat and other products from horses, the applicable laws, and available funding.
These legislators are surely simply stand ins for the horse slaughter industry. This industry and its highly paid lobbyists are actually trying to convince North Dakota citizens that this is something they should do to eliminate unwanted horses and bring jobs to their state.
In fact, this industry wants North Dakota taxpayers to subsidize its business, provide the industry with a taxpayer subsidized horse slaughter house. Why else study it at taxpayer expense?
North Dakota will not benefit from opening a horse slaughter house. Even when there were horse slaughter houses in the U.S., they were part of a horse meat industry that was only 0.001% of the U.S. meat industry. The U.S. horse slaughterhouses were all foreign-owned. They paid little in income taxes. One facility paid $5 in federal taxes on $12 million in sales. These slaughter houses paid no export taxes, meaning the U.S. government effectively subsidized the sale of horse meat to consumers generally in Asia and Europe.
A study is not necessary to tell the people of North Dakota that horse meat is not consumed in the U.S. It is not used in the manufacture of pet food, and very few zoos use horse meat at all. Horse meat is an expensive delicacy served in fine restaurants primarily in parts of Asia and Europe.
When there were horse slaughter houses in the U.S., the communities where they were located found they operated in violation of environmental and other laws, dumping waste illegally, for example.
There is no benefit here to the people of North Dakota, economic or otherwise.
Horse slaughter is also not a means of euthanizing "unwanted horses". This is a myth perpetuated by the horse slaughter industry. Horse slaughter is a multi million dollar a year business that is driven by a demand for horse meat. Kill buyers buy horses at auction for slaughter, and the USDA has said over 92% of American horses slaughtered, are healthy, not old, sick, injured, or neglected. These horses were not unwanted; they were simply sold at auction, and their owners had no control over who purchased them. Without the kill buyers who skulk around horse auctions, looking for the best potential horse meat, most of these horses would be purchased by others or end up in rescues or sanctuaries.
As John Holland, a free lance writer and researcher on horse slaughter, has explained, "Kill buyers do not go around the country like dog catchers gathering ‘unwanted horses' as a public service."
As Americans Against Horse Slaughter points out, "Just over 100,000 horses were slaughtered in the U.S. in 2006. If slaughter were no longer an option and these horses were rendered or buried instead, it would represent a small increase in the number of horse being disposed of in this manner - an increase that the current infrastructure can certainly sustain. Humane euthanasia and carcass disposal is highly affordable and widely available. The average cost of having a horse humanely euthanized and safely disposing of the animal's carcass is approximately $225, while the average monthly cost of keeping a horse is approximately $200."
Also, the horse slaughter industry actually encourages the over breeding of horses. Because owners can make money from the brutal slaughter of their horses, they have an incentive to over breed. As Paul Sorvino put it, "37% of those horses are going to be slaughtered because they couldn't run fast enough....So, it's run for your life." If the slaughter of horses for human consumption is illegal, there is no reward for over breeding.
Sadly, pro-slaughter groups have disseminated disinformation in the media to convince the public that without horse slaughter, there will be large numbers of abandoned, abused and neglected horses. (Even if that were true, it is not clear how substituting one form of cruelty for another is somehow a solution.)
Indeed, these reports in the media have proven to be unfounded. A study released last year showed a decrease in horse abuse and neglect cases following closure of the last U.S. horse slaughter house in 2007. Any abandoned or neglected horses are not a result of a lack of horse slaughter houses.
Horse slaughter is also in no sense humane euthanasia. That much has been established by documents recently released in response to a FOIA request. The captive bolt gun used in the U.S. slaughterhouses did not typically render horses senseless before slaughter. The slaughter houses never bothered to restrain the horses' heads or use only trained personnel to operate the gun.
As John Holland has explained, "In its 2000 report on methods of Euthanasia, the AVMA stated that the captive bolt gun should not be used on equines unless head restraint could be assured. This is because of the relatively narrow forehead of equines, their head shyness and the fact that the brain is set back further than in cattle for which the gun is intended. It is difficult for an operator to assure proper placement of the gun.
"No slaughter house ever found a practical way to restrain the heads of the horses, so by the AVMA's very definition, the process was not acceptable. The result was a very large number of ineffective stuns. These misplaced blows undoubtedly caused severe pain until a stunning or fatal blow was delivered. "
Imagine the pain and terror experienced by horses as bolts were repeatedly fired at their heads many times by untrained operators. Many times horses were still conscious when they were then hoisted upside down for slaughter.
Of course, this does not even include the fear and suffering endured by horses as they are transported to slaughter. Most are stuffed into double decked trailers where they cannot raise their heads. They are transported long distances without food or water for more than 24 hours. Many are trampled, injured and even killed during transport. The USDA has issued a regulation barring use of double decked trailers, but with a wink and a nod at the kill buyers transporting horses to slaughter. 9 CFR 88.3 The USDA has said it does not have the resources to enforce the regulations. As a result, kill buyers still use double decked trailers to haul horses to slaughter. Click here for a detailed report of an investigation by Angels Animals into the transport of horses to slaughter.
(For more information on the brutality of horse slaughter in the U.S., click here to read the July 25, 2006 testimony of Christopher J. Heyde, Deputy Legislative Director for Animal Welfare Institute, before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Come on, North Dakota taxpayers, oppose this bill. You need your money especially in this tough economic climate; you certainly don't need to spend it on subsidies for a sleazy business that cannot even operate legally in the U.S. at this time. Don't be duped by the misinformation of a desperate industry looking for free tax dollars to line the pockets of its foreign investors.
Then contact your U.S. representative and urge him or her to vote YES on the Conyers-Burton Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2009, H.B. 503.
Also, tell your representative to vote YES on H.R. 305, the Horse Transportation Safety Act, which will put an end to the cruel transports of horses on double decked trailers. Kill buyers use these too small trailers to haul horses long distances to slaughter.