Fox News: US companies seek final approval to start slaughtering horses for food


Vote in the poll – CLICK HERE – unlimited voting

Barnini Chakraborty, Published March 20, 2013,

628x471About eight miles outside of Roswell, N.M., a shuttered cattle farm is getting ready to reopen its doors. Only this time, the Valley Meat Co. won’t be killing cows. It hopes to be the first U.S. farm to start slaughtering horses for human consumption.

Not far behind could be plants in Missouri, Iowa and Oklahoma.

Across the country, companies are applying for permits with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to kill horses for food – a practice Congress ended in 2007. The measure to stop the slaughters, though, lapsed in 2011 and now companies are clamoring to get back into the game.

“We’re getting ready,” Valley Meat Co. attorney A. Blair Dunn, told

But it hasn’t been an easy road, with public opposition still strong to the idea of horse-slaughter resuming in the U.S., though the current plans would be geared toward exporting the meat to other countries.

Dunn says the farm has had multiple break-ins recently, and earlier this week a bomb threat was called in. There have been death threats, too.

“I am surprised it’s risen to the level it has,” he said.

For its part, the federal government is sending out mixed messages about the future of these projects. The USDA wants the horse-killing ban reinstated, but in the absence of that would be compelled to help the factories become operational.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters Tuesday, “We’re very close to getting the work done that’s needed to be done to allow them to operate.”

But an official at the USDA indicated Wednesday that these steps could take significantly more time.

“The Food Safety and Inspection Service is currently reviewing (three) applications,” the official said. “However, given that the agency last conducted a horse inspection six years ago, FSIS has determined that despite the congressional decision to lift the ban, the agency will require a significant amount of time to update its testing and inspection processes and methods before it is fully able to develop a future inspection regimen.”

The official, pressed for clarification given Vilsack’s statement the day before, then said that once the companies complete “necessary technical requirements” and the USDA agency finishes inspector training, “the department will legally have no choice but to go forward with inspections.”

Vilsack’s department is rewriting the rules for horse slaughter because they need to add in findings from a 2007 food safety and animal science report.

The idea of killing horses for food has triggered strong reaction among people on both sides of the issue. Several animal rights organizations have linked legalizing the practice to horrific abuses and animal cruelty that they claim could lead to unsafe meat. Proponents say the animal is consumed in countries all over the world and could be extremely profitable to American companies interested in the industry.

Once operational, Valley Meat expects to process 100 horses a day with a net gain of about $200-$250 per horse, Dunn says.

Since the slaughters stopped in 2007, horses that were being processed on U.S. farms were sent to Mexico or Canada.

Dunn says the company would create 100 jobs in a city of 48,546, according to the latest population estimates. There were eight government job openings on Roswell’s official web site Wednesday morning.

A bipartisan group of federal lawmakers including Sens. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., and Mary Landrieu, D-La., has introduced legislation that would reinstate the ban on killing horses for food. Their legislation would also prohibit U.S. companies, like Valley Meat, from slaughtering animals in the U.S. and then shipping them overseas for consumption.

But it may be too little too late.

States are taking matters into their own hands and the push to pass proposals to allow horses to be slaughtered for human consumption is well under way.

On Monday, an Oklahoma Senate committee unanimously approved a bill that would end that state’s five-decade ban on the practice. The Senate Agriculture and Rural Development Committee voted 9-0 in favor of the bill that would allow the export of horse meat for sale to other countries. Killing horses for consumption in the U.S. would still be illegal under the bill.

Rep. Skye McNeil sponsored a similar bill on the House side and says the public needs to abandon its belief that the government is going after a beloved American pet.

“These horses have a value as a life animal,” McNeil, the bill’s sponsor told “They are very well cared for. There’s no reason they shouldn’t have a value after their usefulness is over.”

McNeil says there are more than 150,000 horses being shipped across the border for business.

“Farmers and ranchers in Oklahoma are facing hardships because of the large horse population we have in the state and the difficulty they have in managing that population, especially when horses become old,” she said in a statement to “As a rural lawmaker, I constantly hear about this difficulty and have witnessed firsthand the types of neglect and abuse problems that have come out of large groups of unwanted horses. So far, the bill has received broad, bipartisan support, because everyone in rural communities is aware of the problem.”

McNeil’s explanation doesn’t jibe with Cynthia Armstrong, the Oklahoma State Director of the Humane Society of the United States.

Armstrong says that more than 90 percent of the horses put up for slaughter are healthy. She also says the way horses are killed – with a cattle prod – cause them unnecessary harm and could taint the meat that would be later ingested by humans.

Like Armstrong, several animal rights groups are trying to stop states from reinstating the practice. They argue that horses aren’t raised as food animals and lack the controls and restrictions in place for cattle, swine and other poultry meats. Unlike cows and pigs, there isn’t a system to track horses from birth.

Armstrong also believes that America shouldn’t slaughter horses and says the animal plays a significant part in the culture of the country.

Roswell attorney Dunn brushes off Armstrong’s comments.

“We’re not killing Mr. Ed and then eating him,” he said. “It’s a ridiculous statement to make.”


AUTHOR: Jerry Finch
  • LNorman

    Yeah well Dunn lied about Santos’ prior USDA violations from his cattle slaughtering career, so his words are pretty meaningless. Killed with a cattle prod? huh? Where does the USDA intend to get inspection funding for a toxic meat to be exported? Not my tax dollars. It’s not ok to poison foreign consumers just because Mexico and Canada do it. What’s next start exporting toxic dog/cat meat to foreign consumers?

    March 20, 2013
  • susan rudnicki

    Madame—I hope you do not imagine yourself any sort of investigative reporter, for you have abjectly failed in reporting this story. You report “the way” they are killed is what taints the meat? Where is your source that a “cattle prod” is how they are killed? They are killed, inexpertly, with a captive bolt gun.
    Horses in the US are uniformly treated with drugs BANNED for use in food animals. The use of Phenylbutazone, a anti-inflammatory which causes aplastic anemia in humans, is especially common in racehorses whose owners deem them no longer a worthwhile investment. ONE DOSE of this drug disqualifies an animal for use as human food, and there is no allowable withdrawal period. Most sport and pleasure horse have also received in their lives wormers, pain meds and a raft of other drugs clearly labeled “not for use in food animals” It is MUCH more than a political scandal, or a “need for humane “processing”—notice how they always avoid “slaughter or killing” in the texts supporting this business? I am shocked with your blithe dismissal of a subject you do not seem to have investigated very deeply. Where is the profit, by the way, in skinny, abandoned horses? The meat is sold by the pound and a poor yield is a poor payoff.
    American horse slaughter plants were driven to close by the horrific conditions endured, not only by horses, but by the towns where these plants were located. Business prospects withered, sewerage systems overflowed with blood despite complaints from municipal authorities, great dumpsters of offal, hides and bones stood in the open attracting vermin, taxes were not paid by these European owned, taxpayer subsidized outlaw abattoirs, and the only people who would work in such soul numbing operations were illegal aliens and former convicts. If you doubt me, check the reams of documentation accumulated by the little town of Kaufman TX which endured this horse slaughter blight for decades before finally shutting it down. Here is the link,
    The horse slaughter industry is driven by demand overseas and overbreeding schemes in the US by breed registries using slaughter as a culling mechanism for overproduction. Members of these associations are advised to support slaughter. The breed registries counsel how to shelter income with the loss write-off from horses not deemed perfect. It is the puppy mill counterpart in the horse world. There are over 900 pages of FOIA (freedom of information act) documents compiled by our own USDA of slaughter plants showing horrific abuse of horses in the slaughter pipeline, from animals arriving with legs ripped off in shipment to eyes dangling to pregnant mares sprawled on the killing floor with the foal cut from their abdomen as they are still writhing. “Humane processing”, eh?? All of these just mentioned conditions are a violation for slaughter for human consumption. Whether you are concerned about the welfare issues—which many here are clearly not—the contamination of the meat supply is of great import. Phenylbutazone was once used experimentally for humans till it was found to cause cancer. The great majority of the horsemeat exported from Mexico and Canada is contaminated by this drug and others—it is not tested and the medication tracking of horses in not done. Do not put great store by the EU Equine “Passport System” either, as there has been ample evidence the system is corrupt, passport numbers being traded on the black market and the oversight is full of holes.
    You have given the media the desultory black eye it often deserves for being completely unscientific and biased. Susan Rudnicki, Los Angeles, CA

    March 20, 2013
      • susan rudnicki

        Jerry—I tried, but the comments don’t show up

        March 20, 2013
        • Daryl

          Thanks Jerry, this happens I wonder if because I am not for slaughter they are not being put on the page?

          March 20, 2013
      • Daryl

        Hi, no J I did not, just doing this and don’t know all the ins and outs. I am so up set these jerks and our government are going to do this with out caring…..makes me sick. J We need hlep and need it quick.
        thanks for saying that .

        March 20, 2013
    • Angela

      You really should send this to the editor. This is excellent.

      March 21, 2013
  • jan

    I am so sick and tired of hearing about this. What have we come to if we decide to partake in this deplorable act…again? First of all slaughter is the optimum word here. That’s what is done,. They don’t give them a shot to put them to sleep and send then proceed with butchering them. They stun them with a cttle prod, hang them up and while they are still alive slaughter them. Honestly just thinking about it in my mind makes me ill. It’s horrific enough and then to ask us to believe that we are going to eat their meat is well just gross. The horse has been part of our history, our culture , our companions, pets. They are deeply moving animals. They have emotion, and most people feel this way about them. So, yes Mr Roswell, we are killing Mr. Ed and then eating him. They are majestic and they don’t deserve this treatment, and we don’t deserve to be fed this bullshit that we will at their meat. Where is the compassion?

    March 20, 2013
    • Angela

      I agree. With what Dunn has displayed, it seems he doesn’t have much respect for any living being, including humans.

      March 21, 2013
  • Daryl

    the all might buck is ruling. You people are sick. These wild horses being sent to slaughter is one thing only money, next more cattle on the range, oil digging. Makes no difference that these animals hurt just like you and I does it, would yo wnat your Mother, brother , uncle Aunt Father killed this way, I don’t think so. HYOu have no feelings for livinr things sounds like another country nothe USA.

    March 20, 2013
  • Yvonne Mangan

    I am against horse slaughter very much. They stun them with the stun gun, it doesn’t always work and you get horses dismembered alive, and these are sentient beings with feelings of pain same as us humans. They disgust me, those humans that are for slaughter.

    March 21, 2013
  • Daryl

    Our comments if they make to much order on what is going on do not get published . Sad we are blocked in many different ways, trying to help these animals of all this horrible treatment and death, our government does not want us to stop it.

    March 21, 2013
  • Angela

    Actually, what’s ridiculous is where most people would see a pet, Dunn sees profit. He can try to justify his right to consumption any way he wants but it doesn’t change the fact that a large portion of America can see how wrong this is. Maybe next time we can up the stakes to dog and cat slaughter houses…

    March 21, 2013