In a new study, “How the GAO Deceived Congress About Horse Slaughter,” the Equine Welfare Alliance (EWA) ties fraudulent GAO data on horse abuse and neglect to a campaign by three Congressmen to reinstate the low-margin, poorly regulated horse-slaughter industry, which lost funding for required USDA inspections and shut down in 2007 after a long and costly legal battle at the local, state and federal level.
The EWA is an umbrella organization representing 290 member organizations in 21 countries. The release of its study and an accompanying YouTube video coincides with a fight over the planned opening of two plants in New Mexico and Iowa, pending a federal court decision that could put them in business within a matter of weeks.
Several other plants are also seeking inspections permits from the USDA at a cost to U.S. taxpayers of $400,000 per facility. The meat would be exported, except for some going to domestic zoos. It will not be available to U.S. diners, in any event.
GAO report 11-228 (entitled “Actions Needed to Address Unintended Consequences from Cessation of Domestic Slaughter”) was commissioned in 2010 by Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) and published in June, 2011. Within several months, the three Congressmen stripped out the defunding language from the 2012 agricultural appropriations bill during a conference committee session, citing the GAO report’s claim that a surge in horse abuse and neglect was tied to the plant closings.
But that’s not true. Horse slaughter didn’t cease when the U.S. plants closed; it simply moved over our borders. Regardless, horse abuse and neglect was a relatively small problem during that period that was actually in decline.
The GAO, however, cherry-picked data to create the appearance of a huge and widening horse welfare crisis. It then sold the U.S. Congress and the public on the idea that bringing horse slaughter plants back to the U.S. could curtail an epidemic of inhumane treatment of horses.
The Equine Welfare Alliance’s new study zeroes in on the only real statistic in the GAO report: a purported 60% rise in horse abuse and neglect in the state of Colorado between 2005-2009 that has since been brandished by legislators and echoed by news organizations as proof that a lack of domestic slaughter facilities causes horses to suffer immeasurably.
As the GAO report itself states, “Comprehensive, national data are lacking, but state, local government and animal welfare organizations report a rise in investigations for horse neglect and abuse since 2007. For example, Colorado data showed that investigations for horse neglect and abuse increased more than 60% from 975 in 2005 to 1,588 in 2009.”
But the plants closed in 2007, not 2005 and the GAO had access to data through 2010. “By fudging the dates, the GAO blamed two years of increasing abuse on something that had not even happened yet and conveniently got rid of one year of declining abuse by omitting 2010,” the EWA study states.
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