In this article, Vickery Eckhoff also explains how media coverage of Valley Meat and horse slaughter issue has been skewed to the benefit of the pro-horse slaughter crowd. Be sure to check out Vickery’s blog post by clicking here regarding her ordeal in researching this article – excellent work all around! – HfH Webmistress
The opening of three slaughter facilities looking to butcher horses on U.S. soil hit another roadblock Monday when a federal appeals court issued a temporary injunction prohibiting the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from inspecting horse slaughter plants. The length of the injunction—issued after a request by Front Range Equine Rescue (FRER), the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), and other groups and individuals—was not indicated.
Once that issue is resolved, though, no U.S. plants will be starting up overnight because the two plants presently looking to slaughter horses—Valley Meat in Roswell, NM, and Rains Natural Meats in Gallatin, MO—have other legal issues at the state level that may hold the plant openings up according to Bruce Wagman, the attorney for FRER and related parties.
So Will Horse Meat Be Produced Anytime Soon in the U.S.?
Don’t count on the media to tell you that. For the better part of two years—including as recently as November 1—it has been announcing various impending grand openings of Valley Meat or plants in other states, most of them quoting its owner, Rick De Los Santos, and his attorney, A. Blair Dunn. And yet not a single plant has opened.
The reasons for this are long and complicated. They have mainly to do with the highly unregulated equine slaughter industry’s specific talent for promoting its virtues over its rather sordid history of environmental and humane violations, expensive court battles, unpaid fines and disregard for court orders. Couple that with an unwary news media prone to taking the industry at its word, without fact-checking and with even less appetite for making corrections, and you have a recipe for misinforming the public.
Given their legal problems, why did Valley Meat’s owner and attorney on November 1 tell the Associated Press (AP)—and by extension, the American public—that they’d be up and running within seven to ten days, then? Or that Rains Natural Meats would be packing horsemeat as early as three days ago?
Were they planning on opening and operating illegally? Or were they simply jerking the press around, regardless of the facts, in order to generate PR?
The AP, for its part, has produced 17 articles since June, 2012, giving Mr. De Los Santos, Mr. Dunn and their supporters an open platform for doing just that. And while the AP has defended its coverage of Valley Meat as balanced and factual, an analysis of seven consecutive stories published between June, 6, 2012 and April 13, 2013 shows otherwise.
While roughly the same number of sources both in favor or against the slaughter plant were interviewed by the AP, the study shows that the views of Mr. De Los Santos and horse slaughter proponents and industry groups commanded a 69.4% share of voice while sources presenting a counter or anti-slaughter view had only a 12.7% share of voice. That is not balanced reporting—and Mr. De Los Santos and Mr. Dunn’s problems with being factual make it especially concerning.
A close reading of the AP’s more recent articles reveals more of the same.
Critical Facts Wrong in 17 Articles, But AP Won’t Correct Them
It’s a fact that Valley Meat and Rains Natural Meats most likely can’t open because they have unresolved legal problems. So to state that the plants are about to open when they can’t is just plain false. Should the AP have fact-checked Mr. De Los Santos and Mr. Dunn on this? Absolutely.
A bigger worry, however, is the historical events, data and context that the AP gets wrong, doesn’t examine or seem to understand, and the insupportable conclusions it draws for the U.S. public as a result.
It has, for example, consistently maintained across its coverage of Valley Meat that Congress’ defunding of horse slaughter plants effectively shut them down in 2006, including a November 5, 2013 article, “Federal Appeals Court Halts Horse Slaughter After Humane Society Appeal” by Jeri Clausing, picked up by ABC News, NBC, The Huffington Post, and other mainstream media.