Setting the floor for horse haulers

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 1995:

WASHINGTON, D.C.––Just days
ago S1283/HR2433, the Safe Commercial
Transportation of Horses for Slaughter Act of
1995, was rated the one humane bill with a
chance to clear the present Congress.
Introduced by Senator Mitch
McConnell (Kentucky) and Representative
Bill Goodling (Pennsylvania), both members
of the Republican majority, S1283/HR2433
was jointly endorsed by the leading horse
industry group, the American Horse Council;
the American Horse Protection Association;
the Humane Society of the United States; the
American Association of Equine
Practitioners; the American Humane
Association; and the American SPCA.


Then Cathleen Doyle of the
California Equine Council saw the text.
“S1283/HR2433 as currently drafted
fails to accomplish its goal,” Doyle
charged in a seven-page November 1 memo,
“which was to prohibit the transport of
equines bound for slaughter in cattle vehicles.
Failing that, it does, however, regulate into
law many inhumane and dangerous procedures
and methods of handling.”
Acknowledging that S1283/HR2433
would set minimum standards for horse care
en route to slaughter, where at present none
exist, Doyle argued that the current language
of the bill sets the floor so low as to change
little or nothing about present practice.
S1283/HR2433 stipulates, for instance, that,
“No horse for slaughter shall be transported
for more than 24 hours without being allowed
to rest for at least eight consecutive hours
and given access to adequate quantities of
wholesome food and potable water.”
Returned Doyle, “That horses
are currently being transported for over 34
hours without water, food, or rest does not
make 24 hours acceptable.”
Doyle noted vague and therefore
potentially unenforceable language
throughout S1283/HR2433, allowing legislative
intent to be undone by weak implementing
regulations. She wondered why,
for example, a requirement that the interiors
of horse-hauling vehicles should “be
maintained in a sanitary condition” didn’t
state in clear black-and-white that,
“Between turnarounds, interiors of vehicles
shall be cleaned, washed, and dry,”
the latter to prevent slipping hooves,
“before loading.”
Doyle also wondered why the
recommending word “should” was used
instead of the prescriptive “shall” in a
clause stating that, “If a horse suffers a
substantial injury or illness while being
transported for slaughter, the driver of the
vehicle should seek prompt assistance from
a large animal veterinarian.”
Doyle questioned paperwork
requirements that left essential documents
with trucking companies instead of with
USDA slaughter plant inspectors. Further,
she argued, “Investigations and inspections
should not be limited to the USDA.
Language should be added to allow investigations
and inspections by all agencies and
societies with law enforcement powers.”
Further, Doyle stated, “S1283/
HR2433 needs to address the custody of
animals seized and held as evidence,” in
event of a prosecution.
Castration
The kicker was section (5)(B):
“Stallions shall be segregated from other
horses.”
“Haulers are castrating stallions
on the auction floor so as to circumvent
this now,” Doyle charged, as some states
apparently have similar legislation in
effect––the intent of which is to prevent
horses from fighting in transit. If
S1283/HR2433 passes without amendment,
Doyle asserted, “Stallions will be castrated,
many without anesthesia; will be held
for a couple of days; and will then be
loaded, as holding them longer would not
be cost-effective, and would not meet the
seven-day time limit” the bill sets on certifications
of fitness for transport, which are
to be issued by a veterinarian.
“Hormonally, a freshly castrated stallion
will be unchanged for several months.
Undue pain and suffering could be inflicted
upon stallions, by regulation, just to kill
them.”
Amendments
Doyle argues that six amendments
to S1283/HR2438 are essential:
• The hauling area of vehicles
transporting six or more horses to slaughter
(the smallest number likely to be hauled a
long distance by a killer/buyer) must be a
minimum of seven feet high, so that horses
can stand comfortably upright.
• Horses should not be hauled in
double-decked vehicles, in which they
defecate and urinate on one another.
• Vehicles transporting six or
more horses to slaughter should not be
allowed to carry other species.
• Horses must be unloaded, fed,
and watered every 10 to 12 hours. “If they
aren’t hauled in cattle trucks,” Doyle
notes, “unloading and reloading horses,”
to avoid the potential hazards of feeding
and watering aboard a truck, “is not a serious
problem.”
• The stallion segregation policy
must be redefined to discourage point-ofsale
castrations.
• Foals weighing less than 600
pounds should not go to slaughter at all.
Aligned with CEC are the
California State Horsemen’s Association,
an affiliate of the American Horse Council;
Friends of Animals; the Humane Farming
Association; and Project Equus.
Offered AHA legislative director
Adele Douglass, “We think these are good
comments, and we will be looking into
them.”
Defense
Not surprisingly, original backers
affiliated with the horse industry generally
like S1283/HR2433 as written.
“Senator McConnell introduced a
similar bill at the end of the last Congress,”
notes American Horse Council president
James J. Hickey Jr. “The present legislation
is stronger than the original bill. We
believe it addresses most of the problems,
and is strong, practical, and passable.”
American Association of Equine
Practitioners executive director Gary
Carpenter is a bit more cautious. “This legislation
will greatly improve the conditions
with which horses must live while being
transported to processing facilities,” he
says. “However, since this particular measure
is still being discussed in the Senate,
it is too early to comment on its effectiveness
or other variables which are sure to
arise.”
“Without exception,” says
AHPA executive director Robin Lohnes,
“all of the concerns that Ms. Doyle has
epxressed have been thoroughly considered
and debated by the initial drafters of the
legislation during the past three years.
Many issues were difficult to address.
Reaching consensus among equine professionals,
the veterinary community, and
humane organizations as to proper equine
husbandry practices is a complex process.
For example, to date, there is no conclusive
scientific data specifically relating to
the length of time a horse can go without
water. The current language is based on a
consensus of professional opinion taking
into consideration a variety of factors.”
Robin Duxbury of Project Equus
challenges that claim. “HSUS, AHA, and
the ASPCA are all on record as considering
the practice of limiting water intake by
pregnant mares on urine farms inhumane,”
Duxbury notes. “Yet the R e c o m m e n d e d
Code of Practice for the Care and
Handling of Horses in PMU Operations,
distributed by Ayerst Organics Ltd., which
is the company that uses the pregnant
mare’s urine to make the hormone drug
Premarin, states that ‘Water should be
offered at least twice a day.’ If that standard
is unacceptable to those humane
groups, how can they accept a lesser standard
applied to horses in transport?”
Lohnes also argues that putting
prescriptive language into a federal bill
would be improper. “It is important to distinguish
between legislation and its
enforcement arm, regulation,” she
explains. “Prescriptive language generally
falls within the regulatory process. Neither
the Senate nor the House Agriculture
Committees, to which S1283/HR2433
have been referred, are receptive to language
that is regulatory in nature.”
This is because these committees
are dominated by politicians beholden to
agricultural interests, which are not eager
to be closely regulated. But the horsemeat
industry is miniscule relative to other
branches of animal agribusiness, and the
current House has included prescriptive
language in virtually every bill it has
approved. To be sure, such language has
often held up bills in the Senate, and/or
provoked threats of Presidential veto.
Compromise?
“To those who oppose S1283/
HR2433 on the grounds that it sanctions
horse slaughter,” Lohnes adds, “although
AHPA does not condone horse slaughter,
its ultimate reponsibility is to all
horses––which unfortunately does include
horses destined for slaughter.”
The degree to which the humane
community is willing to compromise with
industry may determine the fate of
S1283/HR2433.
“The horsemeat industry in this
country is legally suspect and un-American,”
opines Doyle. “Americans do not eat
horsemeat and find the practice offensive.
Equines in the U.S. are not classified as
agricultural commodities. Equines are
taxed as luxury animals, not livestock.”
In California, Doyle continues,
equines were once considered livestock,
but their legal status was recently changed
to “companion animal,” and as she points
out, “Pets and other companion animals
are protected from slaughter for food.”
Finally, Doyle says, “The
Department of Agriculture and Department
of Commerce neglected to get the
American people’s permission to blatantly
violate the covenant established by our
forefathers to favor equines and protect
them from use as meat animals.
Accordingly, the foreign-owned and driven
horse slaughter industry operates without
disclosure to either the seller or the
public. Thus far,” Doyle finishes, “the
horsemeat industry has operated like a salvage
business. They don’t raise their own
stock, but instead covertly prey on people’s
companion animals. They cram horses
onto cattle vehicles so they can cut transport
costs in half by doing turnarounds with
the hog industry. Horses commonly travel
30 hours straight because they have never
provided feedlots for rest, food, and water.
Let’s put an end to their free ride, and
demand that they function as a legitimate
business.”
Says FoA president Priscilla
Feral, taking a harder line still, “We are
not interested in regulating a business that
should be abolished. S1283/HR2433
would legalize and regulate a heinous
industry. FoA will not support this bill.
Instead, we’ll keep working to put the
entire industry out of business.”
But the horsemeat industry isn’t
the branch of the horse business with the
most to say about whether or not
S1283/HR2438 passes. Horseflesh is of
declining importance to pet food makers,
with the recent growth of poultry and hog
production; and the glue factory these days
is mainly a metaphor, as rendering horses
other than for pet food long since ceased to
be greatly profitable. Yet the horse racing,
saddlehorse, and PMU industries still have
hundreds of thousands of displaced or
“retired” horses to dispose of each year.
The horsemeat market is the only major
disposal venue to show increased demand
and profitability over the past 10 years.
Back at the ranch
Meanwhile back at the ranch, it’s
business as usual, as alleged in a recent
HorseAid representative’s field report. The
representative traced a pair of sorrel mares
deemed good rescue prospects to “Slim
Hart’s ranch in Corona. Mr. Hart,” she
explained, “is a heavy buyer of slaughter
horses from Mike’s Auction,” in Mira
Loma, California. At the Hart ranch, the
representative observed “A bay mare with a
broken leg. She had bones protruding from
the skin through a hole about the size of a
grapefruit. Mr. Hart was hitting the horse
on the rear to get her to move toward an
open trailer. The mare took a few steps,
got fairly close to the trailer, then collapsed.
Mr. Hart and two other people tried
to get her up without success. At that
point,” the representative continued, “I
asked Mr. Hart if I could purchase the mare
from him and get a veterinarian out to put
the horse down. He said no.” The mare
was eventually dragged aboard the truck at
the end of a rope, pulled by another truck,
then hauled to her death.
Based on the HorseAid representative’s
deposition, the Pomona Humane
Society later cited Hart and a female assistant
for cruelty. As ANIMAL PEOPLE
went to press, however, the local district
attorney had not yet decided to prosecute.
[Letters addressing S1283/
HR2433 should be sent to your own
Senators and Representative, with copies
to Senator Mitch McConnell, 361-A
Russell Senate Office Building,
Washington, DC 20510, and Rep. Bill
Goodling, 2263 Rayburn House Office
Building, Washington, DC 20515.]

Print Friendly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *