Guest blog by Deborah Dubow Press, Regulatory Affairs Senior Manager, ASPCA Government Relations
It has been nearly eight years since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, forever changing the way America responds to natural disasters. The human and animal suffering wrought by Katrina and Superstorm Sandy should remain fresh in our minds as we enter another hurricane season, and preparedness should top the agendas of animal caretakers and policy makers.
That’s why yesterday we were shocked to learn that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) may be reconsidering the disaster plan rule requiring all facilities licensed under the federal Animal Welfare Act—this includes breeders, zoos, research facilities, dealers, and other exhibitors and intermediate handlers—to prepare emergency plans for protecting and caring for animals during disasters. Asking those who use animals commercially to demonstrate a level of readiness to protect animals in their custody is fair and reasonable. We are dismayed by the possibility that the USDA would waver on a rule that could save lives at such a small cost.
For the ASPCA responders who experienced Katrina, Sandy, and countless other disaster deployments firsthand, the horrors of these events have not faded from memory: dogs chained in yards and left to drown; cats starving to death in homes after evacuations dragged on and on; animals covered in oil and toxic sludge; dogs stranded on rooftops; animals wandering the streets malnourished, dehydrated, and frightened, many never to be reunited with their owners.
The more that pet owners and animal facilities prepare for emergencies, the better responders can focus their relief efforts when disaster strikes. We hope that ultimately the USDA will remember the heartbreaks of Katrina, Sandy, Joplin, and countless other disasters and renew its resolve to protect imperiled animals under its jurisdiction.
Yesterday the U.S. House of Representatives passed a modified Farm Bill that will affect animals in two distinct ways. On the plus side, the bill contains an important provision to strengthen laws against animal fighting. The provision, included through the leadership of Reps. Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Tom Marino (R-PA), would make attending an animal fight a federal offense and impose additional penalties for bringing a child to an animal fight. This provision is similar to the Animal Fighting SpectatorProhibition Act (S. 666/H.R. 366), standalone legislation with strong bipartisan support from 154 cosponsors in the House.
The ASPCA applauds Representatives McGovern and Marino for their continued leadership in strengthening laws to combat animal fighting and protect public safety.
On the negative side, the House-passed Farm Bill includes a provision introduced by Rep. Steve King (R-IA) that would weaken state animal cruelty laws across the country. This dangerous provision would prevent states from passing their own laws regarding the production of “agricultural products”—a term so broad that it could include farm animals and dogs in puppy mills. As a result, improved animal welfare standards at the state level could be negated if this provision is enacted.
The House Farm Bill must now be reconciled with the Senate-passed version. The Senate bill, passed last month, contains similar animal fighting language but does not contain the dangerous King provision. The ASPCA continues to work with Congress to make sure that the final Farm Bill eventually presented to the President includes the best possible protections for animals. Join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade to learn how you can help!
We recently told you that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved applications for horse slaughter inspections at Valley Meat Company LLC in Roswell, New Mexico, and Responsible Transportation in Sigourney, Iowa. The USDA is likely to also grant horse slaughter inspections at Rains Natural Meats plant in Gallatin, Missouri, in the coming days.
This week we learned that no horse slaughter plants will be granted inspections until at least July 29 as a result of a lawsuit filed against the USDA by several animal welfare organizations.
This lawsuit buys critical time for our horses. The Agriculture Appropriations bills, which contain language that would prevent horse slaughter in the U.S., are expected to pass in the coming months. We are seeing building momentum for the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, which would prevent the slaughter of horses in the U.S., end the current export of American horses for slaughter abroad and protect consumers from unknowingly ingesting toxic horse meat.
What can you expect to see at your local Fourth of July parade? Decorative floats, marching bands, lots of red, white and blue—and horses! Horses are an American symbol and have played an important role in our country’s history. They deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. But sadly, even parade horses are just one bad sale away from a brutal fate in a slaughterhouse.
Horse slaughter is inherently cruel, and anyone who knows or sees the commercial slaughter process understands it absolutely cannot be called euthanasia. The vast majority of horses killed for human consumption are young, healthy animals who could go on to lead productive lives with loving owners. Moreover, horse slaughter plants destroy natural resources, devastate local economies, and horsemeat is unsafe to eat due to routine equine medications that are toxic to humans.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently approved applications for a horse slaughter facility in New Mexico and Iowa, and approval of an application in Missouri is on the way. Congress must act IMMEDIATELY to stop these plants from needlessly slaughtering American horses for commercial interests. While our government is struggling to fund vital programs, taxpayer dollars should not be wasted on a predatory industry.
The Safeguard American Foods Export (SAFE) Act (S. 541/ H.R. 1094) is a federal bill that will prevent horse slaughter operations in the U.S. and end the export of American horses for slaughter abroad. Please send a polite email to your federal legislators in Congress and urge them to support the SAFE Act and ban the slaughter of American horses for human consumption.
Thank you for being a voice for American horses this Independence Day!
In the wake of important victories for horses, we are dismayed to learn that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today approved an application for horse slaughter inspections at Valley Meat Company LLC in Roswell, New Mexico, and will issue horse slaughter permits in Missouri and Iowa on Monday.
The inherent cruelty of horse slaughter is reason enough for our government to prevent this practice, but the dangers to consumers, the clear public opposition to slaughtering our horses for foreign diners, and the harm we know this will cause our communities make this a reckless and hazardous move by the USDA.
These plants are now slated to be the first facilities in the U.S. to slaughter our horses for human consumption since 2007, when the few remaining plants closed after states took action to shutter them and Congress voted to eliminate funding for horse meat inspections. The two Agriculture Appropriations bills that will eliminate the possibility of horse slaughter in the U.S. are expected to be voted on by the full House and Senate in July—today’s announcement is a serious federal bureaucratic misstep that defies common sense.
“Moving ahead with the costly proposition of funding horse slaughter inspections is wasteful, cruel and reckless,” says Nancy Perry, Senior Vice President of ASPCA Government Relations. “Recent polling shows that 70% of New Mexicans, 70% of Missourians and 71% of Iowans, along with the overwhelming majority of Americans, oppose the slaughter of U.S. horses for human consumption. Given the recent outrage over horse meat entering the food supply in Europe, this decision is irresponsible. The USDA is knowingly diverting tax dollars from programs that protect American consumers to programs that jeopardize them. It is time for Congress to take action to prevent American horses from suffering this terrible fate and stop horse slaughter in the U.S. once and for all.”