GAO Report… Thank You

June 24, 2011 § 5 Comments

The GAO – US Government Accountability Office – was tasked with investigating and reporting on the unintended consequences of cessation of slaughter on US soil.  The report is in, and it’s very interesting.  As I am wont to do, I have commented on the report, point by point.

Look at the look on this horses face.  It breaks my heart.  So trusting.  Such kind eyes.

Heading In to be Slaughtered

Main Body of Report

Since domestic horse slaughter ceased in 2007, the slaughter horse market has shifted to Canada and Mexico. From 2006 through 2010, U.S. horse exports for slaughter increased by 148 and 660 percent to Canada and Mexico, respectively. As a result, nearly the same number of  U.S. horses was transported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter in 2010–nearly 138,000–as was slaughtered before domestic slaughter ceased.

(my bold)

FINALLY.  Here the US government has proven what I’ve been saying!

The fact that the same number of American horses are being slaughtered, as before the plants shut down, the closure of American slaughter plants did not have any effect on the numbers of “unwanted, abandoned or neglected” horses.  How can pro-slaughter activists not see this?

Available data show that horse prices declined since 2007, mainly for the lower-priced horses that are more likely to be bought for slaughter.

Hmmm, I wonder why?  Could it possibly be because of the economy?  Well bred, well trained horses haven’t changed their marketability.  Only the cheaper horses have become, well, cheaper.  Why?  Well, lets examine this.  Could it be because the well bred and well trained horses still have a market?  With the depression, it’s the “little” guy, the guys who have horses for pleasure only (i.e., cheaper horses), who have had to cut back.  Those with horses for other reasons, such as showing, sport, etc., were probably in a better financial position to begin with – and therefore are still in a better financial position.  This is just a theory on my part… but an easy deduction to make.

…closing domestic horse slaughtering facilities significantly and negatively affected lower-to-medium priced horses by 8 to 21 percent; higher-priced horses appear not to have lost value…

The only reason the closures have affected the lower priced horses… is because it now costs more to ship them across to Canada and Mexico.  So, if your production costs increase, you’ll need to purchase the horses cheaper to continue to do “business”.

Also, GAO estimates the economic downturn reduced prices for all horses by 4 to 5 percent.

I would have thought that would have been even more significant… but when you add the 4-5% on all horses to the 8-21% on the cheaper horses, that gives you 12-26%.  And that is significant.  Aaaah, the cost of doing “business”, huh?

…state, local government, and animal welfare organizations report a rise in investigations for horse neglect and more abandoned horses since 2007…

So, as I’ve said approximately a million times… if the same number of American horses are being slaughtered annually, yet neglect and abandonment have increased… could it possibly be due to the downturn in the economy?  Fuck, this isn’t rocket science here!  But I just love how the pro-slaughter activists have jumped all over this increase and say it’s because of the closures.  Ignoring the FACT that the same numbers of American horses are slaughtered each year anyway.  How many times must one say this?

One thing the report neglects to consider is the fact that more and more horse owners are aware of the slaughter pipeline now…  I suspect that may have something to do with the increase in neglect and abandonment.  Some people would rather “hope” their horse could “fend for itself” in the “wild” than send it to auction where it has a 75% chance of hitting the slaughter pipeline.  I don’t blame them for their thought process, as screwed up as it is.  But I again ask… what is wrong with euthanization?  I would rather see a healthy horse put down humanely than hit the slaughter pipeline, or be neglected and/or abandoned.

State, local, tribal, and horse industry officials generally attributed these increases in neglect and abandonments to cessation of domestic slaughter and the economic downturn. Others, including representatives from some animal welfare organizations, questioned the relevance of cessation of slaughter to these problems.

Yeah.  Duuuh.  Of course some people attributed it to the closures.  First, because the timing, on the surface, could lead one to that conclusion.  Second, because the pro-slaughter activists were out there vomiting up this line of dribble for the “masses” to glom onto.


And now to the transportation issues.

This is probably a tall horse, but there are LOTS of tall horses transported like this.  Every.  Day.

Horse crammed into double decker OLEX 25-Jun-09 (via CHDC)

What many Canadians don’t know, is that the Canadian laws are not protecting horses enough, and they’re not enforced enough.  Fines, etc. are extremely rare.  Add to that the fact that as horses are shipped to Canada, they are shipped in double-decker trailers.  They’re just unloaded close to the border and loaded into regular single level stock trucks.  It saves the American shippers lots of money to do this.

Thankfully, or maybe sadly, this horse is still alive in the photo.  The struggling while the truck in motion was torture enough!

No explanation needed... (via COTH)

Actually, look at the photo above.  What do you see?  Of course you see several horses down.  Well, maybe they JUST fell down, and the driver pulled right over to help them out, right?

Wrong.  Look at the inside of the door.  Look at the many marks.  Those are hoof marks.  Made while the horse struggled, frantically trying to get up.  That took a while to make that many marks.  This is what is wrong.  This right here.

…the current transport regulation only applies to horses transported directly to slaughtering facilities.

Gotta love those loopholes.  It’s ridiculous that the regulators can’t enforce the intent of the rules.  So instead, all the trucker has to say is “oh, these horses are bound for the feedlot… not slaughter” and they’re free and clear.  Nice.  Of course, most feedlots are located at or very close to the slaughter plant.  Keep the horse there for a few days or so, and voila, not heading to slaughter, right?

A 2007 proposed rule would more broadly include horses moved first to stockyards, assembly points, and feedlots before being transported to Canada and Mexico, but delays in issuing a final rule have prevented USDA from protecting horses during much of their transit to slaughtering facilities.

That last line is just for you naysayers out there saying that horses are shipped humanely.  There you go.  Black and fucking white.

Well, that horse looks to be in good shape, non?

Not a lot of head room there. (via EPN)

And here is the first thing pro-slaughter activists might actually be able to jump on (the third point)…

GAO found that many owner/shipper certificates, which document compliance with the regulation, are being returned to USDA without key information, if they are returned at all. Second, annual legislative prohibitions on USDA’s use of federal funds for inspecting horses impede USDA’s ability to improve compliance with, and enforcement of, the transport regulation. Third, GAO analysis shows that U.S. horses intended for slaughter are now traveling significantly greater distances to reach their final destination, where they are not covered by U.S. humane slaughter protections.

Well, the last line anyway “are now traveling significantly greater distances to reach their final destination, where they are not covered by U.S. humane slaughter protections”.  They’ve been screaming this from rooftops for years now.  But lets think about this.  Yes, some horses are shipped farther.  But considering there were only a few plants in the States, many horses were being shipped long distances within the American borders anyway.  Those horses in particular are now facing longer rides to their slaughter… but the horses that are located closer to the border are only facing the same shipping times that previously was “ok” for the horses from further states.  Hmmm.

Back to the GAO points one and two.  I see that paperwork is either not filled out properly or not submitted at all.  Where is the enforcement?  Where are the fines?  And the fact that funding issues are causing an impediment in the enforcement of transportation legislation is just plain sad.  This shows there really is no government oversight when it comes to transporting American horses.  That is exactly why horses are still being shipped in inappropriate double-decker trucks.

With cessation of domestic slaughter, USDA lacks staff and resources at the borders and foreign slaughtering facilities that it once had in domestic facilities to help identify problems with shipping paperwork or the condition of horses before they are slaughtered. GAO suggests that Congress may wish to reconsider restrictions on the use of federal funds to inspect horses for slaughter or, instead, consider a permanent ban on horse slaughter.

Well, for one thing, Canadian authorities are supposed to be monitoring the condition of horses before they are slaughtered.  Unfortunately, we do as good a job as the Americans did before they shut ‘em down.  Not.  Very.  Good.

I say, instead, just put a permanent ban on horse slaughter.  Then, maybe the Canadians will follow suit.  Wouldn’t that be nice?  Or, at the very least, there would be 130,000 less horses slaughtered in Canada.  That might force closure of a couple more plants here just due to economics.  I’m literally drooling right now.

Thank you GAO.  Thank you.

Recommendations – Congressional

The GAO then recommends some actions to be taken.  Lets review those:

Recommendation: Congress may wish to reconsider the annual restrictions first instituted in fiscal year 2006 on USDA’s use of appropriated funds to inspect horses in transit to, and at, domestic slaughtering facilities. Specifically, to allow USDA to better ensure horse welfare and identify potential violations of the Commercial Transportation of Equines to Slaughter regulation, Congress may wish to consider allowing USDA to again use appropriated funds to inspect U.S. horses being transported to slaughter.

Please don’t do this.  This would be a gateway to reopening American slaughter houses.  It’s time for the Americans to take care of their own horses.  Take that money and create euth clinics!  Now there’s an idea!!

Recommendation: Congress may wish to consider allowing USDA to again use appropriated funds to inspect horses at domestic slaughtering facilities, as authorized by the Federal Meat Inspection Act.

I don’t see how this is much different from the first recommendation.  It too opens the floodgates for people to reopen slaughter houses.  Oh, right, they’re saying “go back to the way it was”.  Give the USDA the SAME amount of money as before.  Because yeah, that was working well.  At least the first recommendation increased the funds!

That poor pony.  I'm sure he served some kid faithfully before ending up here.

Yep. All horses are shot from behind and above, right? Never see it coming??

Recommendation: Congress may wish to consider instituting an explicit ban on the domestic slaughter of horses and export of U.S. horses intended for slaughter in foreign countries.

YES YES YES!!!  Please do this.  Seriously.  Stop slaughter and clean up your own mess.  (Your own mess being the consequences to over-breeding low quality horses).

Recommendations – Executive Action Plan (Department of Agriculture)

Recommendation: To better protect the welfare of horses transported to slaughter, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator of Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to issue as final a proposed rule to amend the Commercial Transportation of Equines to Slaughter regulation to define “equines for slaughter” so that USDA’s oversight and the regulation’s protections extend to more of the transportation chain.

Um, why does it have to have anything to do with slaughter?  Shouldn’t all horses, or all food-chain animals for that matter, be transported humanely?  Why does it matter where they are going?  Anyway, this wouldn’t be needed for horses, if there was a complete ban on slaughter of horses.  Fingers crossed.

Recommendation: To better protect the welfare of horses transported to slaughter, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator of APHIS to, in light of the transport program’s limited staff and funding, consider and implement options to leverage other agency resources to assist the program to better ensure the completion, return, and evaluation of owner/shipper certificates needed for enforcement purposes, such as using other APHIS staff to assist with compliance activities and for automating certificate data to identify potential problems requiring management attention.

Again, won’t be needed if slaughter is banned.  BUT, I don’t understand how these horses are being shipped across borders without the proper paperwork.  This is exactly how pregnant, blind, emaciated and wounded horses are being shipped to slaughter…

Recommendation: To better protect the welfare of horses transported to slaughter, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator of APHIS to revisit, as appropriate, the formal cooperative agreement between APHIS and CFIA to better ensure that the agencies have a mutual understanding of the assistance APHIS seeks from CFIA on the inspection of  U.S. horses intended for slaughter at Canadian slaughtering facilities, including the completion and return of owner/shipper certificates from these facilities.

Excellent!  Hold Canadian authorities accountable!!  Please, do this anyway!  CIFA has long gotten away with too much.

Recommendation: To better protect the welfare of horses transported to slaughter, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator of APHIS to seek a formal cooperative agreement with Secretaria de Agricultura, Ganaderia, Desarrollo Rural, Pesca y Alimentacion (Mexico) (SAGARPA) that describes the agencies’ mutual understanding of the assistance APHIS seeks from SAGARPA on the inspection of  U.S. horses intended for slaughter at Mexican border crossings and slaughtering facilities and the completion and return of owner/shipper certificates from these facilities. In the event that SAGARPA declines to enter into a formal cooperative agreement, seek such an agreement with the Texas Department of Agriculture to ensure that this agency will cooperate with the completion, collection, and return of owner/shipper certificates from Texas border crossings through which most shipments of U.S. horses intended for slaughter in Mexico pass.

Um, if the Mexicans are unwilling to even attempt to ensure paperwork is filled out and returned… why not stop shipping to Mexico at all?  Everyone KNOWS the conditions in the Mexican plants are far worse than those in Canada.  I have to say that Canadian plants were very similar to American plants.  The Mexican plants?  A whole different story.


And that’s the end of the report.  I’m very excited about the irrefutable facts that are in here.  Finally, the American government is essentially backing up what I’ve been saying all along.

  • Transportation is inhumane (the way it’s being done).
  • The same numbers of horses are being slaughtered.
  • Appropriate paperwork is not being filled out, and sometimes is missing altogether.

Come on you pro-slaughter activists.  Why don’t you attack this report now?  Oh, right, you’ll probably just ignore it and continue shoving your pro-slaughter pro-profit rhetoric down the rest of our throats.  For the good of the horses of course.


PS:  I really wanted to put some graphic photos of slaughter on this page – to emphasize what has really gone on in the American slaughter houses, as well as the Canadian ones.  I refrained.  Only in hopes that more people would actually read this, and not be distracted by the photos.  Instead, I’ll end with a nice photo:

What We Should All Strive to Achieve - Success!


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§ 5 Responses to GAO Report… Thank You

  • redmm97 says:

    Thanks for helping us to understand this report!


    • Not A Breed says:

      Thanks for the comment. I think the final result is that there are several recommendations, which does include re-opening slaughter plants in the US. But if you read the information in the beginning, it shows that the increase in neglect and abandonment isn’t directly due to the closures. And that, my friend, is irrefutable proof that the pro-slaughter activists are full of shit. :)


  • Tom Durfee says:

    Lets not forget that horse meat is also poisonous.

    Horse meat is unfit for humans to eat. Food and Chemical Toxicology, Volume 48, Issue 5, May 2010, Pages 1270-1274
    Association of phenylbutazone usage with horses bought for slaughter: A public health risk
    Nicholas Dodman, Nicolas Blondeau, Ann M. Marini
    Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs – prohibited as well Phenylbutazone, known as “bute,” is a veterinary drug only label-approved by the Food & Drug Administration for use by veterinarians in dogs and horses. It has been associated with debilitating conditions in humans and it is absolutely not permitted for use in food-producing animals. USDA/FSIS has conducted a special project to for this drug in selected bovine slaughter plants under federal inspection. An earlier pilot project by FSIS found traces less than 3% of the livestock selected for testing, sufficient cause for this special project. There is no tolerance for this drug in food-producing livestock, and they and their by-products are condemned when it is detected. Dairy producers must not use this drug in food-producing livestock and if it is found, those producers will be subject to FDA investigation and possible prosecution.
    Horse Owner Survey Shows NSAID Use Trends
    In a recent survey, 96% of respondents said they used nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to control the joint pain and inflammation in horses, and 82% administer them without always consulting their veterinarian. More than 1,400 horse owners and trainers were surveyed to better understand attitudes toward NSAIDs, in a project sponsored by Merial, the maker of Equioxx (firocoxib).
    99 percent of horses that started in California last year raced on bute, according to Daily Racing Form. Bute is banned in the United States and Canada for horses intended for the food chain. That’s a permanent ban.
    Nonsteroidal Medication (NSAID’s)
    Phenylbutazone (Bute), flunixin meglamine (Banamine), and ketoprofen (Ketofen) are the most common NSAID’s used in horses while aspirin and ibuprofen are the most commonly used NSAID’s in humans. These are very effective in eliminating discomfort and are usually the first line of therapy in minor musculoskeletal pain.
    NSAIDs The systemic NSAID group includes phenylbutazone (Butazolidin) and flunixin meglumine (Banamine), which are 2 of the most widely prescribed drugs in equine medicine.
    Volume 25, Issue 3, Pages 98-102 (March 2005)
    Dr Anthony Blikslager, DVM, PhD, DACVS (Associate Professor)a, Dr Sam Jones, DVM, PhD, DACVIM (Associate Professor)b


  • Suzanne Moore says:

    Unfortunately, the pro-slaughter activists have latched onto the one recommendation they like and conveniently forget that a ban on slaughter was also suggested. They tout the part about cessation of domestic slaughter and increased numbers of abused/neglected horses as a DIRECT connection, and people who haven’t actually READ the report believe ’em. Even so called “journalists.” Talk about bias!


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