The horse slaughter industry in the United States is in its death throes, even before the first plant has opened its doors, the head of the Equine Welfare Alliance believes.
President John Holland, in a New Year update to members, has voiced his skepticism over reported assurances that a horse slaughter plant in Roswell, New Mexico, is only days away from opening.
The plant, owned by Valley Meat Company, faces two lawsuits – one from the state attorney general and the other from a group of horse advocates – and a wide-ranging spending bill to be considered by Congress in mid-January contains language that would defund the federal plant inspections required for horse abattoirs to operate on US soil.
“One way or the other, I believe we are near the end of horse slaughter,” Holland told supporters of the alliance, an umbrella group which advocates for the protection of wild horses and the end of slaughter.
“There are big things in the wings for the New Year and we have never had such powerful and determined allies in high places. So, without taking anything for granted, we at the Equine Welfare Alliance are already planning for the challenges in a post slaughter country.”
Holland said the New Year had begun amid a maelstrom of alarm calls over the imminent opening of horse slaughter plants.
He said news accounts had repeatedly referred to the Roswell plant being on the verge of opening. Another report suggested the plant had a contract to supply horse meat to to Belgium.
Holland noted that the European food safety agency, Sanco, had repeatedly confirmed that meat produced in the US and inspected by the US Department of Agriculture would not be eligible for importation into the European Union because the USDA does not have an EU-approved program for inspection.
Holland speculates that utterances over the plant’s plans, including the supposed profit margin per horse and details about staff hiring and supply contracts, amounted to an attempt to hype supposed damages and recoup some of their investment from opposing groups that have taken legal action.
“This kind of forward-looking information is highly sensitive in the corporate world. A privately held company would never disclose such information without a good reason,” Holland said.
“Knowing this kind of thing would allow one’s customers to know exactly how much they could squeeze the company in pricing negotiations, and it would allow competitors to understand the company’s weaknesses and vulnerability.”
He noted that Front Range Equine Rescue and the Humane Society of the United States, which are challenging the plants’ federal approval through the courts, had been required to post a bond.
That bond money would be available to the company only if it could prove damages as a result of the legal action, Holland argued.
“So all of this is, in my opinion, an attempt to hype supposed damages and recoup some of their investment from the opposing groups.”
On a federal front, Holland said the defunding language remained in the agriculture budget, before both the House and the Senate, both well supported to date.
“Conference committees have taken almost unlimited powers in the past. For example it was a conference committee that inserted the Burns ‘Three Strikes’ language into the Interior Budget, and another one that brought us the ‘Monsanto Protection Act’, neither of which existed before the budgets went to conference.
“This is all very confusing since we are now dealing with an omnibus budget which replaces all of the individual agency budgets. I can’t claim to know how everything will work as far as reconciliation, but I am assured that we are OK this time.”
The slaughter industry, one way or another, was near the end, he said.