Our purpose…to mutually protect the international horse industry, and to promote the use of horses and equine products in commercial enterprises.
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April 17, 2013
The International Equine Business Association is deeply troubled by the recent inclusion of Section 725 in the President’s USDA budget seeking to eliminate the potential to reinvent a humane and federally regulated processing U.S. industry for the equine species. His action was taken without any consultation or consideration of the equine industry, or the established policies of the states, the counties, or the Indian tribes with direct economic and political interest.
We are hopeful that members of Congress, and concerned citizens, will ask the following and similar questions of Secretary Vilsack and the Administration before making any policy decisions in regards to horses. These questions are also important to any other action to arbitrarily segregate and treat differently one species of the livestock industry — the equine industry — and destroy a viable domestic and international market for U.S. agricultural products. These actions would eliminate jobs and opportunity in hard hit rural and tribal communities, and impose an ethnically and culturally insensitive prohibition on a traditionally important protein source.
The mission and purpose of the International Equine Business Association is to serve as a production agriculture association for the equine species, to work with other countries to mutually protect the international horse industry, and to promote the use of horses and equine products in commercial enterprises. The International Equine Business Association serves horse businesses and families by protecting their economic, legislative, regulatory, judicial, environmental, custom and cultural interests. The Association promotes the role of the horse industry in resource stewardship, animal care/wellbeing, and in the production of high-quality, safe, nutritious meat and other products.
The Association is structured, in part, to provide service and support to equine harvest businesses, and the use of horses for food, dairy, leather, and byproducts. The Association provides technological systems, sets animal care and food safety standards, and conducts advocacy activities to support the industry.
Please contact either me and/or any of the experts listed with contact information after the questions below if we can clarify existing safeguards, provide additional information, or answer any questions you might have.
Sue Wallis, U.S. Chair
International Equine Business Association
Questions that should be asked…
In regards to Section 725 of USDA Budget defunding horse meat inspection:
- Why did the Administration, with full awareness of the political and social controversy surrounding the issue of horse processing, decide to abandon its traditional and appropriately neutral position and take sides on this issue?
- Was this decision to defund horse processing made by USDA with White House concurrence, or did the Department advise neutrality but was overridden?
- Was any current or potential litigation involved in this decision?
- It appears Sec. 725 was added at the last minute without any consultation whatsoever with the horse industry directly impacted by this action. We cannot find evidence of any consultation with Indian tribes, or with any major agricultural or veterinary organization. Almost all of these groups have strongly worded policy resolutions in support of horse processing. It also does not appear USDA consulted with state, local or tribal governments which, through their national associations—the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), the National Association of Counties (NaCO), the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), the National Tribal Horse Coalition (NTHC), National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA), State Ag and Rural Leaders (SARL), the Council of State Governments (CSG), and others—have all well established and long standing policy supporting horse processing. There was no identifiable consultation with horse industry organizations, from the breed registries, sport horse organizations, and the international association representing companies investing in local communities in hopes of creating jobs and contributing to rural economies by valuable use of an important livestock species. Can the Department explain and justify how the Administration came to the unprecedented action of inserting this policy changing language seeking to segregate and treat differently an entire sector of animal agriculture? Specifically with regards to the tribes, OMB’s Fact Sheets on Key Issues “Standing with Indian Country” is referenced. How can the Administration make such a statement when the USDA budget includes Sec. 725 without tribal consultation as required by Executive Order 13175, “Tribal Consultation on Federal Policy?”
- What is the environmental and cultural impact of uncontrolled populations of feral horses on tribal lands?
- Since the USDA mission statement directly addresses the use of “sound public policy, the best available science, and efficient management” would you specifically address the lack of dialog with the horse industry in developing this particular policy. To what degree were the conclusions of the GAO study “Horse Welfare: Action Needed to Address Unintended Consequences of Domestic Slaughter Cessation” taken into consideration in formulating this policy? Why did you not consider the available science and the industry’s actions to specifically address prevention of drug residues in meat, ensure humane handling at every stage of processing, and guarantee the highest standards of food quality as independently verified by third party auditors? How did USDA’s 16-month delay in developing standards for slaughter certification be construed as “efficient management?” Clearly this policy goes against GAO findings and those of the scientific community.
- The companies which have waited more than 16 months for USDA to provide inspection certification have pending contracts with many of this country’s major trading partners. With USDA’s grant of inspection these firms could ship meat to China, to Japan, and likely to Russia; they could restart export to the European Union, and they could provide service and product to domestic niche markets. Cheval, the common market term for horse meat, is desired by a number of ethnic communities in the U.S., such as the Tongans, Mongolians, Italians, and Asian cultures, as well as certain health-conscious and value-conscious consumers looking for a high quality, affordable protein source. How is denying one isolated segment of U.S. animal agriculture — the equine industry — furthering your mission of “providing leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, rural development, nutrition, and related issues?”
- Considering USDA and Secretary Vilsack are rightfully proud of the impressive increase in the volume and value of agricultural exports, why would the Department include this provision which, if accepted, eliminates the possibility of restoring a $100-million export industry? In other words, how can you single out one species of livestock, and exclude them from the success enjoyed by other livestock interests?
- Approximately 2,500 head of horses per week are exported for slaughter in E.U. inspected facilities in Mexico, and another roughly 1,500 head per week are exported to Canada for the same purpose. Has USDA considered the type and amount of financial assistance which may be necessary for U.S. horse owners deprived of a viable domestic market to feed the approximately 200,000 head of horses currently exported, plus the estimated 100,000 head of horses whose highest best use are as meat animals? These horses are owned by people who would like to sell them today, but who have no market other than to ship the animals for slaughter.
- Has USDA considered the international trade disruptions that will inevitably result if this trade is suddenly shut off over an internal social and political argument? Has it considered the equally inevitable effect that may occur to other livestock import and export with our closest international neighbors and largest trading partners?
- Has USDA considered whether this action sets a precedent for USDA to take similar action against other species which may currently enjoy or may receive USDA inspection certification?
- USDA has spent a lot of time and money validating the science underlying its equine drug residue testing and screening program for equine drugs. How much did it cost the department to develop these tests, and is the department going to walk away from that investment?
- Has USDA calculated the economic impact of its decision on private companies, individual horse owners deprived of a market, Indian tribes and others who have invested in new processing facilities in good faith with the assumption USDA would move forward as prescribed by law and grant inspection certifications to those companies that meet the requirements?
- Can USDA provide an estimate as to lost potential revenues—salaries, investments, taxes—to the rural communities in which processing facilities were scheduled to open?
Horse industry experts you can consult…
In regards to Section 725 of USDA Budget defunding horse meat inspection
Sue Wallis, U.S. Chair, International Equine Business Association, Recluse, Wyoming
Rancher, horsewoman, and Wyoming state representative Sue Wallis is deeply involved in restoring the humane and regulated horse processing industry to the U.S. Also serves as a co-chair of the National Conference of State Legislature’s Agricultural Task Force.
Dave Duquette, President, United Horsemen, Hermiston, Oregon
Dave Duquette is an equine industry professional, a working cow horse trainer, who leads a nonprofit organization devoted to building a better future for the horse industry.
Jason Smith, President, National Tribal Horse Coalition, Warm Springs, Oregon
Jason Smith leads a broad-based coalition of land based tribes in the West who face environmentally damaging and ecologically disastrous overpopulations of feral horses on tribal lands, exacerbated by the lack of a viable market and humane option for excess horses. Jason is an accomplished horseman and rodeo champion who manages the Warm Springs Tribe’s agricultural operations.
Jennifer Woods, Livestock Handling, Blackie, Alberta
Internationally recognized animal welfare expert who studied with Dr. Temple Grandin at Colorado State University and who has developed the Humane Handling Guideline and Assessment for Horses at processing now used at the best run Canadian equine processing facilities, and which has been adopted by the IEBA as the standard for all U.S. plants. Jennifer has agreed to oversee and advise the IEBA Equine Quality Assurance Program (EQAP) which ensures not only humane handling at every stage, but food safety, and quality throughout the industry. EQAP includes not only rigorous and enforceable adherence to high standards, but is backed up by third party independent auditing to assure stakeholders and customers of high quality, safe, and ethically produced products.
Maggie Smith, Process Management Consultants, V.P. Audit Operations, Manchester, Tennessee
Maggie Smith is a professional safe food auditor with particular expertise in animal welfare who works closely with Jennifer Woods in coordinating and overseeing humane handling and food safety and quality auditing programs for the IEBA Equine Quality Assurance Program.
Mindy Patterson, President, The Cavalry Group, Grover, Missouri
Mindy Patterson serves on the board of Missouri Federation of Animal Owners (MOFED), as the Development Director for United Horsemen, on the board of directors of the Missouri Equine Council, and as the Chair of Horse Welfare for American Agri-Women. Mindy is the president and co-founder of The Cavalry Group. The Cavalry Group was born out of the fight against The Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act when Mindy witnessed law abiding animal enterprises wrongfully threatened.
Click the link below to download the .pdf versions of this document to attach to emails or send to policy makers and stakeholders.
March 16, 2013
Humanely Produced and Scientifically Verified Safe Cheval (horse meat) Will Soon Be Available
In spite of last minute attempts by animal rights extremists to slander an entire segment of animal agriculture by introducing Congressional action (S. 541 – a bill to prevent human health threats posed by the consumption of equines with others to follow…) that offers zero solution whatsoever to the dire circumstances facing the horse industry–the truth is that horse people are moving forward to provide a better future for horses and horse people. Radical groups, led by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and their supporters on Capitol Hill and inside the White House seek to destroy what vestige is left of the U.S. horse industry. Nonetheless, the Law is the Law, and right now the Law is behind the horse industry allowing us to move forward with positive, humane systems, that ensure the highest standards of verified food safety, preserving the value, and incentivizing the proper care of all horses in the United States.
Several horse processing plants in the United States are set to begin operations very soon. These plants have accomplished most or all of their required modifications to their facilities and will be requesting final walk through inspections, approval to begin operations, and the assignment of inspectors. USDA has indicated that under current law they will be providing the necessary regulation and inspection. These plants, and others that will be follow, have modified not only their physical plants to accommodate the unique characteristics of the equine species, but their Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plans and their Standard Operating Procedures to include extremely rigorous, thorough, and scientifically validated testing of every carcass that will ensure that no drug residue can ever enter the human food chain, and that every plant has installed humane handling systems and procedures that go above and beyond the U.S. Humane Methods of Slaughter law.
There are eager markets awaiting the opening of these facilities both here in the United States and internationally. Cheval, which is the common term for meat from the equine species in the same way that beef is the term for meat from cattle, and pork is the term from hogs, is highly sought after by ethnic, gourmet, health and nutritionally interested, and value conscious consumers.
Strong support nationwide for the horse industry is perhaps most evident right now in Oklahoma where a pair of pro-horse industry bills that will allow processing to begin in that state are sailing through the State Legislature. Just this past Wednesday more than 400 articulate supporters of the legislation led by the Oklahoma Farm Bureau and a host of other Ag organizations showed up for a rally at the Capitol, and not a single anti-slaughter activist! The week before a pathetic showing of anti-horse advocates at what was billed to be a “massive” rally against the bills achieved numbers barely above single digits, outnumbered by the media covering the event, illustrated the out of touch mentality of these extremist groups.
Attached to this press release is a report originally produced by IEBA last Fall, the Promise of Cheval, and updated regularly as new science and information becomes available, as well as a Facts and FAQs document that answers common questions about the ethical and responsible production of cheval.
Below are documents testifying to the position of the States and the Tribes in regards to this issue–powerful entities that stand solidly behind the broader horse industry in this struggle to ensure that horses and horse owners have humane options that provide value, and therefor ensures the welfare of horses in the U.S.
Note from the National Tribal Horse Coalition in regards to this and similar letters being sent – “Just a note to you to say that we have sent the Chairman Smith’s letter on to voice the tribes position on horse issues we have been working on for years and the lack of tribal consultation! ”
This was accompanied by a message from NCSL staff to their contact at USDA – “Given the current debate concerning horse processing, I wanted to ensure that USDA was aware and took account of NCSL’s current policy (attached) on this issue. Please pass this on to the Secretary, his staff and officials at FSIS. The policy was approved by NCSL at our Legislative Summit in August 2012.”