GAO Study Wastes Time and Tax Dollars

Monday, June 27, 2011

Washington, D.C. -- After almost two years and tens of thousands of tax dollars, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released its report, HORSE WELFARE: Action Needed to Address Unintended Consequences from Cessation of Domestic Slaughter with two conflicting conclusions: restore horse slaughter or ban horse slaughter. Really?

The GAO was given the responsibility of assessing horse welfare from 2007 forward following the closure of the last three foreign-owned horse slaughter plants in the U.S. However, and vital to understanding horse welfare, the GAO was not asked to consider the impact slaughter had on America’s horses while plants were operating in the U.S. or what it would be like for the horses if restored. In the end, one of two contradictory recommendations was to ban slaughter in the U.S. and the export of horses for the same purposes (what the Animal Welfare Institute has said for years).

In addition to this being the best alternative for the horses, this will also virtually eliminate any regulatory burden whatsoever to the USDA. In this time of economic strife, it is ludicrous to expend taxpayer dollars to benefit a few foreign investors (whether the plants are located in the U.S. or abroad). The only way to stop the abuse inflicted on American horses by the slaughter industry is for Congress to pass the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, banning horse slaughter domestically and prohibiting the export of horses to Mexico and Canada.

To offer the option of restoring horse slaughter in the U.S. as the other recommendation ignores the cruelty inflicted on American horses’ right under the nose of grossly underfunded and highly inadequate USDA inspection capabilities. There is ample documentation from the USDA, private investigations and the first hand observations by AWI staff, substantiating the inhumane treatment of horses at plants when they were operating in the U.S., and there is documentation of the inhumane treatment of horses at plants that are operating outside the U.S. First and foremost, it should be acknowledged that slaughter is not a form of humane euthanasia as claimed by horse slaughter advocates. Second, though the report touched on neglect and abuse of horses, all this does is introduce a separate horse welfare issue with no substantiated relevance to slaughter. Everyone agrees that neglect and abuse of horses is horrendous, however, it is happening irrespective of the horse slaughter issue and needs to be addressed - as the separate welfare issue it is.

The Animal Welfare Institute urges Congress to swiftly pass the S. 1176, the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, sponsored by Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC). To do otherwise will only perpetuate animal abuse.

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Media Contact:
Chris Heyde, (202) 446-2142, chris@awionline.org