Federal Agencies Out of Step

In 2005, both Houses of Congress voted to stop horse slaughter by prohibiting taxpayer dollars from being used to fund the federally mandated inspection of horses slaughtered for human consumption (see story, page 12). Despite Congressional intent, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is now considering a petition to establish a "fee-for-service" inspection system—surreptitiously submitted by the three foreign-owned horse slaughterhouses in the United States—that would enable the industry to fund its own inspections. The Society for Animal Protective Legislation, along with several other humane organizations, has retained the law firm of Meyer, Glitzenstein & Crystal to explore legal options against the agency. On our behalf, the firm wrote a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns, encouraging him to halt this plan. (see update below)

"It is beyond our imagination in the US Congress that the USDA would flout its mandate and spend tax dollars...working on ways to circumvent this law," said Representative John Sweeney (R-NY). "It's disturbing that an agency like the USDA feels it is appropriate to obstruct a law passed by an overwhelming, bipartisan majority in Congress when [its] sole mission is to implement the law."

Meanwhile, we are making headway in our battle against the US Forest Service (USFS)—a lawsuit on behalf of wild horses living in Arizona's Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. The Animal Welfare Institute and our co-plaintiffs (In Defense of Animals and the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros) were granted a temporary restraining order in early September to prevent the USFS from removing these horses from their habitat, including the officially designated Heber Wild Horse Territory. We have challenged the unsubstantiated USFS claim that the animals are "trespass horses" and not protected under the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. Our attorneys argued that the agency abdicated its responsibility to census and monitor horses in the area over the years as required by the Act, thereby invalidating its assertion that the animals are trespass.

Had the restraining order not been granted, these horses would have likely been purchased at auction by "killer-buyers" and sold for slaughter. Fortunately, the restraining order remained in place until a hearing for a preliminary injunction was held on Dec. 9. Several days later, US District Judge Frederick J. Martone issued an order granting our application for a preliminary injunction and enjoining the USFS from rounding up and removing these horses or awarding a bid for such removal until a final judgment is rendered.

Additional Information:

  • Visit the Society for Animal Protective Legislation's web site for more on the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act and how you can help make a difference.
  • News Release:  Groups Seek Emergency Injunction to Block New USDA Horse Slaughter Scheme

  • News Release:  Humane Groups File Complaint Against USDA Action

  • URGENT eAlert:  USDA Moves to Thwart Federal Law