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February 7, 2006

Contact: Chris Heyde, 703-836-4300


Federal Agency Expected to Issue Interim Final Rule Wednesday

Washington, DC –- Animal protection organizations today blasted the U.S. Department of Agriculture for announcing its intention to allow private inspections at three horse slaughterhouses, bypassing legislation that blocks inspections to shut down the horse slaughter operations.

USDA specifically announced it will issue an interim final rule tomorrow, granting the three horse slaughterhouses’ emergency rulemaking request for voluntary, fee-for-service inspection of horses for slaughter. The USDA’s rule will allow these European-owned companies —- two in Texas, one in Illinois —- to continue butchering tens of thousands of horses for foreign menus each year in direct circumvention of the recent Congressional amendment banning the use of federal funds to inspect horses destined for slaughter for human food.

“It is beyond our imagination in the U.S. Congress that the USDA would flout its mandate and spend tax dollars to circumvent this law,” said Representative John Sweeney (R-NY). “Even our most hardened opponents knew that the purpose of the amendment was to stop horse slaughter; there was never any question about that. It’s disturbing that an agency like USDA feels it is appropriate to obstruct a law passed by an overwhelming, bipartisan majority in Congress when their sole mission is to implement the law.”

Last year, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 269-158 and the U.S. Senate voted 69-28 to stop the slaughter of horses, effective March 10, 2006. On November 23, 2005, the slaughterhouses petitioned the USDA to establish a “fee-for-service” inspection system for horse slaughter in lieu of federally funded inspections, which Congress voted to end.

“The USDA is playing games and ignoring the directives of Congress while the lives of America’s horses, who have served us faithfully and provided us with companionship, are at stake,” said Michael Markarian, executive vice president of The HSUS. “By granting this eleventh-hour bid by the slaughterhouses to re-write the law, the USDA is thumbing its nose at Congress and trying to substitute the judgment of foreign gourmands for the judgment of our elected lawmakers.”

In a recent letter to Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns calling on the USDA to deny the plants’ request, lawyers for The Humane Society of the United States, American Humane Association, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Society for Animal Protective Legislation, and Doris Day Animal League animal welfare groups pointed out that the fee-for-service proposal “would not only thwart an unequivocally expressed Congressional directive, it would also violate the Federal Meat Inspection Act’s requirement that the United States Department of Agriculture, not private facilities, fund horse slaughter inspection.”

"Granting this petition sets a damning precedent,” said Holly Hazard, executive director of the Doris Day Animal League. “In circumventing the clear intent of our legislators to cease certain federal programs and simply buying the services of the executive branch without any policy directive from Congress, special interests have thwarted democracy.”

“Why is the USDA acting in defense of three foreign-owned horse slaughter plants engaged in a brutal trade?” asked Chris Heyde, deputy legislative director for the Society for Animal Protective Legislation. “The barbarity America’s horses currently endure must be stopped as Congress has stated loud and clear. Congress sought to shut down the slaughter of American horses, not merely change the method by which inspections are funded.”

In a letter to USDA, 40 members of Congress wrote: "The agency must cease inspection of horses for slaughter. Failure to do so constitutes willful disregard of clear Congressional intent on the part of the USDA. The agency has absolutely no authority to circumvent a Congressional mandate and effectively rewrite an unambiguous law at the request of the horse-slaughter industry."

In light of this end run around Congress’s clear mandate to halt the slaughter of horses, the animal protection groups continue to lobby for the passage of H.R. 503 and S. 1915, a permanent ban on horse slaughter for food, introduced by U.S. Reps. John Sweeney (R-NY), John Spratt (D-SC), and Ed Whitfield (R-KY) in the House, and U.S. Senators John Ensign (R-NV) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) in the Senate.

The Society for Animal Protective Legislation, a division of the Animal Welfare Institute, is devoted to passage of animal welfare laws. The Society, founded in 1955 and based in Washington, DC, has substantially aided the passage of more than 15 federal laws including the Animal Welfare Act, the Humane Slaughter Act and the Horse Protection Act. For more information please visit

Founded by Doris Day in 1987, the Doris Day Animal League is America's leading lobbying organization dedicated to focusing attention on legislative issues involving the humane treatment of animals. For more information on the Doris Day Animal League and its work to end horse slaughter, please visit

The HSUS is the nation's largest animal protection organization with more than 9.5 million members and constituents. The HSUS is a mainstream voice for animals, with active programs in companion animals and equine protection, wildlife and habitat protection, animals in research and farm animals and sustainable agriculture. The HSUS protects all animals through education, advocacy, litigation, investigation, legislation and fieldwork. The non-profit organization is based in Washington, DC and has regional offices across the country.

Letter to USDA

Slaughterhouse petition to USDA



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