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August 2015

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Study Says Americans Could be Eating Horsemeat Without Knowing

It’s not just Europe where ground beef and meatballs could be tainted with horsemeat.

It could happen here in America, too, according to a recent study conducted by researchers in Chapman University’s food science program and published in the journal Food Control. The study tested a variety of fresh and frozen ground meat products sold in the U.S. commercial market and discovered that 10 out of 48 samples were mislabeled—and two of those samples contained horsemeat.

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Americans don’t want to eat horsemeat, or see these majestic creatures crammed tightly into cattle trucks, and shipped hundreds or thousands of miles to slaughter plants.Photo by Jennifer Kunz/The HSUS

This appears to be the first extensive research on meat species testing in the United States since 1995, and the first serious look at the issue here in this country since Europe was rocked with a horsemeat scandal in 2013. The U.S. products containing horsemeat came from two different online specialty retailers. One product was labeled as bison and listed its country of origin as Canada, while the other product was labeled as lamb and listed its country of origin as the United States.

It’s one more reason for the U.S. Congress to pass the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, S. 1214 and H.R.1942, introduced by Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.,and Reps. Frank Guinta, R-N.H., Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., and Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M. And a reason for Congress to maintain the current prohibition on spending federal tax dollars to resume horse slaughter operations in the United States, as approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee last month.

Some would-be horse slaughter profiteers are actively trying to open plants here in the United States, which would make it much more difficult to avoid the type of commingling and food fraud—with horsemeat being passed off as beef—that we saw with this study. Unintentional mislabeling may occur when several species are slaughtered in the same plants, using the same equipment, or in the same general vicinity. Or more unscrupulous producers could purposely mix in the meat of lower-cost species with that of higher-cost species to cut corners and increase profit.

Americans don’t want to eat horsemeat, or see these majestic creatures crammed tightly into cattle trucks, and shipped hundreds or thousands of miles to slaughter plants. It’s a grisly end for an American icon, and it’s generally reserved for the strongest, healthiest horses, since they would yield the most meat and the biggest profits (a fact pattern entirely at odds with the false narrative from the horse slaughter crowd that they predominantly slaughter sick and homeless horses).
 
Stopping the cruelty of long-distance transport and slaughter of our cherished companions should be enough to spur action. But there’s another major reason our lawmakers should act: Because American horses are rounded up from random sources and are not raised for human consumption, they are given drugs and medications throughout their lifetimes that are never intended for the food system—ranging from fly prevention and common painkillers such as “bute” for treating ailing or lame horses, to cocaine and cobra venom and other forms of “doping” in the horseracing industry.

There is currently no system in the United States to track medications and veterinary treatments given to horses to ensure that their meat is safe for human consumption. It’s a free-for-all when this tainted and contaminated meat is dumped on unsuspecting consumers through their dinner plates and supermarket shelves, either overseas or here at home.

The prior experience in Europe, and now the new study in the United States, shows there is no foolproof way to be certain that horsemeat will not enter the human food chain, and allowing plants to operate here would greatly increase that risk. The predatory kill buyers who outbid families and rescue groups so they can scoop up healthy horses and sell their meat by the pound are not providing a “service” to horses, but are creating threats to our equine companions and to food safety here and abroad.

 

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Lawmakers Taking a Stand to Protect the Salt River Horses

The U.S. Forest Service has sparked a national outrage with its new plan to remove all of the horses from one of the nation’s most iconic herds—the Salt River horses—from Tonto National Forest in Arizona. 

In 1971, Congress codified the important place horses hold in American life through the passage of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, declaring that horses are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West. The act bound federal agencies to protect and manage wild horses living on our public lands, and noted that where horses were found, they were to be considered an integral part of the natural system. 

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A Salt River horse foal
Source: KPHO/KTVK

Shockingly, the Forest Service has failed to acknowledge the horses of the Salt River herd as wild, deserving the protections that Congress intended. Instead, the agency claims the horses have been released onto the land, and designates them instead as abandoned livestock. Removing these iconic horses based on a technical loophole would allow them to be sent to livestock auctions—where kill buyers are waiting to peddle horse flesh to slaughter plants in Canada and Mexico.

One thing is clear: the public is outraged by the Forest Service’s proposed action. 

Tourists come from across the nation to visit and photograph the forest with specific hopes of catching a glimpse of one of these beautiful animals. Their removal could have a great ecological impact on the park, and threatens an economic blow to Arizona and the national forest system. 

Fortunately, federal and state lawmakers are also not taking this action lightly.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers has called on the Forest Service to halt its plans to remove the horses from Tonto National Forest. Representatives Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., David Schweikert, R-Ariz., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack noting that wild horses are an integral part of America’s West, and asking for an immediate halt to their removal. Representative Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, also weighed in with a letter questioning the need for immediate removal of the horses, who have been living safely within the forest’s borders for decades. Senators John McCain, R-Ariz., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., requested that the Forest Service cease all management activities until the public has had a sufficient chance to participate in the process.

Arizona’s Republican Governor Doug Ducey—who is establishing a solid animal protection record after vetoing the state’s bill to exclude farm animals from the regular cruelty code—is also speaking out for the horses. He tweeted that the Forest Service should leave the Salt River horses alone, promising that Arizona would provide them with sanctuary if the federal government wouldn’t. 

Local citizens have offered to partner with the government to solve this problem, but the Forest Service has rebuffed the offer of assistance. This is the type of public-private partnership, and constructive problem solving, that our government agencies should encourage, not reject. Public officials should encourage citizen participation, not shut it down.

We are grateful to federal and state policymakers for standing up for what’s right, and urging the Forest Service to reconsider its plan to remove the Salt River horses from their home in Tonto National Forest.  Our nation’s horses simply deserve better, and this time they have some powerful advocates making sure they get it.

Please help support the effort by letting the Forest Service know you oppose its plan. »

 

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Airlines Take Flight from Trophy Hunting; When Will Congress Get On Board?

The tragic death of Cecil the lion—senselessly shot by an American dentist with a bow and arrow and left to suffer for hours before being shot again—has exposed the pay-to-slay subculture of wealthy people who spend a fortune to kill the grandest, most majestic animals in the world. The public outrage shows no signs of slowing down.  

Virtually overnight, a cascade of major airlines has banned the transportation of spoils from the trophy killing industry—principally elephants, rhinoceros, lions, leopards, and buffalo, or the “Africa Big Five” sought for self-aggrandizement in the Safari Club International record books. Delta, United, American and others are all in flight from the destruction and death meted out by trophy hunters on the African continent.

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Cecil the lion with his cubs. Photo by Brent Stapelkamp

But when will Congress get on board?  Even now, there are lawmakers working quietly to appease the bullies and fat-cats of the trophy hunting corps. While most of the world is convulsed over Cecil, some members of Congress are springing into action to grant special favors for one of the smallest and most elite groups of trophy hunters in the world.

Walter Palmer is now a household name. What isn’t so widely known is that there are thousands of ultra-wealthy trophy hunters just like him, and that 41 of them are lobbying Congress for a wholly unprincipled bail-out that would blow a hole in the heart of the Endangered Species Act.

Bills in the House and Senate—the “Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act” sponsored by Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., and the “SHARE Act” sponsored by Reps. Rob Wittman, R-Va., Tim Walz, D-Minn., Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., and Gene Green, D-Tex.—both provide a sweetheart deal to help 41 big-bucks, trophy-mad hunters import the heads of rare polar bears they shot in Canada. None of these millionaire trophy hunters, who paid as much as $50,000 each to shoot a polar bear, ate the meat. They just went on a head-hunting exercise in the Arctic, and paid a fortune to do so—all for the head and the hide and the bragging rights that go along with it.

U.S. law bars import of these trophies because polar bears are in terrible trouble with their very survival at stake, thanks to climate change, commercial trade, and over-hunting. These animals were killed during expensive trophy safaris in Canada at a time when the Bush Administration had proposed listing the polar bear as a threatened species—the U.S.’s contribution to conservation. These fat-cat hunters proceeded knowing that the door would be closed to polar bear trophy imports, but confident that they could always call upon friends in Congress to do their bidding and get them an exemption.

Indeed, Congress has several times granted similar import allowances—a de facto repeal of the import ban—sending a message to trophy hunters that they can continue killing imperiled species and eventually exert their influence to get approval to bring home their trophies. The cumulative impact of this corrosive pandering encourages more reckless killing of these animals around the globe.

The whole sordid business is fueled by competitive killing programs that give “hunting achievement” awards and “grand slams” for kills in specific categories. For example, hunters at the Safari Club International compete for the “North American 29” award, which requires killing a minimum of 29 species and subspecies of animals, including the polar bear, in North American habitat. They also strive to earn the “Bears of the World” award, which requires killing five bears, such the polar bear and Eurasian and Siberian brown bears, on a number of continents.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now considering a rule to list the African lion as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Should all the Walter Palmers of the world seeking the “Africa Big Five” award now rush to be among the last hunters to bag the king of the jungle? That acceleration of killing inverts the very purpose of the law.

These trophy hunters don’t care that African lion populations and polar bear populations are declining fast. They don’t care that time is running out to slow the mortality of these majestic creatures. But Congress should.

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