Jerry Finch of Habitat for Horses on his testimony.
Yesterday, myself and many others had a chance to testify before the Texas Senate Committee regarding the possibility of bringing back horse slaughter to Texas. The testimony stared at 1pm and lasted until around 6:30. If you want to watch the whole video, click here
Item 4, the horse slaughter part, starts at about 1:43 – just use the slider to move it to that time. The State uses Real Video to record these sessions.
I’ll have a lot of comments to make about this session, but I wanted to get this out to you as quickly as possible.
Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Affairs
Senator Craig Estes, Chairman
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Testimony of Jerry Finch, Habitat for Horses:
Good afternoon. My name is Jerry Finch. I am President and Founder of Habitat for Horses, Inc, a Non-profit Equine Protection Organization started in 1998 here in Texas.
I have been Involved in horses since 1958.
I am a Level Three Equine Cruelty Investigator – receiving my training through the University of Missouri School of Law Enforcement
Since 1998, over 5,000 horses passed through the organization, averaging 350 incoming equine per year.
The majority of our horses come from various law enforcement agencies throughout Texas, from cases involving abuse, neglect and abandonment. Rehabilitated horses are returned to service by adoption, averaging around 340 horses per year.
Our primary goal is to provide education to horse owners on the best methods of care for their animals. By doing so, we have touched the lives of thousands of horses.
Habitat for Horses is accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, an international organization that has established clear, specific standards for the humane care of equine and other species in captive facilities and for sanctuary governance and operational issues.
All of this is done on 100 acres in the Galveston area. We are in the process of purchasing an additional 600 acres to expand our operations.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak with you today.
First, please note that I am not an ANIMAL RIGHTS RADICAL. I fully support the meat industry and work closely with any number of ranchers on equine welfare issues. While my organization is committed to the humane treatment of equine, the subject before this committee is about money, the dollars made from selling horses for slaughter – nothing more, nothing less.
Those who want horse slaughter to continue, either as an outlet for the over production of horses or to rid themselves of excess horses, are in a complete panic. The reason? If nothing changes, horse slaughter for human consumption comes to an end on July 31, 2013.
On that date, the regulations of the European Union will prevent the slaughter of American horses in both Mexico and Canada because of the complete lack of traceability of the medication given to American horses.
The report from the Government Accountability Office, GAO 11-228, states “…additional certification may affect Canadian and Mexican exports of horsemeat to Europe and, in turn, may affect the future export of horses intended for slaughter from the United States to these countries. For example, Canadian requirements went into effect on July, 2010, banning specific medications, such as phenylbutazone—the most common anti-inflammatory medication given to horses—and requiring a 180-day withdrawal period for other medications. Also, since November, 2009, Mexico has required an affidavit by transporters that horses have been free from certain medications for 180 days prior to shipment. Furthermore, effective July 31, 2013, the European Union will require lifetime medication records for all horses slaughtered in non-European Union countries before accepting imports of horsemeat from those countries.”
Translated, that means that without a complete passport system for horses in which ALL medication given to horses from birth to slaughter are entered into a massive database, the animals cannot be imported into the EU for human consumption. All EU horses sold for slaughter for human consumption now must have a passport. Without that passport, the horse will not be slaughtered.
The US has no such system in place, nor will we by July, 2013. Nor will the unsubstantiated 100,000 unwanted horses be accepted, because their history is unknown.
Currently, killer-buyers at the border are signing their own affidavits stating that the horses they present are drug free for a minimum of 180 days. Presently, 48% of those are accepted without any such statements, a violation of current EU regulations.
The establishment of a fully functional passport system in the US means that our government must spend massive amounts of taxpayer money on a National Identification System for equine, duplicating what now exist in the EU countries. I probably don’t need to remind this committee of the uproar over the Federal Government’s attempts at a National Animal Identification System. It failed when they attempted it before and it will fail again.
In that same GAO report is this recommendation: “Congress may wish to consider instituting an explicit ban on the domestic slaughter of horses and export of U.S. horses intended for slaughter in foreign countries.”
Asking a state full of horse owners to spend hundreds of dollars per animal, to register each animal and each premises into a National Database and to fine us for any failure to comply, in addition to asking taxpayers to fund another massive government system just so three foreign companies, namely Chevidico, Bovery and Richilieu can make a profit by selling horsemeat to consumers in Europe is absolute folly.
But that is the sole purpose of horse slaughter. There is no honorable attempt to help our country rid itself of unwanted horses. The numbers of horses sold for slaughter is determined by a demand for horsemeat in other countries, not the numbers of abandoned, neglected or abused horses. There is absolutely no relation between the two.
In fact, a USDA study conducted by Dr. Temple Grandin found that 92.3% of horses sent to slaughter are healthy. Slaughterhouses do not want and will not take thin, sickly horses. At the six Mexican Border Inspection Offices involved in imports of live horses from the US, 5,336 live horses in 631 consignments were rejected out of 62,560 animals presented for import between January and October 2010.
Over 5,000 horses were rejected in a brief eight month period. What happened to these horses? Are these the “abandoned” horses that are so often thrown out as an example of the need for slaughter?
If this committee’s goal is to Review the impact of state laws relating to the closure of horse slaughter facilities across the United States and Analyze the impact on the equine industry and agricultural sector of the Texas economy, then I ask that you consider these facts:
In a recent survey, 80% of the American people are opposed to the slaughter of horses for human consumption.
In a 2005 study for the American Horse Council, Deloitte Consulting found:
The horse industry in the United States contributes $39 billion in direct economic impact to the US economy and supports 1.4 million jobs on a full-time basis. When indirect and induced spending are included, the industry’s economic impact reaches $102 billion. The study also estimates the horse population in this country has reached 9.2 million. This was 7 years ago.
The total economic value of a dead horse is zero.
The costs to the American taxpayer to establish a fully functional National Horse Identification System will run into the millions and add another government department filled with inspectors, managers, programmers and database clerks to an already overburden budget. The return on the investment will be a few low paying jobs and a very negative environmental impact – except for the bottom line of those three foreign companies.
Those who are seeking to reverse the Texas law of 1949 forbidding the sale and transport of horsemeat are here because it means money in their pockets at the financial costs and against the wishes of those you represent.
I ask you to submit your report as finding that the re-establishment of horse slaughterhouses in Texas should not happen.
I am open to any questions either now or at any point in the future.