The law is the law
By Trent Loos
There was a day in 2000 that I did not follow the law. I hauled one cow across state lines without the proper brand inspection paperwork. I ended up getting caught and I paid the price. Right now, the USDA is not following the law. They have been caught red-handed, so why are they not paying the price? Are they above the law?
Rick De La Santos from Roswell, N.M., spent money to convert a cow harvesting facility into a small horse harvesting operation. He has been ready to begin harvesting since April of this year and the USDA refuses to send him an inspector. There are no laws or restrictions on funding inspectors and yet they simply refuse to do what the law says they must. The USDA claims, "they don't have anyone 'qualified' to inspect horse meat." Excuse me! This is the same agency that inspects nearly 10 billion head of cattle, hogs, chickens, turkey and sheep annually and not one person knows horses?
Two weeks ago Friday the EU sent a message to all Canadian and Mexican horse harvesting facilities informing them that they were to purchase no more horses from the United States because they found drug residues in one piece of horse meat. Do I to believe that there is segregation of meat from horses that originated from the U.S. once they get to one of these plants? Sorry, I am not buying that.
No one seems to know why but on the following Monday the decision was reversed, but by the middle of 2013 they must have a "passport" with a complete history of everything that has ever been done to that horse. I have no proof but my sense is that the EU is getting bad information from some of the animal rights plants that currently work within the ranks of the USDA.
The rhetoric from the anti-horse harvesting crowd, which is simply another tool for them to attempt to shut down the industry, is their concern about the use of phenylbutazone (bute). They work hard at painting the image that all horses are routinely given bute like children are given Tylenol. I recognize that some horses are given bute, but I can tell you that it is not common and I personally have never given a horse this pain killer in my life.
Again my sense is that someone within the USDA gave bad information to the EU. When they determined that the facts did not support these outrageous claims, they reversed their decision. I will grant that it is a warning shot to all horse owners who want to sell their horses into the harvest pipeline that you may need to provide a very detailed record of who and what did anything and everything to your horse.
As a simple reminder, horse harvesting is not illegal in the United States. It has been outlawed in California, Texas and Illinois. We have not had a functioning horse harvesting facility in the United States since 2007 when Illinois and Texas shut down operations. In 2006, the last full year the U.S. plants operated, 105,000 horses were harvested domestically. In 2010, at least 138,000 horses were shipped from the U.S. to Canada and Mexico for harvest.
Those numbers come directly from a Government Accountability Office report that studied the impact to the welfare of the horse as a direct result of this action. This June 2011 report showed the number of horses going to harvest increased after the state bans were enacted and, more importantly, the overall welfare of horses destined for harvest has deteriorated.
In closing I want to come back to where I started. It is glaringly clear to anyone paying attention that "Our People's Department" has become infiltrated with a bunch of animal rights zealots that are refusing to follow the law and are attempting to wield their power while they still have the opportunity. We all need to get this information to our elected officials and ask them what they are going to do about it. The USDA is not above the law any more than I am, and I know one attorney who is getting his ducks in a row so that the USDA can answer to a judge. We have laws for a reason and optional following of selective laws should not be allowed regardless of who you are or who you answer to. Jobs are lost, horse welfare is compromised and revenue-generating opportunities for businesses in an economically depressed country are at stake because one government agency doesn't feel compelled to follow the law of the land.
Editor's note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.FacesOfAg.com, or email Trent at firstname.lastname@example.org.