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An Open Letter to the Associated Press

January 9, 2014

Vickery Eckhoff

“For more than a century and a half, men and women of The Associated Press have had the privilege of bringing truth to the world. They have gone to great lengths, overcome great obstacles – and, too often, made great and horrific sacrifices – to ensure that the news was reported quickly, accurately and honestly. Our efforts have been rewarded with trust: More people in more places get their news from the AP than from any other source.” 

So reads the first paragraph of the AP’s “News Values & Principles” page. It goes on to state:

“In the 21st century, that news is transmitted in more ways than ever before – in print, on the air and on the Web, with words, images, graphics, sounds and video. But always and in all media, we insist on the highest standards of integrity and ethical behavior when we gather and deliver the news. 

That means we abhor inaccuracies, carelessness, bias or distortions. 

It means we will not knowingly introduce false information into material intended for publication or broadcast…”

Also heartening to read are the AP’s words on making corrections:

“Staffers must notify supervisory editors as soon as possible of errors or potential errors, whether in their work or that of a colleague. Every effort should be made to contact the staffer and his or her supervisor before a correction is moved.

When we’re wrong, we must say so as soon as possible. When we make a correction in the current cycle, we point out the error and its fix in the editor’s note. A correction must always be labeled a correction in the editor’s note. We do not use euphemisms such as “recasts,” “fixes,” “clarifies” or “changes” when correcting a factual error.

A corrective corrects a mistake from a previous cycle. The AP asks papers or broadcasters that used the erroneous information to use the corrective, too.

For corrections on live, online stories, we overwrite the previous version. We send separate corrective stories online as warranted.”

And woe to those who fail to apply the rules:

“The policies set forth in these pages are central to the AP’s mission; any failure to abide by them is subject to review, and could result in disciplinary action, ranging from admonishment to dismissal, depending on the gravity of the infraction.”

This is all a great set-up for the letter I sent this past week to 28 AP executives and editors asking them to correct errors appearing in 18 different articles—errors I started bringing to the AP’s attention back in May of 2013, and which I brought, over a period of months, to the attention of several editors, without a single correction being made and with some rather unfortunate name calling (on their part, not mine).

It’s co-signed by six national experts—people who know more about horse slaughter than anyone. Associated Press, meet Paula Bacon, John Holland, Susan Wagner. Meet Ginger Kathrens and Dr. Ann Marini. Meet James McWilliams.

Here’s the letter. Let’s hope it gets the kind of response it deserves.

*****

January 3, 2014

Mr. Gary Pruitt
President and CEO
Associated Press
450 West 33rd Street,

New York, NY 10001

RE: Corrections Sought for Errors in 18 AP Articles on Valley Meat and Horse Slaughter in the U.S.

Dear Mr. Pruitt:

The U.S. public is currently facing a pressing food safety, environmental and humane issue: whether or not to allow the slaughter of horses on American soil or their continued export for slaughter in other countries.  In order for constituents and their Congressional representatives to make informed choices regarding this matter, it is essential that information presented in the mainstream media be accurate.

Unfortunately, this has not been the case. I’m writing to you because of errors repeated in a series of AP articles that misreport pivotal facts about the closure of the last three horse slaughter plants on U.S. soil. These errors come at the very moment when several plants are on the verge of winning approval to slaughter horses once again in rural America. They are not random details. In fact, they have the power to directly shape the outcome of this contested process.

In eighteen separate articles on the Valley Meat Company in Roswell, New Mexico, the AP repeatedly misstates the facts on the following issues: the legislation that effectively shuttered the horse slaughter industry, the year that this took effect, and the impact that closed horse slaughter plants have had on horse welfare. (see Appendix I, p. 4-9)

Specifically, all the articles erroneously state that it was Congress’ defunding of horse meat inspections in 2006 that effectively shut down the last three operating plants. The articles then correlate this claim with GAO data showing a rise in horse abuse and neglect between 2005-2009. As I will detail below, both claims are not only wrong, they are mistakes that bear directly on a basic assumption shaping how Americans and their representatives think about this issue.

To begin with, while Congress did approve defunding horse slaughter inspections in 2005 (to take effect in 2006), the USDA and the three remaining horse slaughter plants (Dallas Crown and Beltex in TX, and Cavel in IL) arranged to self-fund their own inspections, allowing them to continue slaughtering horses until 2007 (over Congress’ objections).

In 2007, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a 1949 ban on slaughtering horses in TX (that had previously gone unenforced) applied, thus shutting down Dallas Crown and Beltex in March. Cavel shut down in September, as a result of an IL state ban. Congress’ defunding of slaughter inspections in subsequent agricultural appropriations bills thus kept new plants from opening until the defunding language got removed by three Congressmen in a November, 2011, conference committee session (after it had been approved for FY 2012). Congress’ defunding of inspections therefore never banned slaughter and never shut a single plant, contrary to what the AP has reported 18 times. More important, horse slaughter continued well after the AP reported that it had ceased. (see Appendix II, p. 10-12).

This detail is profoundly important: Using the correct date of closure (2007), the related claim—that horse abuse increased with closure—is immediately undermined. The data cited by the AP on rising abuse and neglect, in light of the correct time of plant closure, now correlates with abuse and neglect rising while the plants remained in operation and falling in the years after they shut.

That correlation shows the opposite of what the AP’s coverage has been asserting in articles published between June, 2012 and November 4, 2013.  These false reports, however, have been picked up by every major news organization both in the U.S. and abroad. They have influenced the general public, lawmakers, and courts attempting to shape policy and effect legislation on horse slaughter. They have allowed proponents of horse slaughter to argue—seemingly with evidence—that it is more humane to slaughter them than to keep them alive. They have also completely failed to highlight one of the most important reasons to not slaughter horses at all: that is, food safety issues specific to banned drugs in the majority of U.S. horses that pose known and serious health risks for the public. These include the commonly administered painkiller and anti-inflammatory, phenylbutazone—a known human carcinogen—as well as 117 other drugs (Appendix III, p. 13-17).

Mr. Pruitt, you are receiving this letter because repeated and detailed attempts to correct these errors have been made going back many months to Reporter Jeri Clausing, News Editor Linda Ashton, the AP’s corrections department and West Editor Traci Carl. The information provided to them documenting the AP’s errors has gone ignored.

We, the undersigned, request immediate and formal correction for these errors and omissions in all eighteen AP articles—and subsequent articles—to set the record straight. This action would be consistent with the media’s duty to correct false reporting in the name of the public’s right to know the truth—about food safety risks, abuse and neglect and other impacts of concern to the majority of Americans. Your response to this request for correction is eagerly anticipated. Thank you!

Sincerely,

Signatures_AP

cc:   

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Kathleen Carroll, Senior Vice President/Executive Editor
Mike Oreskes, Vice President/Senior Managing Editor
Andrew Oppmann, News Editor, Middle Tennessee State University
Paul Colford, Director, Media Relations

ASSOCIATED PRESS MEDIA EDITORS

Officers:

Debra Adams Simmons, President, The Plain Dealer
Alan D. Miller, Vice President, The Columbus Dispatch
Teri Hayt, Secretary, The Repository
Laura Sellers-Earl, Journalism Studies Chair, EO Media Group
Dennis Anderson, Treasurer, Peoria Journal Star

Directors:

Bill Church, Herald-Tribune Media Group
Michael Days, Philadelphia Daily News
Alan English, Shreveport Times
Kurt Franck, The Blade
Gary Graham, The Spokesman-Review
Joe Hight, The Gazette
Eric Ludgood, Fox 5 News, Atlanta
Aminda Marques Gonzalez, Miami Herald
Martin G. Reynolds, The Oakland Tribune
Monica R. Richardson, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Mark Baldwin, Rockford Register Star
Chris Cobler, Victoria Advocate
Angie Muhs, Portland Press Herald
Jim Simon The Seattle Times

David Arkin, GateHouse Media
Autumn Agar, The Twin Falls Times-News
Meg Downey, The Tennessean
Thomas Koetting, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

APPENDIX I:

Pivotal Errors Repeated Throughout 18 AP Articles on Valley Meat

On September 12, 2013, Stephanie Siek of the AP was provided with the following list of excerpts contained in 14 separate articles that repeat wrong dates for the last plant closings, misstate the events that closed them, misrepresent GAO data on horse abuse and neglect and falsely correlate the closings of plants to a decline in horse welfare.

These errors have since appeared in four more articles, resulting in a total of 18 repeating the same misinformation. They are listed below in reverse chronological order. 

#18

Federal appeals court halts horse slaughterhouses

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/federal-appeals-court-halts-horse-slaughter

By JERI CLAUSING Nov. 4, 2013 10:19 PM EST

A vote to end that funding in 2006 had effectively banned horse slaughter until the money was restored in 2011.

The debate over a return to domestic horse slaughter has been an emotional one that centers on whether horses are livestock or companion animals and what is the most humane way to deal with the country’s horse overpopulation, particularly in the drought-stricken West. Supporters say it is better to slaughter unwanted horses in regulated domestic plants than to ship them thousands of miles to sometimes inhumane plants in Mexico.

#17

US judge clears way for domestic horse slaughter

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/temporary-order-against-horse-slaughter-expires

By JERI CLAUSING Nov. 1, 2013 7:15 PM EDT

But De Los Santos was making plans to get to work, two years after converting his struggling cattle slaughterhouse to take advantage of a shift in Congress that lifted a ban on funding for inspections at horse slaughterhouses. A vote to end that funding in 2006 had effectively banned horse slaughter until the money was restored in 2011.

The debate over a return to domestic horse slaughter has been an emotional one that centers on whether horses are livestock or companion animals and what is the most humane way to deal with the country’s horse overpopulation, particularly in the drought-stricken West. Supporters say it is better to slaughter unwanted horses in regulated domestic plants than to ship them to sometimes inhumane plants in Mexico.

#16

Navajos agree to end horse roundups for slaughter

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/navajos-agree-end-horse-roundups-slaughter

By JERI CLAUSING  Oct. 8, 2013 4:03 PM EDT

Congress effectively banned horse slaughter by cutting funding for plant inspectors in 2006. The ban was lifted in 2011, and Valley Meat Co. has been battling ever since for permission to open its converted cattle slaughterhouse.

Supporters of a return to domestic horse slaughter argue that it is a more humane solution than shipping unhealthy and starving animals south of the border to facilities with unregulated and often cruel circumstances.

#15

Plaintiffs object to bond in horse slaughter case

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/plaintiffs-object-bond-horse-slaughter-case

By JERI CLAUSING  Aug. 16, 2013 3:26 PM EDT

Horses were slaughtered domestically for decades until Congress cut funding for inspections for horse plants in 2006. That funding was restored in late 2011.

#14

APNewsBreak: Iowa plant drops horse-slaughter plan

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/apnewsbreak-iowa-plant-drops-horse-slaughter-plan

By GRANT SCHULTE and JERI CLAUSING  Aug. 13, 2013 5:53 PM EDT

Supporters of the domestic horse slaughter note that the practice is already occurring. They argue that horse slaughter in federally regulated facilities is better than having the animals starve or shipped to inhumane facilities in Mexico.

Horse abuse and abandonment cases have increased since the slaughtering of horses was banned in 2006, and many owners in the West and Great Plains were left with fewer options to care for or euthanize their animals, according to a 2011 report from the federal Government Accountability Office.

The company slaughtered cattle for more than two decades but decided to convert its operations to horse slaughter after Congress lifted its ban on inspections for horse plants in late 2011, effectively legalizing domestic horse slaughter after the last plants were shuttered in 2007. It fought the USDA for more than a year for its permit, only getting the necessary approval after suing the USDA to force it to conduct the inspections necessary to win a horse slaughtering permit.

Grant Schulte reported from Lincoln, Neb.

#13

JUDGE ORDERS BOND POSTED IN HORSE SLAUGHTER CASE

https://bigstory.ap.org/article/judge-orders-bond-posted-horse-slaughter-case

By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN — Aug. 8, 2013 2:54 PM EDT

Supporters also say it is better to slaughter the horses in regulated and humane domestic facilities than to let them starve or be shipped to other countries for slaughter. They point to a 2011 report from the federal Government Accountability Office that shows cases of horse abuse and abandonment on a steady rise since Congress effectively banned horse slaughter by cutting funding for USDA inspection programs in 2006.

#12

Judge blocks planned horse slaughter at 2 plants

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/judge-decide-whether-block-horse-slaughter

By JERI CLAUSING — Aug. 2, 2013 8:02 PM EDT

FILE – This April 15, 2013 file photo shows Valley Meat Co., which has been sitting idle for more than a year, waiting for the Department of Agriculture to approve its plans to slaughter horses. A federal judge in Albuquerque is expected to decide Friday, Aug. 2, 2013 whether companies in New Mexico and Iowa can begin legally slaughtering horses, for the first time in the country since it was effectively banned in 2006. (AP Photo/Jeri Clausing, File)

The move stops what would have been the resumption of horse slaughter for the first time in seven years in the U.S.

#11

Groups in federal court to block horse slaughter

http://news.yahoo.com/groups-federal-court-block-horse-slaughter-183537424.html

By JERI CLAUSING—August 2, 2013 5:08 PM

FILE – This April 15, 2013 file photo shows Valley Meat Co., which has been sitting idle for more than a year, waiting for the Department of Agriculture to approve its plans to slaughter horses. A federal judge in Albuquerque is expected to decide Friday, Aug. 2, 2013 whether companies in New Mexico and Iowa can begin legally slaughtering horses, for the first time in the country since it was effectively banned in 2006. (AP Photo/Jeri Clausing, File)

Congress effectively banned horse slaughter in 2006. But the ban was lifted in 2011, renewing an emotional and divisive national debate over whether horses are livestock or domestic companions, and how best to deal with untold thousands of unwanted, abandoned and often starving horses.

#10

Judge to decide whether companies may resume slaughtering horses after 2006 ban 

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/judge-decide-companies-resume-slaughtering-horses-2006-ban-article-1.1415640

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

FRIDAY, AUGUST 2, 2013, 9:02 AM

A federal judge in Albuquerque is expected to decide Friday whether companies in New Mexico and Iowa can begin legally slaughtering horses, for the first time in the country since it was effectively banned in 2006.

The groups sued the Department of Agriculture in June after it issued permits to the companies, which would be the first to legally slaughter horses in the country since Congress effectively banned the practice in 2006. The ban was lifted in 2011, renewing an emotional and divisive national debate over whether horses are livestock or domestic companions, and how best to deal with untold thousands of unwanted, abandoned and often starving horses.

Supporters of domestic slaughter point to a June 2011 report from the federal Government Accountability Office that shows cases of horse abuse and abandonment on a steady rise since Congress effectively banned horse slaughter by cutting funding for USDA inspection programs in 2006.

They also cite USDA statistics compiled by the Equine Welfare Alliance that show the number of U.S. horses sent to other countries for slaughter has nearly tripled since domestic horse slaughter ceased, with many of shipped thousands of miles south of the border to unregulated and inhumane facilities. They say it is better to slaughter the horses in regulated and humane domestic facilities than to let them starve or be shipped to Mexico.

#9

NM company faces setbacks in horse slaughter plans

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/redford-richardson-fight-against-horse-slaughter

By JERI CLAUSING Jul. 22, 2013 10:17 PM EDT

The denial came the same day that Redford and Richardson joined the fray, announcing formation of an animal protection foundation whose first act was to seek to join a federal lawsuit filed by The Humane Society of the United States and other groups to block the planned Aug. 5 opening of Valley Meat and another recently approved horse slaughterhouse in Iowa. The plants would be the first horse slaughterhouses in the U.S. to operate in more than six years.

#8

Fed officials approve horse slaughterhouse in NM

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/fed-officials-approve-horse-slaughterhouse-nm

By JERI CLAUSING— Jun. 28, 2013 9:00 PM EDT

With the action, the Roswell, N.M., company becomes the first operation in the nation licensed to process horses into meat since Congress effectively banned the practice seven years ago.

The plant would become the first horse slaughterhouse to operate in the country since Congress banned the practice by eliminating funding for inspections at the plants. Congress reinstated the funding in 2011, but the USDA has been slow in granting permits, citing the need to re-establish an oversight program.

Proponents of a return to domestic horse slaughter point to a 2011 report from the federal Government Accountability Office that shows horse abuse and abandonment have been increasing since slaughter was banned in 2006, leaving fewer humane options for horse owners who can’t afford to care for or euthanize their animals.

They say it is better to slaughter the animals in humane, federally regulated facilities than have them abandoned to starve across the drought-stricken West or sold at auction houses that then ship them to inhumane facilities in Mexico.

The number of U.S. horses sent to other countries for slaughter has nearly tripled since 2006, the report says. Many humane groups agree that some of the worst abuse occurs in the slaughter pipeline. Many are pushing for a ban on domestic slaughter and a ban on shipping horses to Mexico and Canada.

Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

#7

Horse slaughterhouse accuses USDA of IRS tactics

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/horse-slaughterhouse-accuses-usda-politics

By JERI CLAUSING — Jun. 6, 2013 5:51 AM EDT

The issue of whether the plant needs the federal permit was first raised by some of the groups opposed to congressional action in 2011 that restored USDA funding for horse slaughter inspections, essentially legalizing the practice that had been banned in 2006 when Congress cut the funding.

Proponents of a return to domestic horse slaughter point to a 2011 report from the federal Government Accountability Office that shows horse abuse and abandonment have been increasing since slaughter was banned in 2006. They say it is better to slaughter the animals in humane, federally regulated facilities than have them abandoned to starve across the drought-stricken West or shipped to inhumane facilities in Mexico.

The number of U.S. horses sent to other countries for slaughter has nearly tripled since 2006. And many humane groups agree that some of the worst abuse occurs in the slaughter pipeline. Many are pushing for a both a ban on domestic slaughter as well as a ban on shipping horses to Mexico and Canada.

#6

NM HORSE SLAUGHTER PLANT TO OPEN SOON
http://bigstory.ap.org/article/ag-secretary-nm-horse-slaughter-plant-should-open

By JERI CLAUSING — Apr. 30, 2013 3:09 PM EDT

The Obama Administration opposes horse slaughter. Its recent budget proposal eliminates funding for inspections of horse slaughter houses, which would effectively reinstate a ban on the practice. Congress eliminated that funding in 2006, which forced a shutdown of domestic slaughter facilities. But Congress reinstated the funding in 2011, prompting Valley Meat Co. and a handful of other businesses around the country to seek permission to open plants.

At issue is whether horses are livestock or pets, and how best to control the nation’s exploding equine population. Supporters of horse slaughter point to a 2011 report from the federal Government Accountability Office that shows horse abuse and abandonment have been increasing since 2006. They say it is better to slaughter the animals in humane, federally regulated facilities than have them abandoned to starve across the drought-stricken West or shipped to inhumane facilities south of the border.

The number of U.S. horses sent to other countries for slaughter has nearly tripled since 2006. And many humane groups agree that some of the worst abuse occurs in the slaughter pipeline.

#5

LAWYER: INSPECTORS CLEAR NM HORSE SLAUGHTERHOUSE http://bigstory.ap.org/article/nm-slaughterhouse-ground-zero-horse-debate

By JERI CLAUSING— Apr. 23, 2013 4:09 PM EDT

And Tuesday, it moved one step closer to becoming the first plant in the country in more than six years to slaughter horses, with a successful inspection by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Still others are pushing for a return to domestic slaughter. Proponents include several Native American tribes, the American Quarter Horse Association, some livestock associations and even a few horse rescue groups that believe domestic slaughter would be more humane than shipping the animals elsewhere.

They point to a 2011 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office that found horse abuse and abandonment increasing since Congress effectively banned horse slaughter by cutting funding for federal inspection programs in 2006. Because rescue groups can’t take care of all of the horses in need, tens of thousands have been shipped to slaughterhouses in Mexico.

#4

HORSE SHOOTING HIGHLIGHTS SLAUGHTER DEBATE http://bigstory.ap.org/article/horse-shooting-underscores-slaughter-debate

By JERI CLAUSING— Mar. 22, 2013 8:04 PM EDT

But others — including some horse rescuers, livestock associations and the American Quarter Horse Association — support the plans. They point to a 2011 report from the federal Government Accountability Office that shows horse abuse and abandonment have been increasing since Congress effectively banned horse slaughter by cutting funding for federal inspection programs in 2006. They say the ban on domestic slaughter has led to tens of thousands of horses being shipped to inhumane slaughterhouses in Mexico.

#3

NEW MEXICO COMPANY: FEDS MAY ALLOW HORSE SLAUGHTER http://bigstory.ap.org/article/new-mexico-company-feds-may-allow-horse-slaughter

By JERI CLAUSING— Mar. 1, 2013 5:12 PM EST

Others, however, including some horse rescues, livestock associations and the American Quarter Horse Association, support a return to domestic horse slaughter. They point to a 2011 report from the federal Government Accountability Office that shows horse abuse and abandonment have been increasing since Congress effectively banned horse slaughter by cutting funding for USDA inspection programs in 2006.

#2

MEAT COMPANY SUES FEDS OVER HORSE SLAUGHTERHOUSE http://bigstory.ap.org/article/meat-company-sues-feds-over-horse-slaughterhouse

By JERI CLAUSING— Dec. 20, 2012 3:59 PM EST

Some others, however, including some horse rescues, livestock associations and the American Quarter Horse Association, support a return to domestic horse slaughter. They point to a 2011 report from the federal Government Accountability Office that shows horse abuse and abandonment have been increasing since Congress effectively banned horse slaughter by cutting funding for USDA inspection programs in 2006.

Last year, 68,429 horses were shipped to that country and 64,652 to Canada, according to USDA statistics compiled by the Equine Welfare Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to ending horse slaughter. That compares to total exports of 37,884 of the animals in 2006.

#1

PROPOSED HORSE SLAUGHTERHOUSE POLARIZES INDUSTRY

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/proposed-horse-slaughterhouse-polarizes-industry

By JERI CLAUSING— Jun. 6, 2012 3:10 PM EDT

Supporters of horse slaughter point to a June 2011 report from the federal Government Accountability Office that shows cases of horse abuse and abandonment on a steady rise since Congress effectively banned horse slaughter by cutting funding for USDA inspection programs in 2006.

In Colorado, the GAO report states, investigations for abuse and neglect increased more than 60 percent after horse slaughter was banned domestically, from 975 in 2005 to 1,588 in 2009. Although national data is lacking, the GAO report says California, Texas and Florida have also reported a rise in the number of abandoned horses since 2007.

The number of U.S. horses sent to other countries for slaughter has nearly tripled since domestic horse slaughter ceased. Last year, 68,429 horses were shipped to Mexico and 64,652 to Canada, according to USDA statistics compiled by the Equine Welfare Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to ending horse slaughter. That compares to total exports of 37,884 in 2006.

APPENDIX II:

Timeline—How and When Slaughter Ended in the U.S.

On October 15, 2013, Traci Carl, West Editor for the AP, was provided with the following timeline to corroborate the actual dates of plant closings, as well as what happened in between Congress’ 2005 vote to defund horse slaughter inspectors and the actual court decisions that finally forced the doors of Beltex, Dallas Crown and Cavel shut two years later. This followed several previous emails attempting to explain what the AP had gotten wrong in its coverage.

Ms. Carl consistently expressed confusion over the issues being raised, but declined offers to discuss them by phone (instead of email). All requests for correction were refused.

Back on November 11, 2005, Congress added a defunding provision to the FY 2006 Agriculture Appropriations Bill prohibiting the use of federal funds to pay for salaries and expenses of personnel to inspect horses being slaughtered for human consumption (HR 2744).

This followed strong bipartisan floor votes of 269-158 in the House and 69-29 in the Senate, according to news sources. The provision effectively precluded the USDA from inspecting horse slaughter facilities as required by section 603 of the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) and section 903 of the Federal Agriculture Improvement Reform Act (FAIR). At this time, the USDA spent an estimated $5 million annually for oversight and inspection of three foreign-owned, U.S. based horse slaughter plants.

The inspections ban should have begun at the beginning of the fiscal year (October 1, 2005), but the budget conference committee (including Herb Kohl, Jack Kingston, Conrad Burns, and Larry Craig) delayed its implementation.

On November 23, 2005, horse slaughter plants in Texas and Illinois quietly petitioned the USDA and FSIS behind Congress’ back to pay for their own inspections, allowing them to continue slaughter operations despite a lack of federal funding, by paying USDA inspectors out of their own pockets.

On January 13, 2006, an article in the Washington Times explained, “Last year, Congress voted overwhelmingly to include an amendment in the agriculture appropriations bill that would, in the words of Sen. John Ensign, “end the slaughter of America’s horses for human consumption overseas.” Mr. Ensign was a co-sponsor of the bill, as was Sen. Robert Byrd, who said the amendment would “stop the slaughter of horses for human consumption.” In the House, amendment co-sponsor Rep. John Spratt said, “This amendment in simple terms will stop the slaughter for human consumption of horses. So, we learn with surprise that this amendment apparently “does not prevent horse slaughter at all,” according to Department of Agriculture General Counsel James Michael Kelly. All it does, Mr. Kelly wrote in a letter to Congress, is prohibit ‘expenditure of funds provided under the 2006 [appropriations] Act to pay the salaries and expenses of personnel to inspect the horses.’ In other words, the only purpose of the amendment is to cut a little grist from the federal budget.”

On February 7, 2006, the USDA’s fee-for-service arrangement was announced. As the Washington Times stated in its article, Town Seeks an End to Horse Slaughtering: “Since law has always required such inspections, it [Congress’ ban on funding inspections] seemed to put an end to a growing controversy. Passed by the House and the Senate, the Ensign amendment was considered by its sponsors as an absolute end of U.S. horse slaughter for human consumption. But a concerted campaign by Belgian-owned slaughterhouses soon uncovered a loophole in the congressional edict. Now, nearing the end of a six-month delay, the USDA has announced that the new order (no USDA-paid inspections) actually did not halt horse slaughter and that private companies could simply pick up the tab for inspection costs.”

On February 13, 2006, in the United States District Court, District of Columbia, six national humane groups representing over 9.5 million members and several individuals filed a complaint in federal court against Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns and Food Safety and Inspection Service Administrator Barbara Masters, challenging the USDA’s decision to create a fee-for-service inspection system that facilitates the continued transport and slaughter of tens of thousands of American horses for human consumption abroad each year. The lawsuit was unsuccessful.

On February 22, 2006, the HSUS filed for a preliminary injunction to prevent the inspections of horsemeat until a pending lawsuit against the USDA prohibiting the fee-for-service inspections could be settled. The Court dismissed two of the three claims filed in that lawsuit on grounds that the plaintiffs lacked standing.

Fee-for-service inspections commenced on March 10, 2006. On Tuesday, March 14, a federal judge ruled in favor of the USDA to allow fee-for-service inspections to horsemeat processing plants despite efforts of the HSUS and other animal welfare groups to prevent the inspections and thus close the plants.

On January 19, 2007, a panel of judges from the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled that slaughtering horses for meat was illegal in Texas. This decision tied up an earlier case dating back to August, 2003, when Texas Attorney General John Cornyn issued an opinion on a long-forgotten piece of legislation (Ag Code 149) that had gone unenforced since it had been passed in 1949. Specifically, Cornyn’s August, 2003 opinion stated that the law applied to both Dallas Crown and Beltex. The two Texas plants responded to an order by the Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney to shut down by filing a suit challenging the law. Their argument? That a ban would violate the Constitution’s commerce clause and federal meat inspection laws.

In 2006, a judge ruled in favor of the plants, but this decision was overturned by the New Orleans appellate court. Even though it upheld the Texas ban on slaughtering horses, however, the plants did not shut. They continued slaughtering horses. Within 14 days of the Fifth Circuit Court decision, Dallas Crown & Beltex asked for an enbanc by the Fifth Circuit.

In February, 2007, Dallas Crown and Beltex took their case up to the Supreme Court, which rejected their appeal. But the plants continued slaughtering horses.

On March 5, 2007, the entire Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed an earlier panel decision upholding the Texas state law (Ag Code 149) banning the sale of horsemeat for human consumption.

On March 23, 2007, the The Kaufman Herald, reported that Dallas Crown had finally sent its employees home. This left just Cavel, in DeKalb, IL, operating.

On March 29, 2007, U.S. Federal District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the Federal District Court in the District of Columbia effectively blocked the USDA from providing horsemeat inspections for a fee. She ruled that the USDA violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to conduct an environmental impact review of its decision to allow the continuation of horse slaughter. Technically,,America’s remaining slaughterhouse could no longer kill horses for human consumption.

On May 5, 2007, Cavel, The DeKalb Illinois slaughter plant, which had been forced to close for several weeks, won the latest round in a long battle over the processing of horses, scoring a win in the Federal Appeals Court in Washington that allowed the plant to re-open. The court issued a stay on an order banning USDA inspections.

On May 24, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich signed HB 1711 banning the slaughter of horses for human consumption, making it illegal for Cavel to continue operations. On May 25, the Belgian-owned company filed a lawsuit claiming the new law banning the slaughter of horses intended for human consumption was unconstitutional.

On June 1, 2007, U.S. District Court Judge Frederick Kapala granted a temporary restraining order preventing state and DeKalb County officials from enforcing the slaughter ban passed in Illinois while the suit was being considered.

Slaughter continued pending a restraining order set to expire after Jun 14. Hearings in the case were scheduled for June 12 and 14. On June 17, Kapala granted a 10-day extension to Cavel while he considered whether to make the order permanent. On June 28, an order keeping the last U.S. horse slaughter plant in DeKalb open was set to expire.

A Federal judge refused a request from Cavel to stay open. On July 5, an Illinois law banning horse slaughter was upheld in Federal Court. However, Cavel appealed stating that the ban on horse slaughter for human consumption was unconstitutional.

On July 18, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals granted a motion by Cavel International, allowing the plant to temporarily resume horse slaughter operations. The facility was allowed to operate while the appeal was pending.

On September 21, 2007, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in support of a lower court’s earlier decision on the constitutionality of a state law banning the practice of horse slaughter for human consumption. Cavel’s appeal was denied and its temporary injunction was revoked. Cavel became the last horse slaughter house in the U.S. to close.

Source: Forbes.com: “Grand Opening of Horse Slaughter Plants Foiled Again” by Vickery Eckhoff (http://www.forbes.com/sites/vickeryeckhoff/2013/11/06/grand-opening-of-horse-slaughter-plants-foiled-again/)

APPENDIX III:

What’s In Your Horse Burger? Chemicals That Pose a Serious Health Risk
http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2013/03/04/what-s-in-your-horse-burger-chemicals-that-pose-serious-health-risks.html

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  1. January 9, 2014

    Well…I let you down on that one with my trip over here and the subsequent mess I walked into…sorry for letting you down but thank you for your consideration.

      R.T. Fitch Author – “Straight from the Horse’s Heart” President of the Wild Horse Freedom Federation The Force of the Horse®, LLC 1-800-974-FOTH http://www.rtfitch.com http://www.rtfitchauthor.com http://www.facebook.com/rtfitch http://www.wildhorsefreedomfederation.org

    “O make me glad for every scalding tear, for hope deferred, ingratitude, disdain! Wait, and love more for every hate, and fear no ill, — since God is good, and loss is gain.” ~ Mary Baker Eddy

    ________________________________

  2. January 9, 2014

    Integrity is telling myself the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people.
    — Spencer Johnson

  3. January 9, 2014

    Great job, as usual. Next step is to remove Clausing from her job at the AP, if she is still collecting pay from them. Let her be the example for the rest. She can go do full time for Valley Meat. She will be happier there.
    Beyond the obvious conflict of interest here is the appearance of the AP itself, which is now damaged. The AP obviously has low standards for reporters (who else would work for something called “Valley Meats”? That is pathetic itself. These kill plants normally hire people just out of jail and never train. The work itself is on the lowest level known. What is the hourly pay for a kill plant worker? Healthcare?
    So, this Clausing person is associated with this level of so-called business? Then Clausing is not qualified for her pay from the AP and needs to go. That campaign has to start.
    We have to look at the level of representatives for slaughter. Have we noticed that the reps for slaughter are all of a type? They appear to be the least educated, the most ignorant, the most challenged by those who are educated–how much money are slaughter interests paying to these kinds of people? What does that tell us about the real cash behind slaughter as an industry?
    If slaughter is so loaded with financial resources, why can’t they afford to hire effective and professional reps and lobbyists? Look at Sue Wallis (WY), Andy Holt (TN) and the usual line up of ignorant low life who rep these interests. These people are typically not of professional caliber for any business.
    The money so feared and so discussed is not there. Slaughter is an empty suit with little in the way of financial resources. If people are afraid of slaughter money, why? What are the assets of a Valley Meat as compared to other businesses? I think we would find that the money is simply not there.
    The fear from corporate Ag is not about horse slaughter. It is that once this aspect of killing pets and useful and healthy equines is known (2011) the rest is up for grabs. The misstep for slaughter was ever opening up the ruse of horse slaughter in the first place. Now we are in to AG ripoff territory and every single living creature they kill for their toxic dead animal products is now suspect. This brings about an absolute position of no slaughter products whatsoever amongst informed consumers. Ag Gag attempts caused even more furor among their own consumers. When they attacked the horses, they screwed up big time (2011). Now we know.
    If we had never heard about Ag, Steve King, Farm Bills (SNAP), we would not be interested in seeing these ripoff kill corps gone from this country. They blew it themselves when they hired cheap, ignorant reps who are easily blown away at the voting booth. All it took for us to find that out was Vickery Eckhoff doing an excellent job at Forbes.
    We have to make sure to see public demand to remove these low level shills (like this Clausing) and make it known publicly. We need a public example of who is removed from these small time jobs for small time kill plants like Valley Meat. Slaughter interests are a façade. We will not face any opposition when removing this low life from Congress and from their day jobs, wherever that is. When the money isn’t there, removal of low life is a lot easier.
    According to recent numbers, racing is losing cash. The word is that these interests are headed to China etc. Let them.
    How much money does the AQHA have with the lack of income for the average person? The Quarter Horse market is in the dumper too. Those are only two examples of the supposed interests involved in slaughter. Poke a hole in this balloon and let’s see who cries as shills are removed. I predict that no one will defend these low lifers and they will hang themselves and lose these jobs when forced to answer by voters.
    We remove the shills and the consumer cash from the kill industry. How many buddies can they buy for state and national office after the consumer cash goes away? How tough is it to remove Road Kill Sue from her taxpayer supported job as state rep from Recluse WY? Andy Holt? How much cash is a Sue Wallis getting for her lying? How much cash is Clausing getting for her conflict of interest job at the AP and Valley Meats? These are small timers and highly disposable.
    I think ending slaughter and getting their shills out of taxpayer supported jobs at the state and national level is a doable thing. Americans want this gone and so residents of every other country, Mexico and Canada included. How many countries will tolerate a ripoff interest locating there? There is no reason to tolerate these low lifers living off of our tax dollar in public office and Clausing needs to be removed from her AP job if she is still getting paid by them.
    BTW, let’s all remember that these AP shills also skew other stories we call “news”. It should ring bells of alarm for every American. Reports of any event can be skewed. This is cash in operation and nothing is about facts or beliefs. I hope we understand the impact of lying as news and what has this has done to this country. Besides actions to bring facts to this discussion of another ripoff from corporate Ag is the appearance of the AP. Think. What facts do we think we know? We don’t.
    Change is up to us. Let’s see any shill removed and let’s make sure kill pants close and leave. Let them move their ripoffs as they please. No one wants them.
    Boyoctts of these interests need to happen asap. Remove the money and see them run.
    Tell friends who will act: http://www.USA.gov Pass bills HB1094 and S541 now

  4. Barbara Leonard #
    January 9, 2014

    Thank you Vickery Eckhoff for again making sure the truth is known. There are many so-called journalists who could learn a lot from you about digging for the truth.

  5. Lynette Jirik #
    January 9, 2014

    I have lost much respect for the AP since I too have been involved in horse slaughter for 16 years. I was sitting in court in Illinois the last days of the horse slaughter in that state. So I know the true story from way back.

    The AP continues to push the horse slaughter agenda and at only 1 time did I ever see an anti-horse slaughter article printed. I was told many years ago by anti-horse slaughter advocates that the AP is bias and I found that to be true. It’s time for the AP to get some respect back and do some creditable research before they print the words of the horse killing agenda. And they need to keep in mind that over 80% of American’s are AGAINST horse slaughter no matter how horse killers spin it.

    Start doing your research AP before printing and article and gets some respect back.

  6. January 9, 2014

    If it says AP I just don’t pay attention to it.

    • Suzanne Moore #
      January 11, 2014

      I don’t, but the problem is many people DO pay attention and other news castors use the AP releases on their own reports. AP wire stories go EVERYWHERE, and most people don’t realize the depths to which the AP has fallen. I didn’t myself until Jeri Clausing and her obvious bias came along and the AP refused to do one single thing about it.

      We must keep on getting the word out. If the AP would stake its reputation on something like horse slaughter – for Heaven’s sake! – they would lie about anything!

      Sad.

  7. Barbara Warner #
    January 10, 2014

    Thank you so much, Vickery, you are a REAL journalist. We need more like you so that the facts may be known.

    • January 10, 2014

      1-10-2014 I DITTO Barbara. There is another article that was so informative to me and confirmed my thoughts about Horse Slaughter…8-13-2013 “Declaration of Harm” by Nancy Watson and Dr. Lester Friedlander of CAES, etc.

      • Suzanne Moore #
        January 11, 2014

        Agree! “Declaration of Harm” is a must read for anyone who wants to know the FACTS about horse slaughter.

  8. January 13, 2014

    Does anyone have an accurate contact email address for corporate CBS, MSNBC (has separate website) and PBS?
    I would assume that editors would be the best contacts.
    Sending this information to general customer service seems to delay this information getting to the right people. Thanks for any contact info anyone has.

  9. Lynn O'Toole #
    January 13, 2014

    Many of us here in Missouri have been lamenting the lack of good investigative reporting on many issues for quite some time. Most recently our grave concern has been the shoddy one-sided reporting on the horse slaughter issue.

    Vickery, you have proven that excellent journalists still exist and you rekindled my hope that investigative reporting still lives! Thank you. Thank you.

  10. April 29, 2014

    Did you ever get an answer? Or even a response? I too wrote to them regarding a couple of those dreadfully inaccurate articles — as a PR person who actually used to visit them with clients in tow, at their request! (they were pretty interesting tech clients), I thought they might at least acknowledge the communication, but no. I don’t understand what is in it for them, though.

    • April 29, 2014

      HI,

      I did get a response. THey said they weren’t correcting a thing. I actually may have an article published on this soon in the Huffington Post. If I do, I’ll post a link on the site.

      Thanks for your comment!

  11. Barbara Warner #
    April 30, 2014

    Vickery, I am so sorry that Forbes let you go. This is one of the dirtest deals I’ve heard of lately. To do this to you is against us all because you are one of us and we are a family of horse advocates. The truth hurt them too much .

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Th AP Refuses to Correct Past Reporting Errors | james-mcwilliams.com
  2. Too Big to Fact Check? ‘Not Our Job’ Says AP Editor | Vickery Eckhoff

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