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Horse slaughter humane? My response to the Denver Post.

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Temple Grandin's "humane" horse slaughterhouse was shut down after authorities found it did not succeed in humanely stunning horses.

Temple Grandin’s “humane” horse slaughterhouse was shut down after authorities found it did not succeed in humanely stunning horses.

On Thanksgiving day, the last thing I expected to wake up to was Tom McGhee of the Denver Post’s article, “Horse slaughter inhumane? Some say no.

But here’s my response to it. Feel free to share.

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November 26, 2015

Dear Tom,

I read your article, “Horse slaughter inhumane? Some say no,” with great interest, especially Temple Grandin’s words on horse slaughter being humane.

http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_29167415/horse-slaughter-inhumane-some-say-no

Back in 2012, I interviewed Ms. Grandin over videos of a slaughterhouse that she designed for horses in Quebec (Les Viandes de La Petite Nation, Inc.). That slaughterhouse was shut down after the videos showed repeat blows from the captive bolt gun (which Grandin describes as “humane”) failing to render horses unconscious (the legal definition of a humane stun, according to the law, is accomplishing that task with one blow). The Canadian authorities, upon reopening Grandin’s slaughterhouse, replaced the captive bolt guns there with firearms.

My article on Grandin’s slaughter house, including the videos (“Horse Slaughterhouse Raises Food Safety and Cruelty Alarms”),  can be read on Forbes.com’s site:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/vickeryeckhoff/2011/12/06/horse-slaughterhouse-investigation-sounds-food-safety-and-cruelty-alarms/

Grandin and I watched the videos seven times together during the course of our interview. Throughout, she maintained that her system was working. Of course, the video, and the shutdown of the plant, prove otherwise.

I’ve been writing about the horse meat trade, and the intersecting wild horse issue, for four years now. My articles on it have appeared on Forbes.com, The Daily Beast/Newsweek, Salon, Alternet, the HuffPo, and my screenplay on the closing of one of the last horse slaughter houses in the US, Dallas Crown, has been optioned. A site I used for a lot of my research is kaufmanzoning.net,  set up by the people in Kaufman, TX, who eventually succeeded in shutting down the plant there.

There’s a reason why Grandin’s claims are scoffed at by people who worked to close these slaughter plants. And, FYI, the EU may be in the process of winding down sourcing of US horse meat from Canada, as it did back in January, regarding Mexico. This industry isn’t just inhumane, it abuses communities and its lack of regulation poses food safety threats, as well. Those food safety hazards, by the way, are THE reason why a majority of Congress has voted to defund horse slaughter inspections.

As for it being humane, no humane laws are applied in this country. It’s a word people throw around, but when you study agriculture and write about it, you come to realize that all that humane talk is just another version of “greenwashing.”

I run, at this moment, a small site that was the second (after the Wall Street Journal) to break the story of Whole Foods top turkey supplier caught on video claiming humane handling while stuffing birds into barns that can only be described as revolting. You can find that story here: http://dailypitchfork.org/?p=992 (“There’s Nothing Humane About Whole Foods Turkey.”)

It is my sincere hope you may amend your story to reflect what the reality is — not just the one Grandin (a paid consultant to the meat industry) is painting.I am available, at your convenience, if you’d like to talk further or write another article.

Thanks for your important coverage — and happy Thanksgiving.

Sincerely,

Vickery Eckhoff

New York, NY

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This post was updated on November 28, 2015 to include a 150-word Letter to the Editor,  which I submitted through the Post’s web site:

RE: “Horse Slaughter Inhumane? Some Say ‘No'”

Dear Editor:

Horse slaughter is indeed inhumane and Dr. Grandin should know this. She designed a Canadian slaughterhouse (Les Viandes de la Petite Nation) whose horse operation was shut down for failing to humanely stun horses, even after repeat stunnings (the legal requirement is one stun leading to unconsciousness).

Grandin and I reviewed video footage together of the plant’s kill box for an article I published on Forbes.com. Throughout, she maintained that her system worked. Obviously, the video and subsequent shut down of the plant confirm otherwise.

Congress most recently acted to defund horse slaughter inspections because of food safety hazards (due to banned drugs in horse meat) and liability issues resulting from a lack of oversight. The business, when it was regulated by the USDA here in the US, overlooked ongoing humane and environmental violations as well. As a country, we are better off without this taxpayer-funded activity.

Sincerely,

 

Vickery Eckhoff

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My letter to the editor of the Las Vegas Review Journal

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F. Martin_ Cattle_Wikimedia

On November 12, a Las Vegas Review Journal editorial (“Have some horse sense“) concluded that “humanely euthanizing” wild horses is using “horse sense” to solve the “wild horse problem” outlined by 20 GOP lawmakers in a letter to BLM Director, Neil Kornze. Here’s my response:

Dear Editors,

Your recent editorial, “Have some horse sense,” is missing an important piece of data: the number of private livestock on public range and forest lands compared to wild horses and burros (WHB).

2014 grazing receipts of $17.1 million dollars for both Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and US Forest Service (USFS) grazing permittees translate to 2.1 million cattle. That was the number on 251 million acres of public land managed for grazing by both agencies compared to 56,656 WHB last year. That’s a ratio of 37 cattle for every wild horse.

A side-by-side analysis of that and other BLM and USFS-sourced data is available at http://dailypitchfork.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/BLM_USFS-grazing-analysis_2014_Daily-Pitchfork.pdf

Key findings of that analysis include that only 29.4 million acres (just 12%) of the 251 million acres contain WHB habitat. Cattle and sheep are allocated 97% of the total forage; wild horses just 3%.

Another key finding is the countless studies on the negative impact of commercial livestock production on overgrazing, fires, predator removal, damage to riparian areas and biodiversity, and climate change. Yet no comparable studies exist blaming wild horses. A logical deduction is that researchers don’t tend to study what isn’t a problem.

Further, have you checked what those federal livestock grazing leases lose US taxpayers each year? How does taking in $17.1 million dollars while losing $125 million constitute a wise use of taxpayer funds or “sustainable” land use policy?

Killing wild horses to solve what is essentially a cattle-caused problem isn’t using horse sense; it’s the antithesis of it.

Sincerely,

 

Vickery Eckhoff
Executive Editor
The Daily Pitchfork
Dailypitchfork.org