AA has gained information through a Freedom of information Act Request (FOIA) that powerfully underscores the cruelty of horse slaughter on U.S. soil. Under the most ideal conditions possible - including watering stops during single-deck transport, less packed conditions and multiple cameras with a team of monitors - a horse died in the bottom of a trailer during transport. The study adds to ever increasing evidence that demonstrates horse slaughter cannot be 'improved' into something that is humane.
|Truck & trailer used for transport|
The subject of the FOIA is a graduate program study orchestrated by Texas A&M University veterinary professor Dr. Ted H. Friend. The USDA paid for the study. A kill buyer was chosen and TX A&M transported his horses for free to the slaughter plant. The study was designed to 'improve' transport to slaughter by "relieving transport stress." Specifically, the study was to document the effect of providing water to horses in transport at 8 hour intervals.
In his statement, Dr. Friend said that 8 hours was, "the most frequent interval that we could reasonably expect truckers to stop to water horses." USDA regulations require checking all horses every six hours.
The researchers would also be taking blood samples to monitor stress levels in the horses. However, no blood sample was taken from the horse that later died.
Monte Clark of CO, a well known kill buyer, was the owner of the 26 horses. Texas A&M acted as shipper/transporter of the horses, moving them at no charge from Hudson, CO to Dallas Crown in Kaufman, TX.
Conditions were as ideal as possible. There had been several practice runs before the study began. A&M used a specially outfitted trailer with 12 video cameras, lighting and watering system.
There were 2 drivers instead of the usual 1 seen on most hauls, and 3 graduate students that followed the trailer to monitor the cameras and water the horses. The professor stated that "our densest compartment [of the trailer] could be increased by 60% and still be under what the USDA considers to be acceptable density."
|Inside of trailer |
As unlikely as it sounds, all involved stated that cameras and lighting in the trailer "malfunctioned" where the dead horse was, though the cameras in other parts of the trailer continued to work properly.
AA believes it is due the presence of a USDA APHIS inspector at the slaughter plant that documentation of the incident exists. He stated that he "overheard" a graduate student telling the plant manager a trailer with a dead horse had arrived. APHIS inspectors are responsible for enforcement of transport to slaughter regulations (9 CFR, Part 88).
In his affidavit it is the driver who most frankly describes the journey's start. He seems more in touch with the condition of horses as they were being loaded in CO than the 'experts', recalling,
"[S]ome horses had cuts above their eyes or cheeks. The horse that fell was one of our main concerns. He did not seem to be in too good of health. He was walking real slow and hair was fallen out. But [ the] owners son, if I am not mistaken said the horse would be alright for the trip....I may not know too much about horses, but I myself know when one is not in good health...."
Graduate student 1 seemed far less concerned with any horses' welfare. In his affidavit he states Clark let him select additional horses from his "cripples pen", choosing the "healthiest soundest looking horses." However, as they began loading he sees the horse that would die in transport urinate, "the urine looked highly saturated with blood." The student said that later 'Monty' commented that the horse was "going to the right place." The student also states that after they arrived at Dallas Crown and found the dead horse, he told Chris the manager; "He did not seem surprised so I assumed this was a fairly common occurrence."
Student 1 ends his affidavit by saying, "Many of the horses transported to slaughter look pretty bad and this one [the horse that died] did not look any worse off than the majority. I know in the future we will not be transporting any horses that have blood in their urine."
A second graduate student gave an affidavit and also describes the pen of horses with "lower limb deformities". He remembers that the palomino gelding in question had "abnormally long, curly hair" and "appeared lethargic". However, neither of the graduate students in veterinary medicine hesitated when the decision was made to load this horse.
The trip took approx. 18 hours with one stop for watering the horses in Amarillo. Temperatures inside the trailer reached 97 degrees. Texas A & M was later fined $2,000 for failure to "at least once every six hours check on the physical conditions of all horses," and for incomplete owner/shipper certifications showing any prior conditions of the horse that arrived dead.
During the stop in Amarillo, the students monitoring the cameras stated they were having problems with the lighting system of the trailer and did not notice any horses down in the trailer.
According to the APHIS inspector's affidavit, he "did not ask if there was any [video] tape of the horses or the dead horse" received that day. No explanation was provided. Nobody took blood samples from the dead horse.
A university study with watering stops, lower loading density and video camera monitoring, select horses, yet still a horse dies during transport - How bad is the reality of typical transport to slaughter with nothing that approaches such luxuries? These transports were planned for months, test runs were conducted at the university and graduate students in veterinary medicine were monitoring the horses' welfare en route.
Still this poor horse died a grim death. According to Monte Clark, the palomino was, "going to the right place." No doubt giving horses water is an improvement, but does it make horse slaughter humane? According to every bit of evidence Animals' Angels has gathered since 2006, the answer is unquestionably No.