Allies at Work
"FALLON 101" HORSE RESCUE
September 18, 2010
In early September the allied horse groups received word that a large number of horses were being brought to the Fallon Livestock Exchange for a special horse sale scheduled for Sept. 18th. The exchange would offer upwards to 175 horses. This announcement came two months after the Pilot Valley Horse Rescue where a large number of horses that advocates feared were wild free-roaming horses were offered at the sale and where the advocates outbid the kill buyers. As a result the advocates attempted to determine the origins of this latest group of horses.
With an announcement suggesting that perhaps 175 horses would be sold, there were widespread concerns that individuals or ranches may be bringing in stray horses that wandered in off of BLM or tribal lands, claiming the horses as their private property, and taking an opportunity to make a quick buck at the sale. Various advocates, a former Department of Agriculture employee and personnel from the BLM all tried to accurately "source" these horses. Nobody was able to get a straight answer and the answers that the various inquirers received differed from each others'.
The advocates committed to acquiring these latest horses in another effort spearheaded by Jill Starr and Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue. 101 horses appeared in the consignment catalog and all but one of the horses went to rescue groups or private parties. (The one horse that went to kill buyer Ole Olsen was a saddle horse that Ole himself brought to the sale, that wasn't bringing the amount of money that Ole wanted, so Ole bought his own horse back.)
After the sale and the brands were recorded, the advocates were able to determine that most of the horses were private range stock, the majority being Paiute horses from the privately owned Blossom Ranch. Very few horses had any "mustang-like" appearance.
While the Pilot Valley incident raised concerns about how herds of horses are identified and classified on open ranges and public lands, the "Fallon 101" sale revealed a much more ominous issue.
While most domestic animals raised for food have to meet certain standards and their origins have to be traceable, horse sales such as this one fall into a black hole with respect to food safety standards. It is nearly impossible to determine where these animals came from before and during a sale, let alone what drugs or medications they may have been given to treat or mask lameness and other problems - drugs that are banned for use in food animals. Even after the sale, only branded horses could be traced back to their origins and brands typically only identify the breeder, not any successive owners.
The present system is designed to insulate the livestock exchange, bunchers, transporters and killers from any culpability when they introduce horses containing banned substances into the human food supply. In every step along the way whomever receives and resells these animals doesn't want to know anything about them, and claims no "downstream" liability when the horse is passed on to the next person.
Make no mistake about it. Had the advocates not shown up at Fallon, a vast majority of these horses would be headed to the slaughterhouses. The advocates were bidding against slaughter dealers.
The elephant in the room
While we as a nation can be so moralizing about tainted products coming into our country from China and other foreign countries, how can our government facilitate a process that systematically provides tainted American products to processors of meat products for foreign consumers? It smacks of that Chinese attitude that we so strongly reject, that what we send overseas is not our problem.
All animals that enter the human food supply must be subject to the same recordkeeping and safety standards, no matter what the species. In making that statement we are not suggesting that people keeping equines for pets and riding animals should be forced to maintain the kinds of records proposed by the National Animal Identification System (NAIS,) but if anyone wants to convert a horse into any kind of human food product, the same recordkeeping and safety standards then must apply that the other food producers are subject to.
For that reason the United States has to stop allowing the present horse slaughter industry to continue. Otherwise we lose credibility when we criticize other nations from dumping tainted products on us.