Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Horsemeat Found In Food 3 Years Before Scandal

Is there really a market for horse meat in Europe or is it all just a big lie?  ~Declan

Horsemeat Found In Food 3 Years Before Scandal

Published On: Tue, Jan 28th, 2014  As posted on Updated News

Thousands of tonnes of horsemeat probably entered the food chain in the three years before last year’s food crisis, according to a UK frontbench Labour MP.
Mary Creagh, who was shadow environment secretary at the time of the scandal, says she has evidence which proves criminals substituted beef for horsemeat on a massive scale.
The discovery of horsemeat in processed beef products sold by a number of UK supermarket chains last year resulted in a series of product recalls.
“The number of horses slaughtered in Britain has halved over the past year – so what that tells you is probably 50% of the horses that were being slaughtered in 2010, 2011 and 2012 were destined for some sort of criminal meat trade,” Ms Creagh told BBC Radio 4′s File on 4 programme.
The official government figures show that in 2009, there were 5,100 horses slaughtered. In 2010 there were 8,854, in 2011 there were 9,011 and in 2012 there were 9,405.
That figure, for the 11 months of 2013 following the crisis, fell by more than half to 4,505.
“There are [now] much stricter checks in abattoirs and the paperwork is being checked a lot more carefully. Veterinary inspectors are alive to the potential for horses to have more than one microchip in their neck and it is no longer in the interest of would-be criminals to take the risk of getting caught,” said Ms Creagh, now shadow transport secretary.
Abandoned horses
She added that the number of slaughterhouses approved to kill horses in the UK had also fallen, from seven in January 2013 to a current total of four.
“The anecdotal evidence from animal welfare charities is that there was a huge increase in the number of abandoned horses, there was a huge increase in horse passport fraud and there was a huge increase in horse slaughter.”
There was a glut of unwanted horses after the 2008 financial crisis, with people no longer able to afford to keep a horse.
“They were horses that may have been treated with bute [a drug given to horses], had fresh chips put in their heads and new passports written for them – so they were being cleaned… and then taken to slaughter.
“Not all of those horses I think were exported, some of them may have stayed in the UK. I am in no doubt that they were entering the food chain and being passed off as beef,” Ms Creagh said.
The National Audit Office has already criticised the government, suggesting it should have picked up on “warning signs” as long ago as 2010.
In its investigation into the crisis published in October 2013 the NAO pointed to economic recession putting pressure on household bills and leaving the way open for food fraudsters to introduce horsemeat into the food chain.
Sian Jones, the audit manager responsible for the report, told File on 4:
“The price of beef on our shelves was staying the same. The price of horsemeat wholesale was going down… horsemeat looks and tastes an awful lot like beef so it’s an ideal candidate for adulteration. We felt on reflection that these were signs that intelligence should have picked up on – and didn’t.”
‘Know the loopholes’
In a statement, the Food Standards Agency said:
“[Our] role is to ensure consumers are protected and our focus is on working with the food industry and local authorities to make sure this happens. For example, we are working with our local authority partners to do more authenticity testing and we have increased funding to support them in this work to £2.2m.
“We asked Prof Pat Troop to review the FSA’s response to the horsemeat incident and we are working on her recommendations to improve our intelligence gathering, review the way we respond to incidents and look again at our powers.”
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson declined File on 4′s request for an interview.
In her first interview as head of the European Union’s Food Fraud Network, which was set up in the wake of the horsemeat scandal, Carmen Garau told the BBC the unit is already investigating 40 cases of beef being substituted for horsemeat.
“It has become apparent that this… can happen more and more in future because fraud has become technologically advanced, they know the legislation and they know the loopholes in the legislation.
“They know how to bypass and how to avoid controls in some cases, so we do need to organise ourselves to address that sort of phenomenon.”
Ms Garau says the EU Food Fraud Network, which has members from each of the 28 member states plus Iceland, Switzerland and Norway, is currently investigating 20 different types of food fraud.
These include species substitution in fish, water being injected into frozen seafood to increase its weight and the substitution of honey for sugar syrup.
“After the horsemeat crisis, we realised that one of the main problems in enforcing food legislation across Europe and tackling food fraud across Europe was the fact that member states were not using to the full the instruments and the tools for administrative co-operation across borders.
They have to co-operate with each other when the violation of food law is intentional, is cross border, and is economically motivated,” she said.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Mustangs of the West - Why This American Icon is Disappearing

The BLM shouldn't be doing this.  They have a responsibility to PROTECT America's wild horses and burros, not eradicate them.  ~Declan

Mustangs of the West: Why this American icon is disappearing

The mustang is a symbol of the freedom and independence of the American West. But today the horse is a persecuted breed and is quickly disappearing from the landscape at the hands of the government agency that is supposed to protect it.
Mon, Jan 27, 2014 at 11:31 AM  As posted on Mother Nature Network 
a lone mustang stands on a hilltop
Photo: Jaymi Heimbuch
Mustangs have been a part of the landscape of the United States for centuries. Ever since the first horses escaped from Spanish conquistadores, feral horses have returned to their wild roots, roaming in small family bands lead by stallions, mixing with various breeds of other escapees -- including the appaloosas and paints of Native Americans, ranchers' quarter horses and cow ponies, thoroughbreds, and draft horses that ditched their farms. The mustang has become an exceptionally hardy breed of horse, adapting easily to rough and arid conditions in the west, with isolated bands still showing their centuries-old ancestry though particular conformation and markings. And importantly, the mustang is a breed we equate with freedom, an untamed spirit, and the history of our country.
mustangs run through western scrub habitat
Photo: Jaymi Heimbuch
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is tasked to uphold the 1971 legislation written to protect these free-roaming horses, the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act. Unfortunately, the BLM's strategies are far from effective and are considered by many to be inhumane. The issue is complex and has many conflicting interests, from those who want to see wild horses stay free, to those who object to the strategies used for limiting herd growth, to ranchers who graze their livestock on public land and view the mustangs as competition. Here are some of the basics of the controversy surrounding one of the most iconic animals in the United States.
mustangs stand on a hilltop
Photo: Jaymi Heimbuch
  • Today’s mustang population is under strain. There are fewer than 35,000 wild horses on some 27 million acres of federally managed land, while millions of privately-owned cattle graze across some 245 million acres of public lands, including those acres designated for wild horses.
  • Wild horses and burros can be found mainly on government-designated Herd Management Areas (HMA) in ten western states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.
  • BLM has reduced designated wild horse habitat by over 20 million acres since 1971.
mustangs on a sanctuary
Photo: Jaymi Heimbuch
  • The American mustang is outnumbered 50 to 1 by the privately owned cattle allowed to graze on public lands.
  • Livestock grazing on public lands costs taxpayers in excess of $122 million annually. The cattle grazed on public lands provide a mere 3 percent of the U.S. beef supply.
  • Cattle are more damaging to fragile riparian habitats than horses. Studies have shown wild horses roam much farther from water sources than cattle, which tend to graze within one mile of water sources, causing erosion, overgrazing, and contamination. However, public land fencing often prevents horses from accessing natural water sources and disrupts their natural widespread grazing patterns.  
  • Mustangs are restricted to just 11% of BLM lands. Still, the BLM allocates the majority of forage resources in HMAs to private livestock instead of mustangs and burros.
captive mustangs run through a pasture together
Photo: Jaymi Heimbuch
  • Mustangs technically have legal protection. In 1971, Congress passed the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act, declaring "wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; that they contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people; and that these horses and burros are fast disappearing from the American scene. It is the policy of Congress that wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death; and to accomplish this they are to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands."
  • Population growth is not regulated by self-limiting pressures, such as lack of water or forage and presence of natural predators. Because of this, mustang populations grow at an annual rate of 15-20 percent.
  • Despite successful reproduction rates, the breed is still in danger because the BLM is taking so many wild horses out of HMAs. The BLM's target number for mustangs left in the wild is lower than the estimated population in 1971 when the act was passed.
mustangs rounded up by helicopter
Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
  • Mustangs are often injured or die during or as a result of government round-ups.Leg and hoof injuries from running over rough terrain, injuries from panicking in pens, dehydration and over-heating, spontaneous abortions by mares after the strenuous round-up, foals that collapse or are separated from their mothers in the commotion, stallions fighting after being forced into pens together, permanent mental trauma, and other significant injuries are the result of "gathers".
  • Most mustangs rounded up don’t get adopted, as BLM reports show. Due to BLM's rounding up horses into long- and short-term holding facilities, there are more mustangs in government holding facilities than there are in the wild.
mustangs lead into holding pens by helicopter
Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
  • Long-term holding costs consume over half of the Wild Horse and Burro Program's annual budget. In fiscal year 2012, the BLM spent over $40 million to care for more than 45,000 mustangs removed from the range and put in holding.
  • The BLM focuses the majority of its budget on roundups, removal and warehousing of horses, while less than 16 percent is spent on programs to maintain horses on the range.
  • Mustangs captured in government round-ups have commonly ended up in slaughter houses in Canada and Mexico after being sold. In 2013, new rules for mustang adoptions were put into place after an investigation discovered nearly 1,800 horses were sold to a livestock hauler who most likely sent the horses to slaughter. Now, no more than four mustangs can be adopted by an individual within a six-month period unless prior approval is obtained from the BLM.
mustang in scrub brush
Photo: Jaymi Heimbuch
  • After two years of review, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released a reportthat shows how the BLM’s management of wild herds is ineffective and unscientific, with suggestions for improvement.
  • The NAS report notes that the BLM does not use scientific methods for estimating the number of horses in an area, monitoring herds, or calculating how many horses an area can reasonably sustain. The NAS supports herd management on the range as a more economically viable and ecologically sound approach to limiting wild horse populations.
mustangs move together at sunrise
Photo: Jaymi Heimbuch
  • There are solutions for humane long-term management, that would effectively end inhumane round-ups and stop the flow of tax-payer money to keeping mustangs in holding pens. They include:

Self-stabilizing herds - Putting up natural boundaries where needed and allowing natural predators such as mountain lions to reenter the restored ecosystems. This self-regulating model has worked with the Montgomery Pass herd where this herd has survived and maintained a stable population for twenty-five years without human management.
Fertility control - A contraceptive vaccine called PZP, which is approved by the Humane Society of the United States, has been used successfully with the wild horses of Maryland’s Assateague Island. Administering it requires only remote darting of mares, which doesn’t disrupt the social structure of the wild bands. It could save taxpayers as much as $7.7 million annually.

Ecotourism - Free-ranging mustangs are a draw for American and international tourists alike. Building non-disruptive sight-seeing and tours to watch mustangs can bring income to the areas in which they roam and show they are more valuable alive than in holding pens or sent to slaughter.

Cooperation from ranchers - By working with ranchers who graze their livestock on public land, and requiring them to allow mustangs the same access to resources such as water as their livestock receive, The BLM could reach a balance between protecting the herds on Herd Management Land as the law requires and satisfying ranchers’ needs.
mustang runs over a hill in silhouette
Photo: Jaymi Heimbuch
Much of this information has been gathered from the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, a nonprofit organization that stays on top of the issue, keeping in touch and on the ground from Capitol Hill down to the ranges where mustangs are rounded up. It provides a good deal of information about the status of mustangs and what is, or rather, isn't being done to protect this iconic breed. It is a great resource for anyone interested in learning more. Another excellent resource for learning exactly what is going on is the full report from the National Academy of Sciences, "Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program". It is free to download and read in its entirety, and reveals from a scientific perspective, where the BLM falls short of helping the very animals it is tasked to protect.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Oklahoma State Senator Calls for Counties to Vote on Horse Slaughter


State senator wants counties to vote on horse slaughter

Posted: Tuesday, January 21, 2014 4:40 pm

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Sen. Randy Bass, D-Lawton, has filed legislation that would give counties the final say over the location of horse slaughter facilities.
“When Governor Fallin signed legislation into law last year legalizing horse slaughter, she issued a statement saying it was important for towns to be able to block horse slaughter plants if that was their will,” said Bass. “This legislation would simply give counties the option to decide for themselves whether they want these facilities in their jurisdictions or not.”
Senate Joint Resolution 66 would require a countywide vote on proposed slaughter plants.
Some horse interests argue that the lack of facilities for slaughtering and processing horses has led to a glut of live horses, and that horses are now being shipped to Mexico or Canada for slaughter.
Bass cited a poll that found overwhelming opposition to the legalization of horse slaughter in Oklahoma.
"What’s interesting is the fact that it didn’t really matter if you were talking about people living in a rural area or a large city, and it didn’t matter if they were a Democrat or a Republican, conservative or liberal—the overwhelming majority did not want a horse slaughter plant in their community,” Bass said. “This legislation reaffirms our citizens’ right to block such a facility if that’s what the majority of qualified voters decide.”

Sunday, January 5, 2014

2014 - A Very Special Year Of The Horse

2014 The Year Of The Horse

I was talking to my Grand Master at my Taekwondo (martial arts) school and he mentioned that 2014 is not only the Year of the Horse, but in Korean culture, it's the year of the Blue Horse.  Grand Master Park told me that the Blue Horse is very special and came down from heaven.  I researched the Blue Horse myself and what I found is very interesting and I thought I would share the amazing things I learned with you.  Here is some of the interesting information I found.

In Korean culture, 2014 is the Year of the Horse and the Year of the Blue Horse, which only happens every 60 years and actually doesn't start until the next lunar year which begins January 31, 2014.  The year of the Blue Horse is supposed to be the most progressive and successful year and a more dynamic year than ever before and the Blue Horse is also supposed to bring prosperity and fortune.  People strive to improve themselves and make their lives better.  Korean people like to predict how each year is going to turn out according the animal represented and its characteristics.  Koreans see the horse as a holy animal, ambassador from heaven, and a mystical and beautiful creature.  For Koreans in particular, the horse is a symbol of strength and vitality.  Traditionally, the Blue Horse is known for its adventurous and brisk personality.  In the east, the Blue Horse is known for its vibrant energy.  While in the west, the Blue Horse is considered the same as unicorns, bringing people good luck and fortune.

A painting of the horse spirit general used in
 some Buddhist mourning ceremonies.
(Photo courtesy of the National Folk Museum of Korea)

In honor of the Year of the Horse, many museums and galleries all over Korea are hosting exhibits related to horses, their history and how they relate to people.  Korea has many national treasures related to horses.  Exhibits show art, paintings, photographs and artifacts.  

I think part of the reason I have a connection and affection for horses is because I was born in 2002, which was a Years of the Horse.  Koreans believe that people born in the Year of the Horse are open-minded, optimistic and outgoing.  They are also said to be attractive and humorous, and when they have a goal, they devote themselves to achieving that goal.  I feel that 2014 will be a great year for our horses and that we will end horse slaughter in the United States, because the Blue Horse came from heaven to bring hope, wisdom, and strength.  

I wish you all a Happy New Year.  I will fight until I have won for the horses!  ~Declan

Here's a cool video about the Year of the Blue Horse I found on a Korean tv station.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

AP Misrepresents Critical Detail About Slaughtering Horses

Journalism Is Never Perfect: The Politics of Story Corrections and Retractions

 • December 20, 2013 • 10:00 AM
Do reporters and editors have an obligation to get the story right—even if not the first time?
Not once, not twice, but on 18 separate occasions over the last year and a half the Associated Press misrepresented a critical detail about slaughtering horses for human consumption in the United States. The pivotal point, which remains unchanged, makes it sound as if domestic slaughter is a more humane option for American horses than keeping them alive. This mistake, which has repeatedly been brought to the AP’s attention, offers insight into the contested issue of media retractions and corrections.
Forbes contributor Vickery Eckhoff, who previously worked for The New York Times and Dow Jones, caught the AP error early and let them know about it often. The gist of her complaint centered on the following claim, a version of which the AP included in every one of its stories on horse slaughter:
A June 2011 report from the federal Government Accountability Office 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.
Note the implication: With the end of domestic slaughter came the rise of horse suffering. Given that meatpacking plants are now lobbying hard for the reauthorization of horse slaughter, and given that, due to the AP’s misinterpretation, they can now do so on purported humanitarian grounds, this “finding” could not have been better timed for the meatpacking plants or more consequential for consumers and animal advocates.
But the problem, as I reported in Pacific Standard earlier this year, is the fact that horse slaughter, contrary what the AP claimed, did not end in 2006, effectively or otherwise. Instead, it continued through November of 2007. This difference matters. Critically.
Why? Because horse abuse, according to GAO data, in fact increasedbetween 2005 and 2007, when slaughterhouses were up and running. In essence, the AP, by erroneously reporting that horse slaughter plants closed in 2006 rather than 2007, reached the opposite conclusion than what the GAO data offered.
It was a mistake. It happens. And the media has a standard way of dealing with it: It retracts or corrects the story. The AP understands this tactic well. It recently filed retractions in two high-profile cases, one in which it alleged that Virginia democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe lied to federal officials and the other in which it misreported a quote by Senator Rand Paul.
But, in the case of the Eckhoff findings, the AP has dug in its heels. It has done so despite her careful documentation and publication of the errors. In an email, Eckhoff described her experience seeking a correction from the AP:
I got yelled at, sworn at, had my journalistic credentials knocked, was hung up on, bounced around and rebuffed as I worked my way up the chain from the reporter, to her news editor, the corrections department and a regional editor overseeing news in 13 different states.
After two emails to an AP editor seeking comment on the prospect of retraction, I was finally sent to Paul Colford, director of AP Media Relations. His response was unequivocal: “AP stands by the stories.”
But in light of Eckhoff’s work, the AP is standing by flawed journalism. Perhaps the reason is personal (at one point, according to Eckhoff, the AP reporter who wrote most of the slaughter stories said to her, “You sound like a fucking bitch”). Or perhaps it’s that a bunch of animal advocates pose less of a legal threat than Terry McAuliffe or Rand Paul. It’s hard to say.
Whatever the cause of the refusal to address the argument, the fact remains that, in the face of overwhelming evidence that the AP got it wrong, its failure to retract—or at least correct—articles based on what seems to be an obvious mistake places the AP in the position of supporting meatpacking plants while providing readers with inaccurate information.
ANOTHER RECENT MEDIA CASE—this one centering on a controversial study connecting genetically modified corn to tumors in rats—is more ambiguous. But it too raises interesting and potentially disturbing questions about the media’s obligation to revisit old stories when new information comes to light and compromises the initial reporting.
In September 2012, Food and Chemical Toxicology, a peer-reviewed scientific journal, published a study suggesting that genetically modified corn causes cancer. The research, led by Gilles-Eric Séralini of the University of Caen, in France, indicated that rats fed NK603 maize, a variety genetically modified to be resistant to an herbicide called glyphosate, were more likely to get tumors than those fed a non-GMO diet. Anti-GMO zealots pounced, using the study as fresh fuel for their Frankenfood mission.
Journalists, though, were a bit more circumspect. Strangely, Séralini demanded (backed by the threat of a fine) that reporters who were given advance copies of the article seek neither independent comment nor evaluation. Mother Jones’ Tom Philpott, who wrote about the study within days of its publication, did not get an advance copy, and thus was not privy to this suspicious stipulation. Even so, he was still unsure about the study’s integrity.
Although well known as a staunch critic of GMOs, Philpott showed restraint, warning readers that the findings were not “as clear-cut as they seem at first glance,” that it was “already generating plenty of debate,” and that many scientists believed that the sample size was too small “to draw any conclusions.”
Caveats delivered, Philpott then went on to monger what seemed to be legitimate fear. He wrote that the study’s findings “paint a troubling picture” as they “shine a harsh light on the ag-biotech industry’s claim mantra that GMOs have indisputably proven safe to eat.” He noted that the study “surely counts as the most ambitious and comprehensive safety assessment of GMOs ever conducted” and he quotes Séralini as saying it was “the longest and most detailed [GMO feeding study] that has ever been done.”
These were perfectly reasonable assessments—assuming the study was conclusive. But earlier this month the journal that published the Séralini article abruptly retracted it. The circumstances surrounding the retraction appear to be as controversial as the final decision. (Why, for example, was the assessment that the study wasn’t conclusive determined during the peer review stage? And who made inconclusiveness grounds for scientific rejection?) Nonetheless, the retraction stands, and it does so with the support of “an avalanche of criticism the study has faced.”
Does Philpott, not to mention dozens of other journalists who relied on the study to generate public health concerns over GMOs, have an obligation to follow-up with another piece noting the retraction? Should reporters clarify that their anti-GMO warnings were based on work that has since been officially debunked?
According to Adam Marcus, who runs Retraction Watch, a popular blog dedicated to covering scientific retractions, a news outlet is under no legal obligation to revisit the original piece. That said, when asked if he thought a magazine had a duty to issue a clarification or retraction under such circumstances, he said, “Ethically, I think they should consider following up on their original reporting.”
In an email, Philpott suggested that he had no intentions of revisiting the Séralini affair anytime soon. With some amusement, he noted that, “the very concerns that I pointed out have been cited as the reason for retraction.” With less amusement, he lamented how, after his piece ran, “I got lambasted as credulous and anti science.” He explained how several scientists told him that the Séralini study “followed the protocols, including rat type and sample size, laid down by Monsanto in its own research and merely extended the time frame.” As a result, Philpott wrote, “I suppose the Monsanto studies should be considered flawed, too.”
Unlike the AP case, this one is more of a toss up. After all, nothing in Philpott’s original story, at the time, was wrong. But the retraction of the Séralini study changes that. It means that readers will encounter Philpott’s story and continue to take to heart the assertion that a peer-reviewed study positively linked GMO corn to cancer when, as it now appears, there is not a convincing connection. At the least, a short follow up would be a judicious move.
THE BEST MEDICINE IS transparency. On his blog Regret the Error, Craig Silverman recounts an instructive story to this effect. He notes how the Queens Chronicle ran a piece with the headline “Queens Dissed on City Council Speaker Meetings.” It reports that the borough of Queens was left out as a meeting site for a public forum on the next city council speaker. But this was flat out wrong, as a meeting was, in fact, held in Queens. Silverman writes: “In this situation, I often see news organizations try to find a way to offer a correction that spares them a measure of embarrassment. That usually means not acknowledging that their premise was incorrect, or even removing the entire article without offering a correction.”
But this time Silverman was surprised. The Queens Chronicle editor wrote: “This article is wrong in its entirety. A forum was held in Queens Nov. 14. That event was announced by someone other than Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez and was not referenced in his Nov. 18 announcement because it had already happened. We regret the error.” This notice was placed at the head of the original piece. Silverman adds, “It’s nice to see such a blunt admission when it’s so clearly called for, though unfortunate that it strikes me as being a somewhat rare thing for a journalist to do.”
The AP and Séralini cases—as well as the Queens Chronicleincident—remind us of the obvious point that journalism is never perfect. Sometimes it’s very far from it. The good news is that, with the mainstreaming of online journalism, even the best reporting can and should become works-in-progress, files of information open to updating and refining, corrections and retractions. There’s simply too much data now on hand, and too many people pursuing it, for any work of journalism to be the last word on anything. And as for being embarrassed goes, best to get over it. Mistakes get made. Lumps get taken. We move on, smarter and better informed.