By Kate Mosso, My 9 NJ
Penns Grove, New Jersey (My9NJ) - Is New Jersey home to the last horse slaughterhouse in the United States? Experts say that may be the case. According to the ASPCA, the last horse slaughterhouses in the U.S. shutdown back in 2007, but the owner of Bravo Packing Incorporated, Joe Merola, says that horses are still being killed for their meat at his Penn’s Grove, New Jersey slaughterhouse.
In 2012, Governor Christie signed a state law banning horse slaughter for human consumption in the Garden State and Mr. Merola says the horse meat produced at Bravo is sold exclusively to zoos to feed big cats and other carnivores. He declined to be interviewed on camera, but said he’s doing nothing wrong at his company.
However, some animal advocates think that Bravo is exploiting an unfortunate loophole on the ban by allowing the slaughter of horses that to feed animals rather than humans.
Amanda Sorvino, daughter of Hollywood actor Paul Sorvino, spoke out about this controversial practice of horse slaughter for animal consumption in the Garden State.
“New Jersey is home to just about the only horse slaughterhouse left in America. It slaughters horses for zoo consumption, not for human consumption, but obviously the horses don’t know the difference, they’re still getting slaughtered,” she explained.
Sorvino said that she’s seen first-hand what goes on at Bravo. In 2008, she befriended owner Joe Merola’s late son, Monty Merola, who worked at the meat-packing plant. For months, she recorded an undercover video that shows rail-thin horses at Bravo on their way to die. She says, slaughtering horses is just plain wrong.
“Horses are pets. They’re also sports animals, they helped to found their country, they’re cultural icons, people wouldn’t do this to their pet dog would they? It’s completely unacceptable, so why would we do that to our horse?” She asked.
Joe Merola says what Sorvino doesn’t show in her video is that he treats the horses well in their final days and he always has a big fresh bale of hay for them.
Regardless of who you believe, is this really the last horse slaughterhouse of any kind in the entire United States?
Representatives from the Monmouth County SPCA, the U.S. ASPCA, the Humane Society and U.S. Equine Federation said the practice of slaughtering horses in the U.S. is very rare or even non-existent today.
However, Chris Hyde, Deputy Director of Government and Legal Affairs for the Animal Welfare Institute in Washington D.C. says Bravo, right here in New Jersey, is the only company he’s heard of by name that’s definitely slaughtering horses today in the United States.
So that begs the question, what does average horse owners do when a horse reaches its later years and can’t handle a rider? Animal advocates say most lame or unwanted horses in the U.S. are euthanized humanely, but some, including over 140,000 last year alone, are shipped out of the country to Canada or Mexico, where there are fewer regulations on slaughter.