A House committee vote may have closed the barn door before horse slaughter will ever be resumed in the United States.
The powerful Appropriations Committee has by voice vote agreed to again ban federal funding for USDA inspections of horse slaughter facilities. In a deal last year, President Obama and Congress agreed to lift that ban, an action that had led to proposals for horse slaughter facilities in Missouri and New Mexico.
The ban comes in the form of a successful amendment to the fiscal year 2013 Agricultural Appropriations Bill brought by Rep. Jim Moran, D-VA. The appropriations bill now goes to the floor for a vote by the full House.
“When more than 80 percent of the American population opposes this practice, it is high time that we put an end, once and for all, to industrial horse slaughter, Moran said. “Horses hold an important place in our nation’s history and culture, treasured by all for their beauty and majesty. ”
The Northern Virginia Democrat argued that it made no sense to have cut USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service budget by $9 million, and then continue to require the food safety agency to add the inspection of horsemeat for foreign consumption to its duties.
Moran said to add inspections for horsemeat for export could only be achieved at the expense of inspections for poultry, pork and beef being consumed by U.S. citizens.
It was the removal of similar language advanced by Moran last year in a House-Senate conference committee that led to lifting of the ban. Theoretically, that could still happen this year.
The last three horse slaughter facilities in the U.S. closed more than five years ago after Congress initiated the original ban in 2006. Only USDA-inspected meat processed in the U.S. may be sold across state or national boundaries.
The two groups with horse slaughter business plans have each requested USDA inspection services. Both groups want to slaughter horses for the human consumption export market, and neither can do business without USDA inspection services. The companies planning to implement horse slaughter are:
– Unified Equine Missouri, a company headed by Wyoming lawmaker Sue Wallis, which has plans to convert a closed beef-packing plant to accommodate horse slaughter in town of Rockville, MO.
-Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, NM – owned by Rick De Los Santos – also wants to convert its former beef facility into a horse packing plant.
Rockford, a town of 150, lost 70 jobs when its beef plant closed. About 50 jobs were lost in Roswell when Valley shut down its beef operation.
Wallis has apparently succeed in finding a welcoming community in Missouri for horse slaughter. It’s a location she figures is within a few hundred miles of about 30 percent of America’s horse population. About half the town showed up to support Wallis including Rockville Mayor Dave Moore.
De Los Santos has encountered opposition from some New Mexico elected officials, but within the state’s large horse-owning community there is concern about the current high cost of disposing of animals.
Euthanasia by a licensed veterinarian can cost $150 or more in New Mexico and disposal in a landfill can add another $180 to $220. Horses destined for slaughter in Mexico are subjected to long, cruel rides in multiple trucks with no real regulation outside of the U.S.
The Humane Society of the United States, which supported the Moran amendment, reports more than 100,000 American horses are sent to slaughter each year, mostly for human consumption in Europe and Asia.
A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report last year found the number of horses sent to slaughter has not really changed much since the original 2006 ban, but now the business goes to Canada and Mexico. GAO also found that horse abandonment and disposal problems have worsened under the original ban and transporting horses to Canada and Mexico often subject the animals to extreme cruelty.© Food Safety News