Language in the FY 2014 omnibus spending bill now headed for President Obama’s desk re-establishes law that existed from 2005 to 2011 prohibiting USDA from spending any money to inspect horse-slaughter facilities.
On Thursday, the Senate joined the House in approving the $1.1-trillion spending bill that the Humane Society of the United States said halts any resumption of horse slaughter in the United States.
Obama is expected to sign the measure, which was the product of an historic agreement between U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). The agreement tempered budget cuts imposed by the sequester and avoided another federal government shutdown this month.
The bipartisan agreement cleared the Senate on a 72-26 vote after gaining House approval a day earlier by a vote of 359-67. U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) introduced an amendment to remove the prohibition on equine inspections, but he was unsuccessful. The Oklahoma senator said he will pursue a stand-alone bill to get around the new ban.
The last USDA-inspected horse slaughter occurred in the U.S. in 2007. The restriction on USDA spending was lifted in 2011 under a deal between Congress and the president.
After it left the equine business, USDA was slow in approving “grants of inspection,” eventually approving three of the initial five applicants. One of them sued the agency to speed its decision-making, but as soon as the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) agreed to inspect horse slaughter facilities, animal-welfare groups marshaled by HSUS sued USDA.
USDA won at the district court level, and in mid-December, the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Humane Society’s request for a court injunction, saying it doubted that the group’s court challenge would succeed.
Since then, the possible start-up of horse slaughter in New Mexico and Missouri has been held up by state regulatory and court challenges. However, those challenges will become academic with the president’s signature on the spending bill.
Since 2007, an estimated 140,000 horses from the U.S. are exported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter each year. HSUS estimates that inspections would have cost USDA about $5 million a year.© Food Safety News