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Appropriation Committees split over ban on equine inspections

With the ban on USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service spending any federal money on equine inspections set to expire Sept. 30, the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate are divided over whether to extend it.

The last time a horse was legally slaughtered for human consumption in the U.S. was in 2007.

Congress has turned annual budget restrictions on and off since then, but USDA has not issued any grants of inspection for equines. The department was barred from 2005 to 2011 from granting inspection for equine slaughter.

President Obama and Congress struck a deal to resume horse slaughter after 2011 and that resulted in five proposals for new horse slaughter facilities in rural areas. The USDA’s process, however, moved slowly. Opponents used the time to file court challenges.

None of the proposals made it into reality by the time the ban was resumed on an annual basis when the federal fiscal year 2015 got underway. While its now part of the annual budget battle, no plans are known to exist for new horse slaughter the United States.

The amendment to ban funding for horse meat inspections, which was added to USDA’s budget for fiscal year 2018, failed by a 27-to-25 vote of the House Appropriations Committee in late July.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the horse slaughter ban in the FY18 budget. It means Congress will have to reconcile the two versions of the Agriculture Appropriations bills when it returns from the summer recess.

Besides being an economic boom for rendering trucks, the ban on horse slaughter in the U.S. also means that as many as 100,000 horses are annually exported to Canada and Mexico, where they are slaughtered. Animal welfare organizations want Congress to ban both slaughter and horse exports, ending the yearly battle during budget season.

Throughout much of Europe and Asia, eating horse meat is common. “Viande de cheval” is a popular with the French. Equine dishes are found on menus in Belgium, Italy, Iceland, Norway, Slovenia and other countries. Massive amount of horse meat are consumed in China.

In the United States, horse meat was largely replace by beef after World Wa II, and most Americans today view horses more as pets than livestock.

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