The commercial slaughter of equine animals for human consumption ended in the United States 16 years ago. But the subject of horse slaughter still makes the annual legislative agenda in the nation’s capital and this year is no different.

An annual budget proviso, for example, bans any funds for USDA for providing inspection services to any horse slaughter. The ban has been continuously enforced for the past decade, USDA has not been asked during that time for any grants of inspection for equine.

The budget provisions are included in USDA and FDA appropriations to shut down any possibility of horse slaughter inspection by the federal government. Without inspections, the sale of any horse meat is unlawful in the United States.

Equine remains on the menu for much of Europe and Asia. And that has left open an export market for horses shipped to Canada and Mexico.

“The good news is that foreign demand has created for the North American horse slaughter Industry and horse slaughter has been in a free fall for the last decade,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of the Center for a Humane Economy. He claims U.S horse exports fell to 20,000 in 2022, down from 140,000 in 2007, the year horse slaughter ended in the U.S.

The second legislative agenda item is the Save America’s Forgotten Equines or SAFE Act to permanently ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption and ban exports of American horses for slaughter abroad.

The SAFE Act has bipartisan sponsors in Sen. Bob Menendez, D-NJ, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC. A similar House bill was introduced in May under the sponsorship of Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-FL, and Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-IL

The European Union has banned the import of horse meat from Mexico since 2014. Horses from the U.S. must be held in Canadian feedlots for six months before they can be slaughtered for EU consumption.

The last three commercial horse slaughterhouses in the U.S. were closed after 2007. They were Dallas Drown in Kaufman TX; Beltex Corp. in Fort Worth; and Cavel International in DeKalb, IL. Ownerships were by Belgian, French, and Dutch investors.

Perhaps the only serious proposal since came from Wyoming state Representative Sue Wallis in 2012 when she proposed a new horse meat processing plant in Missouri or Arkansas. She lined up six million dollars to invest and support from Belgian horse meat buyers, and later Wallis sought local investors in Wyoming to help finance the plant, which she said could would process up to 200 horses a day for sale abroad and to ethnic markets in the U.S.

The Wyoming rancher, however, died suddenly in January 2014 at age 56.

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