WASHINGTON – The $1.1 trillion budget passed by Congress includes a provision that would prohibit the US Department of Agriculture from spending any money for inspections of horse slaughter facilities, effectively ending horse slaughter in the US for a second time.
The vote was good news to animal welfare advocates.
“We Americans care for horses, we ride horses, and we even put them to work. But we don’t eat horses in the United States,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. “And we shouldn’t be gathering them up and slaughtering them for people to eat in far-off places.”
In 2006, horse slaughter opponents successfully pushed through a measure eliminating funding for horse-meat inspections effectively ending the practice in the US. But the Government Accountability Office released a report in June 2011 that connected the ban on horse slaughter to an upswing in abandoned horses, a drop in prices for some horses and a sharp increase in exports of horses for slaughter. Congress lifted the ban on funding inspections the same year.
Several companies have been trying to get into the horse slaughter business with plans to export the meat. In 2013, USDA issued grants of inspection to Sigourney, Iowa-based Responsible Transportation LLC and Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, NM. Rains Natural Meats, Gallatin, Mo., had applied for grants of inspection. Efforts to re-start domestic horse slaughter sparked a fierce national debate over the role of horses as companion animals or livestock and over the best ways to deal with abandoned horses.
The issue of abandoned horses and other concerns pushed one lawmaker, US Sen. Jim Inhofe, to introduce an amendment to the budget bill that strikes down the provision to defund inspections. In a news release, Inhofe said “I am very concerned that the omnibus appropriations bill includes a provision that blocks government inspection of horse processing facilities, effectively shutting down this industry.
“Without these facilities, aging horses are often neglected or forced to endure cruel conditions as they are transported to processing facilities across the border,” he added. “This provision is counterproductive to what animal rights activists are hoping to achieve through this provision. That is why I am offering an amendment to strike the provision, which would reinstate these inspections."
Inhofe said he and Rep. Markwayne Mullin would introduce standalone legislation if the amendment is rejected. Blair Dunn, a lawyer for Valley Meat Co., also vowed to keep fighting. Dunn said the companies impacted by the vote would file a claim that the funding ban is in violation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.