WASHINGTON — Congressional members who recently decided to end the prohibition on domestic horse slaughtering depended on research provided in June by the General Accountability Office, Congress' auditing arm, according to a story published in the Oklahoman. Sen. Herbert Kohl (D-Wis.) and Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), were among House-Senate subcommittee members who stripped out an amendment to keep the ban in place for another year.

Leading members of the subcommittees that oversee spending for the US Department of Agriculture earlier suggested the GAO look into the effects of the ban in place since 2006. The GAO released a report in June titled Horse Welfare: Action Needed to Address Unintended Consequences from Cessation of Domestic Slaughter. The report connects the ban to an upswing in the number of abandoned horses, a drop in prices for some horses and a big increase in exports of horses for slaughter.

“Horse welfare in the US has generally declined since 2007, as evidenced by a reported increase in horse abandonments and an increase in investigations for horse abuse and neglect,'' the report claims. “The extent of the decline is unknown due to a lack of comprehensive, national data, but state officials attributed the decline in horse welfare to many factors, but primarily to the cessation of domestic slaughter and the US economic downturn. Abandoned, abused, and neglected horses present challenges for state and local governments, tribes and animal welfare organizations.”

Horse prices have also declined since the ban, the study stated.

In 2010, horses exported to Mexico and Canada from the US for slaughter increased to 138,000, up from 33,000 in 2006, the study relayed.

Both sides of the issue agree horses must now travel much further to be slaughtered, without adequate rest, food and water and potentially in vehicles not designed for animals of that size. Animal rights groups lobbyists, however, say the GAO report that horses were being neglected and abused before the ban and were also being transported long distances within the US for slaughter. They add the increase in abandonments is directly attributable to the economy, since many types of animals are abandoned when people no longer can afford to care for them.

The GAO recommended that Congress either end the ban and resume inspections that could improve the welfare of horses or make the ban explicit and extend it to exports.