Congress recently lifted a 5-year-old ban on funding horse-meat inspections in the United States. As a result, horses may soon be slaughtered and processed again. Reportedly, horse slaughterhouses could be operating within a month.
In 2006, U.S. horse slaughter opponents pushed a measure eliminating funding for horse-meat inspections through Congress after other efforts to pass bans on horse slaughter failed. Congress lifted the ban in a spending bill President Obama signed into law Nov. 18 to keep the government operating through mid-December.
This move, however, did not allocate new money for horse-meat inspections, which opponents claim could cost taxpayers $3 million to $5 million annually. The U.S. Department of Agriculture would have to find the money in its existing budget, which is expected to undergo more cuts this year as Congress and the White House try to cut federal spending.
The last U.S. horse slaughterhouse closed in 2007 in Illinois. Animal-welfare activists have threatened a massive public outcry in any town where a slaughterhouse may open in the future. Pro-slaughter activists point out, however, the ban had unintended consequences, including an upswing in neglect and abandonment of horses, and added they are scrambling to get a plant going - perhaps in Wyoming, North Dakota, Nebraska or Missouri. They estimate a slaughterhouse could open within 30 to 90 days with state approval.
A federal report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office released in June found local animal welfare organizations reported an increase in investigations for horse neglect and abandonment since 2007. Data showed that investigations for horse neglect and abuse in Colorado increased more than 60 percent - from 975 in 2005 to almost 1,600 in 2009.
In 2010, about 138,000 horses were transported from the United States to Canada and Mexico for slaughter, nearly the same number that were killed in the United States before the ban took effect in 2007, the study said. An estimated 9 million horses exist in the United States today.
The American Sheep Industry Association supports the reinstatement of funding for horse-processing inspection.
Reprinted in part from meatpoultry.com