October 26, 2012
Proponents of humane horse slaughter are making some headway toward rebuilding the industry in the United States while facing fierce opposition from activist groups, according to Jennifer Woods, a livestock handling specialist from Blackie, Alberta. Woods was a guest speaker at the American Meat Institute Foundation's Animal Care and Handling Conference held recently in Kansas City, Mo.
After Congress lifted the five-year-old ban on horse meat inspections, interest in horse slaughter and processing horse meat began to increase. Montana, Nebraska and North Dakota were among a few states where legislatures were considering legislation that would allow horse slaughter. Woods said there are three plants - one each in Iowa, Missouri and New Mexico - that have the best chance of opening soon.
In 2006, horse slaughter opponents successfully pushed through a measure eliminating funding for horse-meat inspections effectively ending the practice in the United States. Woods said severe droughts hit the country soon after the plants shut down. People could not afford to feed horses and owners began to abandon animals.
The Government Accountability Office released a report in June 2011 titled Horse Welfare: Action Needed to Address Unintended Consequences from Cessation of Domestic Slaughter. The report 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.
As a result, the tide against horse slaughter has started to shift, Woods said.
Roughly one billion people, or 16 percent of the global population, consume horse meat. Besides its health attributes, horse meat is ideal for commercial sale because it doesn't have a shelf life. Horse meat is also a significant source of food for zoo animals and finally, trade in horsemeat is financially attractive.
Although supporters of humane horse slaughter have made progress toward rebuilding the industry in the United States, questions remain as to the possibility that tactics activists used to shut down horse slaughter in this country could lay the groundwork for legislation effecting slaughter of other species. The meat industry should beware, Woods concluded.
Reprinted in part from MeatPoultry.com