The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has finally given the go-ahead for resumption of the regulated slaughter of horses once again in this country as predicted in our report of March 9, 2013. This turn-around on the part of the government is in response to a reputable study showing that the welfare of horses was harmed by Congressional legislation that closed slaughter plants here.
Animal rights groups will now pressure Congress and the White House for more misguided legislation. Your opinions need to be expressed. Click here to learn how.
Most media news articles reporting the recent USDA action have approached the story from the horsemeat angle. The sensitivity of many in this country to the use of horses for human consumption is a powerfully emotional issue, and such headlines sell newspapers. However, what the media mostly ignore in this story is that the Government Accounting Office (GAO), Congress’s independent investigative arm, bluntly reported to Congress in 2011, that horse welfare had been harmed by their legislation that resulted in the closing of all horse processing plants in this country.
Prompted by animal rights groups, Congress, in 2006, passed a law which eliminated funding to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the inspection of horses in transit to slaughter and at slaughter facilities. Since existing law required USDA inspection, it was a back-door method of ending the slaughter of horses in the U.S. Within a year the last domestic slaughter house closed.
At that time about 100,000 horses a year were being shipped to slaughter facilities. It was the ideological dream that these horses would somehow be absorbed by equine retirement facilities to spend the remainder of their natural lives in green fields tended by loving caretakers. That dream became a nightmare for horses. With retirement facilities unable to absorb even a small fraction of unwanted horses, the GAO reported that in 2010, 138,000 horses were exported to Mexico and Canada for slaughter.
“The horses are traveling farther to meet the same end...in foreign slaughtering facilities where U.S. humane slaughtering protections do not apply,” said the GAO. The agency went on to say that horses are sometimes shipped in too small containers—conditions that were not allowed when USDA inspections applied.
Not only have more horses been shipped greater distances under conditions unregulated by the USDA, to be slaughtered in facilities unregulated by the USDA for humane treatment, but thousands more horses are simply abandoned and neglected for lack of a commercial outlet that slaughter facilities used to provide.
Horse slaughter may not be the best solution for the unwanted horse. Surely we must continue to pursue and develop all practical ideas that have come forward to solve the problem of unwanted horses in a kinder way. But the cessation of horse slaughter in the U.S. as the result of Congressional legislation has resulted in more suffering, not less.
With the USDA go-ahead, the California-based Valley Meat Company expects to open in Roswell, New Mexico the first horse processing plant in the U.S. since the closures. Both the Obama administration and animal rights groups oppose the opening and are urging Congress to reinstate the ban. If you believe the GAO report, and if you believe that horse processing in the U.S. will provide a more humane outcome for the more than 100,000 horses that go to slaughter each year, tell Congress and the White House. Click here to learn how.
Posted July 8, 2013