By: Dr. Whitney Miller, assistant director, Governmental Relations Division
In recent years, many attempts have been made to prevent horse slaughter operations from resuming in the United States. Last month, Congress once again passed a provision in the omnibus appropriations bill that stops these facilities from opening.
The bill included an amendment that restricts the U.S. Department of Agriculture from spending any funds to inspect horse slaughter facilities. Since the USDA is required by law to inspect all meat products before they can be transported interstate or exported to other countries, the amendment makes it impossible for the agency to inspect any new facilities seeking to slaughter horses.
Horse slaughter has not occurred in the United States since 2007. At that time, due to a combination of state laws and Congress passing a similar provision that prevented the funding of USDA-required inspections, the last two operating horse slaughter facilities in Texas and Illinois were forced to close.
However, since 2011, the ban for USDA inspections has been lifted, so several groups from New Mexico, Missouri, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Iowa applied to the USDA for grants of inspection. Now, the recent omnibus appropriations bill stops that from happening once again.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 2011 released a report entitled, “Horse Welfare: Action Needed to Address Unintended Consequences from Cessation of Domestic Slaughter.” The GAO confirmed that the closure of the processing plants, coupled with the poor economy and high feed costs, had negatively impacted the welfare of horses. Specifically, the GAO stated that horses are now traveling longer distances to processing facilities in Mexico and Canada, and there had been an increase in reports of horse abandonments, abuse and neglect.
The AVMA supports the efforts of groups such as the Unwanted Horse Coalition, whose mission is to reduce the number of unwanted horses and improve their welfare through education, as well as efforts by other organizations that are committed to the health, safety and responsible breeding, care and disposition of horses.