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You may have heard that Congress recently "lifted the ban" on horse slaughter.  A quick Google search reveals many articles that state this as fact and follow this with the writer's opinion on the subject.  This is a very sensitive topic, and many people have an immediate, emotional reaction to the idea of slaughtering horses for meat.  Adding to the mix, there are a lot of misconceptions as to what is going on with horse slaughter in the nation.  We hope to put to rest some of the misinformation, and leave the emotions and opinions out of it.  Here are the facts, we'll leave the opinions up to you.
In 2006, two bills were introduced to Congress to amend the Horse Protection Act to prevent horse slaughter for human consumption.  These were known as the "American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act."  One went to the House of Representatives and one to the Senate .  While the bill in the House was approved, it never made it any further and neither bills passed.  The bills were reintroduced in 2010, and most recently have been referred to the House subcommittee.  Since these bills have never passed, a federal ban on horse slaughter has never been implemented.

So where did the "ban" come from?  Prior to 2007, there were three horse slaughter facilities in the United States - two in Texas and one in Illinois.  The meat from these plants went mainly to overseas markets, but about 10% went to zoos to feed the carnivores.  Early in 2007, Judges in Texas re-instated previous legislation that effectively outlawed horse slaughter, thereby forcing the plants in that state to close.  Illinois followed suit later in the year.  So the only place where horse slaughter is banned, currently, are these two states. 

The reason no other plants were opened after 2006  is because the government removed funding for the inspection of the processing facililties.   Since 2005, the sponsors of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act  sought enactment of a rider in the Appropriations Acts (budgeting bills) to deny federal funding for USDA inspections of horse slaughtering operations under the Federal Meat Inspection Act.  Whoa!  What did I just say?  Basically, the representatives were not able to push their bill through, but they were able to affect the budget.  The funding that was normally allocated to the USDA for oversight of these slaughterhouses was withdrawn.  Since there was no money, the meat inspectors could not be paid and they were removed from the plants.  If the meat is not inspected, it cannot be shipped, and the facilities are unable to operate.  This legislation has been maintained for the past several years.....until now. 

This past summer, the GAO (Government Accountability Office) filed a report in regards to horse welfare in the US since the cessation of domestic slaughter.  The report stated that there has been an increase in abandoned and/or neglected horses in the past 5 years.  The current economy was admitted to be a confounding factor, since it is very difficult to separate the two issues.  This report also stated that there has been increased movement of horses to slaughter facilities outside of the United States.  They showed that these shipped horses are not fully protected by the USDA, as there are not laws in place to protect them.  These horses are travelling long distances to slaughter-houses not regulated by our country.  Based on this report, the GAO recommended that "Congress may wish to consider allowing USDA to again use appropriated funds to inspect horses at domestic slaughtering facilities".

Just before Thanksgiving, funding was put into place to allow for inspections of horse processing facilities.  The "ban" was lifted.  So, does that mean that processing plants are going to open immediately and horse slaughter will resume in this country?  Not necessarily - primarily because it's not that simple.  

As with most governmental budgeting, appropriations bills are only good for one year.  Next year, Congress will re-allocate funding where they see fit.  So, yes, horse slaughter can legally resume in this country.  However, with inspection funding only guaranteed for one year, opening a facility would be a risky endeavour.  Only time will tell if this legislation is here to stay.

We've tried to outline the facts of this situation as clearly and objectively as we can.  This is merely a rough overview of what has been going on with horse slaughter over the past few years.  There is a lot of information out there, and many different viewpoints on that information.  We've given you the facts.  What's your opinion?

For a more detailed summary, read this from the Congressional Research Service.
For some great answers to FAQ's, check out the AVMA.


11/29/2011 20:33

Good objective reporting of the facts, thanks.
Aren't there a couple of horse slaughter plants actively trying to open in the US?

11/30/2011 07:22

CK, We have heard that there has been a push in Wyoming to open a plant, but we do not know any facts on that or if there are any other states considering it. If you have heard of any others, please let us know.

12/05/2011 12:01

If only a horse slaughter bill could regulate transport conditions and possible killing methods (a la Temple Grandin) so that we protect horses from fear and distress until the final moment. I believe slaughter should be an option to take care of unwanted/uncared for/un-useable horses. But the process and transport can be horrible.
I do not object to such horses being eaten once they are no longer alive.
Horses ARE livestock- though among the more personable livestock.

05/07/2012 07:56

Your post is really good providing good information regarding the horse slaughter.. I liked it and enjoyed reading it.Keep sharing such important posts.


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