Target: United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack
Goal: Prevent equine slaughterhouses from reopening.
Horse meat has never been technically outlawed from the United States (aside from a few individual states) but a ban on funding horsemeat inspections of slaughterhouses effectively eliminated the product from U.S. markets. Now after five years Congress is electing to lift that ban–which may have slaughterhouses up and running in as short as a month’s time.
Prior to this the USDA was forced to find its own money for inspections. Because of this lack of funding they simply elected to forgo inspections. Without any inspections of the meat it could not be sold, effectively eliminating the industry without the outcry of an outright ban.
Advocates have given the excuse that neglect is on the rise over the five year period that the ban has been in place. This excuse is faulty and misleading. The economic downturn is the chief reason for rising animal neglect. Horse owners that can’t afford their mortgages, or sometimes even to feed their families are put in a cruel position where animals end up suffering. This does not make that neglect acceptable, but it does explain the growth of the issue. Slaughterhouse inspection bans are not to blame, and neglect should not be trumpeted as a reason to bring them back.
When the last U.S. slaughterhouse that butchered horses closed in 2007 it should have marked the end of this debate entirely. Instead now an estimated 200,000 horses could be slaughtered for human consumption next year despite the fact that there is virtually no U.S. demand for the meat (it will be primarily shipped to portions of Europe and Asia).
Lifting this ban is a hackneyed attempt at boosting the economy during a recession period that has political officials trying anything to boost the economy. That goal is important to be sure, but not at the expense of innocent horses. The original ban needs to remain in place. Horses must be protected from slaughterhouses.