Despite the horse meat scandal in Europe, several companies have been pushing to open the doors to the insidious practice of horse slaughter in the U.S., but recently introduced federal legislation could stop it.
The last slaughterhouses in Illinois and Texas were closed for good in 2007 thanks to an appropriations bill that pulled funding for inspections of horse meat by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In 2011, President Obama signed the Agriculture Appropriations bill without that provision, which reversed the previous ban. While the ban was in place, America’s horses were shipped across the border to Canada and Mexico.
Since then, companies from five states have submitted applications to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) for permission to slaughter horses, while numerous other states and cities have taken steps to keep horse slaughter out.
The USDA has announced that it will process an application for inspecting horse slaughter operations at a facility in Roswell, New Mexico. If it is approved, Valley Meat Company LLC will be the first to slaughter horses in the U.S.
Within the past two years, Valley Meat was suspended twice by the USDA for violations of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, in addition to getting slapped with a fine for $86,400 for improper disposal of carcasses. It’s no wonder their action is being opposed by leaders of New Mexico, including Governor Susana Martinez, Attorney General Gary K. King and State Land Commissioner Ray Powell, D.V.M.
Fortunately for horses and consumers, the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act was just introduced in both chambers of Congress with bipartisan support by Senators Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), along with Representatives Patrick Meehan (R-PA) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). This legislation will ban horse slaughter in the U.S. and ensure that horses are not shipped across the border for that purpose and is being supported by animal advocacy groups including the Animal Welfare Institute, ASPCA and HSUS.
“Horses are not raised for human consumption, and they are frequently treated with drugs and chemicals that are toxic when ingested by humans,” said Sen. Landrieu. “We must ensure that our food supply is not tainted with horse meat.”
There are currently 379 drugs that are commonly used on horses that are banned by the Food and Drug Administration for animals that are slaughtered for human consumption, according to the Animal Welfare Institute. A study published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology highlights the fact that at least one of the drugs regularly given to horses, Phenylbutazone (bute), is not only toxic to humans, but a carcinogen. Unfortunately, there is currently no way to track them.
It’s also unconscionable to think that the government would allocate money to fund USDA inspections for horse slaughter when its already cutting spending and furloughing inspectors.
While proponents like to continue arguing that slaughter is humane and necessary, there’s no shortage of evidence proving that both transport and slaughter procedures are anything but. The USDA has also previously estimated that more than 92 percent of horses entering the slaughter pipeline are perfectly healthy and sound.
“Horses sent to slaughter are often subject to appalling, brutal treatment,” Rep. Schakowsky said. “We must fight those practices. The SAFE Act of 2013 will ensure that these majestic animals are treated with the respect they deserve.”
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