In 2006, Congress eliminated funding for the inspection of horse slaughtering facilities. Without a government inspection process, these slaughterhouses could on longer bring their product to market, and the industry began to disappear.
Critics called this a “backdoor ban” and pointed out that defunding slaughter houses only moved the industry to Mexico and Canada where health safety standards and regulations regarding animal treatment are lax or even non-existent. A government report also found that the ban depressed prices for horses in the U.S. and led to a surge in reports of neglect or abuse as owners of older horses had no way of disposing of them. Before the ban, the horse slaughter business generated some $65 million in revenues a year.
Claiming concern for citizens’ health, the Department of Agriculture bill, signed into law Nov. 18, reinstates federal funding for USDA inspection of horse meat intended for human consumption.
“While we have a long way to go, responsible processing represents a vital first step in reversing the unintended consequences to blame for the dismal state of neglected horses and their frustrated caregivers across our country,” said Rep. Adrian Smith, a Nebraska Republican who fought for the change. “Reinstating a humane, accountable and legal management tool is good for horses, good for owners and is good policy.”
According to a pro-slaughter group called United Horsemen, meat processors are now considering opening facilities in at least a half-dozen states, including Georgia, North Dakota, Nebraska, Oregon, Wyoming, Montana, and possibly Idaho.
Of course, some animal rights groups are stunned by the quiet approval of this measure.
“What we feared would happen did,” wrote PETA on its official blog. “Rather than have a change of heart and stop killing horses, greedy ranchers who deal in horse flesh simply jammed their “commodities” into tractor trailers and hauled the frightened animals hundreds of miles to Canada and Mexico – a journey most did not have to face before – to terrifying deaths in slaughterhouses there.”
Photos and video taken secretly from inside horse slaughterhouses has repeatedly shown that the horses are not humanely killed.
But even if you take the animal rights arguments out of it, is this really a good policy for the United States as a whole? As a blogger for The Persian Horse points out, re-funding the inspection process for this cruel export business will have little benefit for the American taxpayers who will foot the bill.
Let’s forget for the moment that candidate Barack Obama in 2008 pledged to keep the ban on horse slaughter permanent (another promise to voters reneged?) Let’s forget, too, that American horses are not bred or raised for consumption. Let’s forget that the few countries where horsemeat is consumed (France, Belgium and Japan among them) are ignoring the outright cruelty to horses that raises the hackles of right-thinking Americans. The simple question is: do we want our tax dollars spent to inspect horses who were slaughtered in incredibly cruel fashion (a bolt through the forehead that doesn’t kill them immediately) so foreign owners of slaughter plants can profit? In the midst of a recession when other crucial programs such as Medicare and education are suffering deep cuts, the answer is a resounding, “no.”
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