Horse Slaughter

Will the US Start Horse Slaughter Again?

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Remember the United Kingdom’s “horsemeat scandal” that prompted public outrage, meat recalls, and overall led to our neighbors across the Atlantic eating less meat? Yes, the discovery of horse DNA in some “beef” products caused quite a fuss. People began questioning the lack of oversight in food production methods as well as food safety. But the scandal also garnered a bitter reaction because in many countries horses are seen as companions, drawing attention to how deeply cultural “food” norms run through our society.

Like the UK, horses are also revered in the United States. Which begs the question: will the US see a similar public reaction if our government allows horse slaughter plants to open and operate again on US soil? Just this month, the US Department of Agriculture issued permits to Valley Meat Co. of Roswell, New Mexico, and Responsible Transportation of Sigourney, Iowa, to process horse meat in their facilities. The USDA also stated it would provide inspection services, as the current law requires them to do so.

The process to end horse slaughter in the US began in 2005 when Congress eliminated federal funding for the inspection of horse slaughter facilities. Due to a loophole in the law, some slaughter facilities operated until 2007. However, by 2007, without funds for government inspections, the remaining horse slaughterhouses were shutdown.

However, Congress reopened the door to horse slaughter in 2011 when it passed bill H.R. 2112. Part of the bill removed the ban on horse meat inspection funding.

As of now, both the House and Senate agriculture committees have endorsed cutting funds for horse slaughter inspections in 2014, a position supported by President Obama in his 2014 budget.

Following the issuance of the New Mexico permit, the Humane Society of the United States, Front Range Equine Rescue of Larkspur, Colo., and three other groups (and five individuals) filed a federal lawsuit to overturn the USDA’s recent permit approval for this horse slaughter plant. According to HSUS, the groups “are suing under the National Environmental Protection Act, due to the agency’s failure to conduct the necessary environmental review before authorizing horse slaughterhouses to operate.” The injunction will delay inspections.

Meanwhile, as the horse slaughter debate works it way through the courts and Congress, millions of cows, pigs and chickens will remain caged in factory farms, many unable to turn around, see sunlight, or raise their young. While we express outrage at other countries for eating what we, in the US, consider companions, it’s time we examine our own plates and see the suffering that happens behind closed doors every day.

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