Horse slaughter plants in New Mexico and Missouri expect to resume processing again in the U.S. in a matter of days. “Expect” is the operating word in this ongoing battle between the opposing views.
Horse slaughter plants expected to open back in July of this year after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) cleared the way, but a last-moment appeal spearheaded by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) resulted in a temporary restraining order on the plant openings.
That emergency ban has now been vacated by a federal appeals court, deciding that the humane organizations “failed to meet their burden” of proof that the injunction was necessary. The way is cleared once again for the plants to open.
Most media news articles continue to approach this contentious issue from the horsemeat angle. The sensitivity of many in this country to the use of horses for human consumption is powerfully emotional, and such headlines sell newspapers. However, what the media mostly ignore in their coverage is that the Government Accounting Office (GAO), Congress’s independent investigative arm, bluntly reported to Congress in 2011, that horse welfare had been harmed by their legislation that resulted in the closing of all horse processing plants in this country.
Prompted by animal rights groups, Congress, in 2006, passed a law which eliminated funding to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the inspection of horses in transit to slaughter and at slaughter facilities. Since existing law required USDA inspection, it was a back-door method of ending the slaughter of horses in the U.S. Within a year the last domestic slaughter house closed.
At that time about 100,000 horses a year were being shipped to slaughter facilities. It was the ideological dream that these horses would somehow be absorbed by equine retirement facilities to spend the remainder of their natural lives in green fields tended by loving caretakers. That dream became a nightmare for horses. With retirement facilities unable to absorb even a small fraction of unwanted horses, the GAO reported that in 2010, 138,000 horses were exported to Mexico and Canada for slaughter.
“The horses are traveling farther to meet the same end...in foreign slaughtering facilities where U.S. humane slaughtering protections do not apply,” said the GAO. The agency went on to say that horses are sometimes shipped in too small containers—conditions that were not allowed when USDA inspections applied.
Not only have more horses been shipped greater distances under conditions unregulated by the USDA, to be slaughtered in facilities unregulated by the USDA for humane treatment, but thousands more horses are simply abandoned and neglected for lack of a commercial outlet that slaughter facilities used to provide.
Horse slaughter may not be the best solution for the unwanted horse. Surely we must continue to pursue and develop all practical ideas that have come forward to solve the problem of unwanted horses in a kinder way. But the cessation of horse slaughter in the U.S. as the result of Congressional legislation has resulted in more suffering, not less, according to the GAO.
Posted December 17, 2013