Saturday, Apr. 13, 2024

Horse Slaughter



U.S. District Judge Christina Armijo in Albuquerque, N.M., threw out a lawsuit filed by the Humane Society of the United States, Front Range Equine Rescue and several other animal protection groups on Nov. 1. The lawsuit, filed in July, was seeking to block horse slaughter on the basis that the environmental impact hadn’t been properly considered.

U.S. Department of Agriculture officials approved the opening of a new equine slaughterhouse in New Mexico on June 28. The approval, a grant of inspection, was issued to Valley Meats Company in Roswell, N.M., and a second approval was issued to Responsible Transportation of Sigourney, Iowa, on July 2. USDA officials stated they expect to approve other applications soon.

The U.S. House Appropriations Committee voted on June 13 to eliminate funding for federal meat inspections at horse slaughter facilities. If it makes its way through the entire legislative process, this would effectively stop efforts to resume horse slaughter in the United States.

The amendment, introduced by Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., and Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla., forbids the U.S. Department of Agriculture to inspect horse-processing plants in the 2014 fiscal year.

On March 12, Senators Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Representatives Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) introduced the Safeguard American Food Exports Act, which would ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption in the United States and prohibit the transport, export or import of horses intended for slaughter or horsemeat.


On Nov. 18, President Obama signed into law an agriculture appropriations bill, which, among many other provisions, lifted a 5-year prohibition on funding for U.S. Department of Agriculture inspections at horse processing facilities.

What would have happened to the approximately 130,000 horses that were slaughtered in 2010 if slaughter hadn’t been an option? Would banning slaughter create a huge influx of unwanted horses? Would the horses potentially suffer even worse fates, starving to death or being let loose? The questions are even harder to answer since 2007, the first year without domestic slaughter, was also the year of a major economic downturn.

Once horses bound for slaughter reach the slaughterhouses, it's not clear whether they’re being humanely killed. Most slaughterhouses use captive bolt guns to drive a metal rod into the center of the horse’s head after the horses are herded through chutes into the “kill area.”

There are currently four Canadian slaughterhouses and three in Mexico. At either border, the horses are unloaded for processing and then re-loaded into a sealed trailer bound for their final stop. The conditions in which they ship and the distance they travel are just a few of the problems with the current slaughter pipeline.

For horse people, there are few topics more controversial than slaughter.

When a government report was released June 22, it didn’t tell anyone seriously involved on either side of the debate anything they didn’t already know. But the report did frame the situation perfectly by recommending either closing the channel of slaughter from the United States or re-opening domestic slaughterhouses.



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