USDA Set to Approve Horse Meat Slaughter in the US

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Apparently horse meat is popular all over the world, albeit unbeknownst to most consumers.  And it seems equine meat will soon be making its way back to America.

Horse meat hasn’t been legally produced in the United States since 2007, but the USDA is expected to approve a horse slaughterhouse in New Mexico within the next two months, according to the New York Times.

Stephanie Storm of the New York Times reports:

The United States Department of Agriculture is likely to approve a horse slaughtering plant in New Mexico in the next two months, which would allow equine meat suitable for human consumption to be produced in the United States for the first time since 2007. 

The plant, in Roswell, N.M., is owned by Valley Meat Company, which sued the U.S.D.A. and its Food Safety and Inspection Service last fall over the lack of inspection services for horses going to slaughter. Horse meat cannot be processed for human consumption in the United States without inspection by the U.S.D.A., so horses destined for that purpose have been shipped to places like Mexico and Canada for slaughter.

Justin DeJong, a spokesman for the agriculture department, said that “several” companies had asked the agency to re-establish inspection of horses for slaughter. “These companies must still complete necessary technical requirements and the F.S.I.S. must complete its inspector training,” he wrote in an e-mail referring to the food inspection service, “but at that point, the department will legally have no choice but to go forward with the inspections.”

Apparently Congress cut funding for horse slaughterhouses which forced them to close down in 2007. The NYT reports that Congress quietly removed the spending rider in 2011 which literally opened the door for equine slaughterhouses.

The lawsuit by Valley Meat charges that the USDA did not do their job under the Federal Meat Inspection Act which states they must provide inspection for the slaughter of “all amenable species” including “including cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, horses and mules.”

The lawsuit is also supported by prominent ranching organizations like International Equine Business Association (IEBA), R-CALF USA, the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association (SDSGA), and the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association (NMCGA).

“Beginning in 2006, when inspections were temporarily prohibited, these U.S. horses continue to be slaughtered in foreign countries like Mexico and Canada,” Bill Bullard, CEO of the R-CALF cattle organization, wrote in an affidavit of support of Valley Meat. “We believe the Mexicans do not adhere to the same humane standards as in the United States, and so some of our members won’t sell their horses.”

The Humane Society disagrees with slaughtering horses for human consumption on principle.  In a statement they wrote the following:

Legitimate concerns about the health risks associated with consuming the meat of horses that are often treated with drugs that are prohibited for use in animals slaughtered for food, as well as the discovery of these drugs in horse meat exported from Canada and Mexico, have prompted The HSUS and Humane Society International to call for a moratorium on the sale in the EU of the meat of horses of U.S. origin. 

“Slaughtering horses for human consumption is archaic, inhumane, and unsafe, given the medicine chest of drugs often administered to horses and prohibited for human consumption,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. “It is astonishing that we may see the resumption of horse slaughter on U.S. soil while Europe is still reeling from a horse meat scandal. Have we not learned anything about the industry’s deception in Europe and the turmoil it has caused?” 

“If the USDA moves forward with allowing the cruel and toxic horse slaughter industry to enter our country, this administration is leading our nation in precisely the wrong direction,” said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of ASPCA Government Relations. “Recent polling shows that 80 percent of the American public overwhelmingly opposes the slaughtering of horses for human consumption, and given the current firestorm of concern and outrage over horse meat entering the food supply in Europe, it is time for Congress to prevent even one more American horse from suffering this terrible fate and stop horse slaughter in the U.S. once and for all.” 

“The slaughter of American horses for meat is an unnecessary and tragic end for these icons of our nation’s history,” said Hilary Wood, president of Front Range Equine Rescue. “American horses will suffer cruel deaths in New Mexico and will continue to be slaughtered abroad. Horse slaughter also brings a potentially toxic environmental threat to the state, with horses’ lives ending with a terrifying death, to be turned into an expensive and possibly toxic dinner.” 

“New Mexicans have repeatedly rejected the idea of a horse slaughter plant in our state,” said Lisa Jennings, executive director of Animal Protection of New Mexico. “Horses are a valuable part of our heritage, and we’re determined to develop a robust safety net for them, not condemn them to slaughter.” 

“I still oppose the opening of a horse slaughtering plant in New Mexico, and I am concerned about the impact it would have on local consumers,” said New Mexico’s Attorney General, Gary K. King. “The horse meat scandal in Europe has raised concerns about human health risks associated with consuming the meat of U.S. horses. Many horses may have been treated with drugs prohibited by U.S. and European regulations from ever being administered to animals that enter the food chain. A horse slaughtering plant in our state that produces meat for human consumption is still a bad idea.”

What are your thoughts about horse meat re-entering the U.S. market?

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