slaughter plant web

This processing facility in Texas operated before closing down in 2007. BHN File Photo

The last horse processing plant in the United States closed in 2007 in Illinois after slaughter opponents pushed a ban on funding for USDA horsemeat inspection through Congress in 2006. That ban was lifted when passage of a federal funding bill was signed Nov. 18 by President Obama allowing the USDA to inspect horsemeat for human consumption. Human consumption of horsemeat is prohibited in some states but Dave Duquette, president of the nonprofit group United Horsemen, anticipates the first plants opening in the next few months in states like Oregon, Idaho and several others.

Proponents of horse processing, like Wyoming state representative Sue Wallis, say that the reopening of facilities will have a positive impact on equine welfare and the humane treatment of unwanted horses. Wallis predicts that the reopening of slaughter facilities will positively impact the hard hit horse industry, saving horses from abandonment, neglect and starvation.

Prior to the passage of HR 2112, Congress received a report from their research office that looked into the devastating effect of the closure of U.S. horse processing facilities. That Government Accountability Office (GAO) report was entitled HORSE WELFARE: Action Needed to Address Unintended Consequences of Domestic Slaughter Cessation. It documents the decline in horse welfare and the equine economy, along with the increase in neglect and abandonment cases, such as in Colorado where abandonment and abuse cases rose from 975 in 2005 to 1,588 in 2009. The report estimated that in 2010 approximately 138,000 horses were transported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter at unmonitored plants. Nearly as many as were processed in the U.S. prior to the ban.

Pro-slaughter groups like United Horsemen, The International Equine Business Association and others allied with it say horsemen are “positioned to promote and encourage equine harvesting businesses that are held to high humane handling and food safety standards, in order to bring quality products to a vibrant and viable worldwide market.”

While the recently lifted ban on inspections is an encouraging development for many who are for the reinstatement of horse processing, many animal rights activists and certain legislators are still vehemently opposed.

In an article by the Associated Press, Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States stated that, “If plants open up in Oklahoma or Nebraska, you’ll see controversy, litigation, legislative action and basically a very inhospitable environment to operate.”





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