Commercial slaughter of horses for human consumption has not taken place in the United States since the last equine slaughterhouse closed in 2007. While slaughter is not illegal, Congress voted in 2006 to prohibit funding for USDA horse meat inspections, effectively ending the commercial viability of horse meat production. This year, Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) is hoping to change that.
Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a version of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for 2012 that does not have the restriction on funding for horse meat inspections. Baucus released a statement on September 9 applauding the move.
“We’ve seen some pretty shocking cases across Montana of horse abandonment and neglect as owners face tough economic times. This ban is a part of the problem and has resulted in the inhumane treatment of injured and sick horses along with hurting the economy. We have an opportunity here to do the right thing for our farmers and ranchers while improving the welfare of horses,” he said.
Animal welfare advocates counter that equine slaughter is inherently cruel as horses are bred as sport and companion animals, not meat animals. Past research suggests that horses were subjected to cruelty in American slaughterhouses when they were still operational.
A different version of the bill that contained an amendment upholding the restriction on horse meat inspection was passed by the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee earlier this year.
The agriculture appropriations bill will go before the full Senate soon, although an official date is not known. To voice your opinion on the bill, contact your Senator by phone or email. To find your Senator, visit Senate.gov