Agriculture
11:36 am
Wed June 20, 2012

Horse Slaughter Faces Congressional Opposition

Plans to open a horse slaughterhouse in Rockville, Mo. could be stymied if an amendment passed Wednesday by the House Appropriations Committee makes its way through the Senate.

Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.)'s amendment to the Fiscal Year 2013 Agricultural Appropriations Bill prohibits funding for USDA horse slaughterhouse inspections. This same prohibition is what effectively banned horse slaughter in the U.S. in 2007.

The Daily Racing Forum reports:

"Moran introduced similar language in the Fiscal Year 2012 Agricultural Appropriations Bill, but although the language was adopted in the House's version, it was removed in conference committee last November. That opened the door to horse slaughter within U.S. borders after a five-year effective end to the practice."

The Senate committee has the option to vote on the House bill or to create its own version, which may or may not include an amendment similar to Moran's.

John Holland, head of the Equine Welfare Alliance, said he was pleased with the House's decision, although he realizes the slaughter movement doesn't end there.

"There's a lot of scenarios that could happen. We could have a repeat of last year when the restriction on funding was removed," he said. "The difference this time is the incredible call volume we got to the offices. People who weren't even involved with the horse movement got involved."

The horse slaughterhouse facility in the works in Rockville, Mo., is supposedly scheduled to be up and running in September, barring that an inspection-restricting amendment is passed before then.

Sue Wallis, head of Unified Equine, told the Associated Press that her company's plans to buy and convert the former beef processing plant in Rockville were "all but certain." Wallis could not be reached today for comment on the developments.

About 70 percent of U.S. horses slaughtered in 2010 (in non-U.S. facilities) were quarterhorses and 16 percent were thoroughbreds, according to Vickery Eckhoff of Forbes.com. Drug injections given to racing horses raise concerns with slaughter opponents, who argue that animals given drugs that are potentially carcinogenic to humans should not be used for food.

Horse slaughter advocates have argued that the horse slaughter industry is the best way to reduce the problems—caused by horse overpopulation—of horse abandonment and neglect. Slaughter opponents disagree.

Both sides are passionate. The fate of the debate will likely be determined, at least through Fiscal Year 2013, sometime between now and November.

*The original version of this story referred to the company planning to buy the Rockville plant as United Equine. The company is actually Unified Equine. The story has been updated accordingly.