Horse Slaughter in the U.S. for Consumption

Horse Slaughter in the U.S. for Consumption

Is slaughtering horses inhumane or necessary to control the population?  Will Americans start consuming horse meat?

A ban on horse slaughter expired in 2011, and now a New Mexico company has applied for a permit to begin slaughtering horses.  While there is not a large consumer market in the U.S., their plan is to provide horse meat to European markets.

The plant, owned by Valley Meat, was shut down in 2007 after Congress banned horse slaughtering.

While President Obama’s administration has asked Congress to reinstate the banned, instead they approved measures that would deny government financing of horse slaughter.

“Until Congress acts, the department must continue to comply with current law,” said Ms. Rowe, a spokeswoman for the Department of Agriculture.

According to Ms. Rowe two other facilities have also applied for a permit.  She did not give the names of the companies that are located in Missouri and Iowa.

Although the New Mexico Company has several challenges to meet before obtaining a permit, if Congress does not act soon, they will be the first company licensed to process horse meat for human consumption since the ban in 2007.

Opponents of horse slaughter believe the government could have stepped in and withheld the permits, but gave in because the Valley Meat Company filed a lawsuit.

“This looks like a strange obedience to a Hail Mary lawsuit filed by the company,” said Wayne Pacelle, chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States.

Valley Meat does not plan to back away it will pressure the government until they release their permit. “Given the unjustifiable failures of U.S.D.A. to comply with the law for a period extending well over 14 months, Valley Meat intends to continue to pursue the case,” the company said.

Several New Mexico state officials are opposed to permitting horse slaughter.  Governor Susana Martinez and State Attorney General Gary K. King are against it because of animal welfare issues and veterinary drugs given to horses may present potential hazards to humans.

The Humane Society has published a list of over 100 drugs given to horses, according to some of the drug warnings, the drugs are not meant for horses that will be slaughtered for human consumption.

The drugs given to horses can also pose a hazard to the environment because of the waste.

“The offal and waste byproducts produced by horse slaughter is put into lagoons where those drugs and other contaminants can leach out into streams and ground water,” said Mr. Wagman, a lawyer for Front Range Equine Rescue.

“As I understand it, their attorney has said they have a testing process ready to go, and that’s a good thing,” said Mr. Phil  Sisneros, a spokesman for the N.M. attorney general. “We’re not going to just take their word for it, so there will be some sort of independent testing that has to be done.”

While horse slaughter in the U.S. is considered inhumane by many, there is a large market in Europe and this is the market Valley Meat intends to cater to.

 By: Veverly Edwards

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