The Senate Appropriations Committee Tuesday directed the General Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct an investigation into the impact that banning U.S. horse slaughter has had on the welfare of horses. That provision was included in the Committee's $124.5 billion funding bill for USDA for fiscal 2010.
The Committee directed the study to be released by March 1, 2010. Among other factors, the GAO is to consider:
• How the U.S. horse industry has responded to the U.S. slaughter ban, in terms of both the numbers of horse sales, exports, adoptions or abandonments, and the implications these changes have had on farm income and trade;
• What impact the slaughter ban has had on state and local governments and animal protection organizations;
• How USDA oversees the transport of horses sent overseas for slaughter, particularly to Canada and Mexico, and general conclusions on how the slaughter ban has affected horse welfare.
The study provision was added to the bill as pro-slaughter interests blocked an attempt Tuesday by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) to attach S. 727, the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act, to the appropriations bill. S. 727 would criminalize sending horses to Canada and Mexico for slaughter, the last slaughter option available for horse owners.
After learning of Landrieu's plans, the new United Organizations of the Horse led an effort by a broad coalition of horse industry supporters to keep S. 727 out of the spending bill, and thus the Committee took no action on S. 727.
The Senate's GAO study provision is not in the House USDA appropriations bill. If it survives Senate floor consideration, it will go to a joint House-Senate conference committee.
Similarly, the Senate funding bill does not include a House provision that would in effect remove USDA inspectors from horse slaughter plants. Although there are now no plants operating in the U.S., the provision would also prevent USDA personnel from inspecting horses at any new plants that might open. If this provision makes it past the full House, it will also go to the conference committee.