South Dakota Farm Bureau: Update on horse slaughter legislation | TSLN.com

South Dakota Farm Bureau: Update on horse slaughter legislation

With American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) support, language prohibiting funding for inspection of horses at processing plants was not included in the FY2012 agriculture appropriations conference report. This eliminates a major hurdle for the resumption of domestic horse processing.

Earlier this year, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN) introduced the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (S. 1176 and H.R. 2966 respectively) to permanently ban the processing of horses for human consumption or the transport of horses for processing. Farm Bureau opposed the legislation.

The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act will not improve horse welfare, but it will set a dangerous precedent for banning a livestock or meat product for reasons other than food safety or animal welfare, further restrict property rights, and, perhaps most importantly, have detrimental consequences for horse welfare.

This summer, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on horse welfare entitled, Action Needed to Address Unintended Consequences from Cessation of Domestic Slaughter. The full report is available at http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-228. It confirms that the slaughter horse market has shifted to Canada and Mexico since domestic processing ceased in 2007, with nearly the same number of U.S. horses slaughtered in 2010 (nearly 138,000) as in 2006. A price analysis found that closing domestic horse processing facilities significantly reduced prices for lower- to medium-priced horses by 8 percent to 21 percent, and reduced prices for all horses by 4 percent to 5 percent. GAO also documented numerous and rising numbers of cases of horse abandonment and neglect since the last U.S. processing plant closed in 2007.

GAO made two recommendations: 1) Congress should either restore funding for inspections at legal processing facilities, or 2) outright ban processing (including export for processing) permanently. It concluded that the current system doesn’t allow for sufficient assurance of horse welfare given the increase in the transport distance for horses that are now being processed in Canada and Mexico.

AFBF has scheduled a meeting with USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) to discuss the next steps that must be taken to resume equine inspection services. In conversations with the Department last week, it appears that the absence of any prohibitions related to horse inspection in the appropriations bill will allow horses to be inspected as an amenable species as soon as the President signs the bill into law. This means that horses would be eligible for the same taxpayer-funded inspection services as other livestock species (i.e. – cattle, swine, sheep) immediately upon enactment. No new regulations would be needed; a processing facility would merely need to apply to the local FSIS district office for equine inspection, consistent with the processing of any other species. If there are no Federal inspectors in the state, FSIS contracts with the state for inspection. The only restriction would be in states that specifically prohibit horse processing under state law, namely Texas and Illinois.

Recommended Stories For You

With American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) support, language prohibiting funding for inspection of horses at processing plants was not included in the FY2012 agriculture appropriations conference report. This eliminates a major hurdle for the resumption of domestic horse processing.

Earlier this year, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN) introduced the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (S. 1176 and H.R. 2966 respectively) to permanently ban the processing of horses for human consumption or the transport of horses for processing. Farm Bureau opposed the legislation.

The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act will not improve horse welfare, but it will set a dangerous precedent for banning a livestock or meat product for reasons other than food safety or animal welfare, further restrict property rights, and, perhaps most importantly, have detrimental consequences for horse welfare.

This summer, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on horse welfare entitled, Action Needed to Address Unintended Consequences from Cessation of Domestic Slaughter. The full report is available at http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-228. It confirms that the slaughter horse market has shifted to Canada and Mexico since domestic processing ceased in 2007, with nearly the same number of U.S. horses slaughtered in 2010 (nearly 138,000) as in 2006. A price analysis found that closing domestic horse processing facilities significantly reduced prices for lower- to medium-priced horses by 8 percent to 21 percent, and reduced prices for all horses by 4 percent to 5 percent. GAO also documented numerous and rising numbers of cases of horse abandonment and neglect since the last U.S. processing plant closed in 2007.

GAO made two recommendations: 1) Congress should either restore funding for inspections at legal processing facilities, or 2) outright ban processing (including export for processing) permanently. It concluded that the current system doesn’t allow for sufficient assurance of horse welfare given the increase in the transport distance for horses that are now being processed in Canada and Mexico.

AFBF has scheduled a meeting with USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) to discuss the next steps that must be taken to resume equine inspection services. In conversations with the Department last week, it appears that the absence of any prohibitions related to horse inspection in the appropriations bill will allow horses to be inspected as an amenable species as soon as the President signs the bill into law. This means that horses would be eligible for the same taxpayer-funded inspection services as other livestock species (i.e. – cattle, swine, sheep) immediately upon enactment. No new regulations would be needed; a processing facility would merely need to apply to the local FSIS district office for equine inspection, consistent with the processing of any other species. If there are no Federal inspectors in the state, FSIS contracts with the state for inspection. The only restriction would be in states that specifically prohibit horse processing under state law, namely Texas and Illinois.

Go back to article