Reviving slaughter of horses in the United States | TSLN.com

Reviving slaughter of horses in the United States

Jim Smith rumbled down a dusty road in his truck to check on the herd of wild horses he has been looking after near this tiny Ozarks town for more than two decades.

The herd, which got its start when horses were abandoned during the Great Depression, is growing again as tough times have pushed owners who can no longer afford to feed their horses try to give them a fighting chance in the wild.

Mr. Smith, who runs a trail-riding operation and captures many horses to limit the herd size and protect the newly abandoned “dumpouts” from harm, thinks there is a solution that makes many people uncomfortable: the slaughterhouse.

“The horse industry has gone to hell in a handbasket,” said Mr. Smith, a 67-year-old with a shotgun and a rifle in his pickup. “An old horse, a crippled horse, an unwanted horse, they all cost the same to feed, and nobody wants them, so they keep dumping them off here. Until there is a place to take them, it’s not going to get any better.”

To the relief of some – and the horror of others – that day may be approaching. Companies are planning to revive the horse-slaughter industry in several states, including Missouri, thanks to new rules authorizing federal funds to again be made available to inspect the facilities.

In 2006, Congress, bowing to animal-welfare groups, cut off funding for inspections, effectively shuttering the domestic industry. Without federal inspections, slaughterhouses can’t ship horse meat to Europe and Asia, where it is consumed by people. The last domestic horse slaughterhouse closed in 2007; as recently as 1990, more than 300,000 horses were slaughtered annually in the U.S.

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Congress reversed course last year, authorizing funding for inspections after the Government Accountability Office concluded that the closing of domestic slaughterhouses had caused a decline in horse welfare, partly because it prompted more horses to be transported long distances to Canadian and Mexican slaughterhouses, without adequate rest, food or water.

Now, as abandoned horses vex communities across the country, companies are applying for permits to restart the slaughter industry. “This would be good for our economy,” said Rick De Los Santos, spokesman for Valley Meat Co., which wants to open a plant near Roswell, NM, that would employ at least 50 people.

But the plant faces pushback. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, wrote a letter last month to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, urging the agency to deny the application, on animal-cruelty grounds.

Excerpts from the Wall Street Journal

– Livestock Marketing Association