Friday, March 12, 2010

Missouri bill would reimburse USDA for inspecting horse slaughter plants; feds dubious of idea

In February we reported several state attempts to re-establish horse slaughter facilities closed after Congress in 2006 prohibited spending of federal funds to inspect them. One of those state efforts is gaining steam in Missouri, but could still violate the federal provision. Republican state Rep. Jim Viebrock's bill, which would have Missouri reimburse the Department of Agriculture for inspection expenses, has the support of the state's director of agriculture and many in the horse industry, Georgina Gustin of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

Federal authorities remain unconvinced the law would work because the national rule prohibits USDA from spending money on facility inspections even if it is eventually reimbursed, Gustin reports. "In theory, you could have a state facility," Caleb Weaver, a USDA spokesman, told Gustin. "But you can only ship in the state and couldn't cross borders to go elsewhere." Viebrock and his supporters remain optimistic, and say the bill's success will depend on how the federal law is interpreted.

Horse-slaughter advocates say reopening slaughterhouses would provide a much-needed floor for a struggling horse market and prevent rampant horse neglect and abuse. Anti-slaughter groups, including the Humane Society of the United States, say the recession is the dominant cause of the horse crisis and slaughterhouses won't fix it.

"The reason the horses aren't getting any money is because there is no money, slaughter or no slaughter," Alex Brown, a Pennsylvania-based exercise jockey who runs one of the country's largest anti-slaughter campaigns, told Gustin. "Slaughter hasn't gone away, so to say that bringing it back here is going to affect the market makes no sense." (Read more) Overbreeding has also been blamed for the crisis.

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