Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Horse slaughter is on hold again, as budget bill blocks money for inspections needed for export

The debate over the opening of horse slaughterhouses in the U.S. was short-circuited Friday when President Obama signed the omnibus budget bill, which prevents the Department of Agriculture from spending money to inspect the plants, inspections they must have to export horsemeat.

However, the bill is effective only through Sept. 30, so Congress will again wrestle with the issue. It enacted the same ban in 2007, but allowed it to expire on 2011 after its Government Accountablity Office found that it had depressed the market for horses, exacerbating problems of abuse and abandonment. The original ban was sponsored by Rep. Ed Whitfield of Western Kentucky; the main House co-author of the budget bill was his Republican colleague, Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers of Eastern Kentucky. The provision (above) is found in 10 lines on Page 89 of the 1,582-page bill.

Plant owners in New Mexico and Missouri had been battling to start slaughtering horses, while a third owner in Iowa had recently announced he would process cattle instead. The attorney for the New Mexico and Missouri plants said they would continue to fight and "contended that the federal move to withhold money for meat inspections could cause U.S. trade violations," The Associated Press reports.

The plants in New Mexico and Missouri had planned to open Aug. 5, but a series of legal battles, some won by advocates, others by proponents, continued to put the plant openings on hold. For more on the issue read here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

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