Saturday, July 15, 2017

House Appropriations Committee votes narrowly to lift federal ban on horse slaughterhouses

Photo by Daniel Bockwoldt, Deutsche Press-Agentur
Congress is making another attempt to restart the slaughter of horses in the United States. The House Appropriations Committee voted 27-25 on July 12 to remove the 10-year-old congressional ban on use of taxpayer money for horse-slaughterhouse inspections by the Department of Agriculture.

A key vote was cast by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart a South Florida Republican who had voted for the ban until recently. "The ban was an amendment tacked on to the annual Department of Agriculture funding bill, and a tie vote would have resulted in the ban failing," Alex Daugherty reports for McClatchy Newspapers. "Diaz-Balart voted in favor of the ban in 2014 but said the ban 'did not yield the positive results that many envisioned and I had hoped for' and voted against the ban the last three years."

Daugherty gives background: "The ban on horse-slaughter inspector funding passed the House committee in 2014 and 2016 but failed in 2015. The Senate overruled the House’s decision that year. Horses raised in the United States are not intended to be eaten by humans, but U.S. horses can be transported to other countries and slaughtered for meat according to European Union standards. Horse meat is considered taboo in the United States, but it is eaten in parts of Europe and Asia."

Diaz-Balart said in a statement, “The reality is, if these horses are not dealt with in USDA-certified and inspected facilities, they will be hauled off to a foreign market where the conditions are much more cruel and less humane.” He noted that the Government Accountability Office “found that the ban shifted slaughter facilities to other countries, including Mexico, where humane methods and responsible oversight are not as rigorous as those in the U.S.  GAO has also observed that there is not enough space in rescue facilities in the U.S. to handle abandoned horses.”

The 2011 GAO report "said horse exports for slaughter to Mexico increased by 680 percent from 2006 to 2010, after Congress stopped funding slaughter inspections," Daugherty notes. "Republicans from Western states with large populations of wild horses were the primary opponents of the ban, arguing that current methods of controlling wild horses aren’t enough. Wild horses, which have no natural predators, can disrupt food sources for other animals, but horse advocates say allowing horse slaughter is a handout to ranchers who dislike the horses because they compete with their cattle for food on public range land." President Trump's budget plan would allow purchase and slaughter of wild horses.

The Humane Society of the United States said it would fight to keep the ban. “We don’t pick up homeless dogs and cats and send them to slaughterhouses. We shouldn’t do that with horses either,” HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle told Maura Judkis of The Washington Post.

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