U.S.D.A. May Approve Horse Slaughter Plant


New York Times, STEPHANIE STROM, February 28, 2013

Sally Ryan for The New York Times Some horse auctions, like this one in Shipshewana, Ind., also deal in animals destined for slaughter in Canada and Mexico.

Sally Ryan for The New York Times
Some horse auctions, like this one in Shipshewana, Ind., also deal in animals destined for slaughter in Canada and Mexico.

The United States Department of Agriculture is likely to approve a horse slaughtering plant in New Mexico in the next two months, which would allow equine meat suitable for human consumption to be produced in the United States for the first time since 2007.

The plant, in Roswell, N.M., is owned by Valley Meat Company, which sued the U.S.D.A. and its Food Safety and Inspection Service last fall over the lack of inspection services for horses going to slaughter. Horse meat cannot be processed for human consumption in the United States without inspection by the U.S.D.A., so horses destined for that purpose have been shipped to places like Mexico and Canada for slaughter.

Justin DeJong, a spokesman for the agriculture department, said that “several” companies had asked the agency to re-establish inspection of horses for slaughter. “These companies must still complete necessary technical requirements and the F.S.I.S. must complete its inspector training,” he wrote in an e-mail referring to the food inspection service.

He said the Obama administration was urging Congress to reinstate an effective ban on the production of horse meat for human consumption that lapsed in 2011.

The impending approval comes amid growing concern among American consumers that horse meat will somehow make its way into ground beef products in the United States as it has done in Europe. Major companies, including Tesco, Nestlé and Ikea, have had to pull food from shelves in 14 countries after tests showed that products labeled 100 percent beef actually contained small amounts of horse meat. Horse meat is not necessarily unsafe, and in some countries, it is popular. But some opponents of horse slaughtering say consumption of horse meat is ill-advised because of the use of various kinds of drugs in horses.

“We now have the very real prospect of a horse slaughtering plant operating in the U.S. for the first time in six years,” said Wayne Pacelle, chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States. The last plant that slaughtered horse meat for human consumption in the United States closed in 2007, after Congressional approval of an appropriations bill that included a rider forbidding the U.S.D.A. from financing the inspection of such meat. That rider was renewed in subsequent appropriations bills until 2011, when Congress quietly removed it from an omnibus spending act.

That opened the door for a renewal of the horse slaughter business, but only if the U.S.D.A. re-established inspections. The agency never moved to restart its equine inspection service.

Valley Meat sued Tom Vilsack, the agriculture secretary, and Al Almanza, the head of thefood safety inspection service, charging that the department’s failure to offer inspection of horse meat violated the Federal Meat Inspection Act.

That law directs the agriculture department to appoint inspectors to examine “all amenable species” before they enter a slaughtering facility.

“Amenable species” were animals subject to the act the day before it was enacted, including cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, horses and mules.

A. Blair Dunn, the lawyer for Valley Meat, said that the Justice Department recently asked the company for an additional 60 days to file a response to its lawsuit. Mr. Dunn said the Justice Department indicated it was asking for the extra time because “the U.S.D.A. plans to issue a grant of inspection within that time, which would allow my clients to begin operations.” Mr. Dunn said that Valley Meat had hired experts in the humane treatment of horses for slaughter and was training employees. The company is not planning to sell meat in the United States, at least at the outset of its operations. “Last spring, they were in discussions with several companies in European countries about exporting their products,” he said of his clients. “I’m sure if markets do develop in this country for horse meat for human consumption, they will look at them.”

He cautioned that Valley Meat might still face challenges to opening, noting that several parties had filed briefs on both sides of the case. The Humane Society has petitioned the Agriculture Department and the Food and Drug Administration to delay approval of any facility for horse slaughter, raising questions about the presence of drugs like phenylbutazone, which is used to treat inflammation in horses.

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AUTHOR: Jerry Finch
  • Suzanne Dunham

    What is wrong with this picture????? With all the contaminated horsemeat, how is opening a slaughter house going to make this go away????
    Apparently, the USDA only cares about the money they are being paid to allow this to happen, and not to the people who may get sick and die.

    March 1, 2013
  • judye michaels

    I guess the dirtbag who wants to open the slaughterhouse finally paid his more than $80,000.00 in previous fines for the inhumane handling of cattle and environmental violations! I’ll bet he got some “foreign backers” to pay off the USDA, too!
    New Mexico: get ready to become a nation of FILTH AND CRIME!!!!

    March 1, 2013
  • Dest

    I am soo discusted!!

    March 1, 2013
  • Marcia

    In my opinion, there should be no slaughter houses of any kind. Judging from the amount of wolf killing, wild horse round-ups, bison hunts, and now prospective horse slaughter houses, it almost looks as if all the opponents of HSUS and PETA are striking back.

    March 1, 2013
  • This is horrible! I thought this President who everyone said was humane promised to help horses? I thought we were cutting USDA employees so why add them to check horse slaughter plants. The horse has done more for man than any other animal and this is our thanks to them? It is all money and big business from mostly foreign countries. Where are all the horse advocates? There must be enough of us to stop this and make killing horses illegal?

    March 1, 2013
    • sherriey

      promised???? no….not when there is $$ to be made. he don’t care about the horses….only his fame in the political circle!

      “He said the Obama administration was urging Congress to reinstate an effective ban on the production of horse meat for human consumption that lapsed in 2011.”

      read this over and over again and the next time someone says its not Obama’s fault….recite this sentance to them!

      March 2, 2013
      • If Obama is in fact urging Congress to reinstate the defunding of USDA horse slaughter plant inspections, what more do you think he can do? He can’t MAKE Congress do anything, and Big Ag/Cattle are spending millions to purchase enough Congressmen to quash any and all attempts to keep horse slaughter off US soil.

        By your logic, bringing back horse slaughter is Obama’s fault because he’s pushing Congress to REINSTATE the ban on USDA inspections of horse slaughter plants. HUH? I believe you have misread this sentence.

        March 7, 2013
    • It’s the big money we don’t have, not numbers. Money and lots of it is all that counts here.

      March 7, 2013
  • This is horrible, why can’t the owners of slaughter plants stop targeting our horses, do they want a repeat of what is happening in Europe? Bute causes aplastic anemia in children. I think that is how they spell it.

    March 1, 2013
  • sherriey

    i am waiting for them to find it in our meat.
    i’d bet the farm that there is horsemeat in our (beef)hamburg!

    March 2, 2013
    • If not now, there will be is we restart horse slaughter on US soil. And to think, it’s Big Beef that’s bankrolling this push to bring back horse slaughter. Talk about STUPID!

      March 7, 2013
  • Joy

    Any excuse to bash Obama. Read the article. It clearly states the president is pushing congress to reinstate the ban on horse meat for human consumption.

    March 4, 2013
  • sab morrow

    we cannot let this atrocity happen!!! NEXT we’ll be eating cats and dogs and who knows our elderly!!! OMG- PLEASE STOOP this! these are beautiful intelligent creatures, who are we to KILL THEM!

    March 5, 2013
  • Ashley Endemano

    Shame on our USDA and All those who support this atrocity towards our animals. The lies and deception all for greed and $$$. Horse Advocates must ban together and expose the lies and protect our beautiful horses, they deserve land and dignity!!!

    March 6, 2013
  • runningmustang

    Guess its time for me to go vegetarian!! Not only is it not safe, but it is a sin!!! I hate the Nevada blm!!

    March 6, 2013