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Food Product Design, Josh Long, April 17, 2013

images-13WASHINGTON—Horses symbolize the grandeur and mystique of the American West.

Their celebrated status may help explain the growing furor over requests before the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to authorize the slaughtering of the animals for human consumption.

In recent weeks, the White House and lawmakers in Congress have moved to oppose horse-slaughter plants. Bills introduced in the House and Senate would ban horse slaughter in the United States while President Obama’s fiscal year 2014 budget reportedly would have the same effect.

“The practice of horse slaughter for human consumption is revolting to me as a horse owner, but also as a consumer,” Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), a co-sponsor of the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, said in a statement forwarded to the organization, Americans Against Horse Slaughter. “Horses are not raised for human consumption, and they are frequently treated with drugs and chemicals that are toxic when ingested by humans.”

Others find the anti-horse slaughter movement in Washington equally repugnant. “The fact is there is no basis for them to single out one species out of all the species that we eat in this country — to pick out one and destroy the industry,” Sue Wallis, a Wyoming legislator, told the Casper Star-Tribune. “It just boggles my mind.”

Although there are no U.S. horse slaughter facilities operating today, USDA has confirmed it has received at least six applications, according to The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Bruce Wagner, a lawyer for Front Range Equine Rescue, an advocacy group that opposes horse slaughter, told The New York Times facilities in Iowa, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Rockville and Gallatin, Mo., have sought USDA approval.

Catherine Cochran, a spokeswoman with USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), said Tuesday three of the six applicants are not currently working with FSIS towards a grant of inspection. USDA is not actively engaged with Oklahoma Meat Company, Tennessee-based Trail South LLC and Missouri-based Unified Equine LLC, she said.  Cochran explained the applications were either incomplete or the applicant has lost contact with the agency. FSIS is reviewing applications that have been filed by Missouri-based Rains Natural Meats, Iowa-based Responsible Transportation LLC and New Mexico-based Valley Meat Company LLC.

“USDA cannot predict at this time when a grant of inspection for any of the active applications might be approved,” she stated.

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