WASHINGTON — Animal advocates are keeping close watch on Congress amid concern that a moratorium on horse meat production may be in jeopardy.
Congress shut down the industry nearly a decade ago by cutting off funds for USDA meat inspectors. But in July, a key House committee approved an annual farm spending bill that would lift the ban.
The full House then ratified that shift in policy, for the first time in two years — opening the door to revival of an industry that many Americans find repugnant, but which some horse owners view as a practical way to dispose of unwanted livestock.
Horse meat is consumed in a number of countries, including Mexico, Japan, France and Belgium. Two of the three U.S. slaughterhouses serving the export market before the 2006 ban were in North Texas, in Kaufman and Fort Worth.
Foes of the industry — a loose coalition of animal advocates and others — are optimistic that the Senate will extend the horse meat ban in its version of the annual agriculture appropriations bill. But many worry that support for the ban is eroding, and that congressional leaders will give up the fight in the crush of year-end budgeting. The ban on horse slaughter for meat production was among the last issues negotiated in last year’s catch-all spending package.
House Speaker Paul Ryan voted against a horse slaughter ban in 2006 before Congress defunded inspectors. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell co-sponsored a 2014 bill allowing for controversial horse training practices, so groups that oppose animal cruelty worry about his views, though he has opposed horse slaughter in the past. Democrats’ minority leaders in the Senate and House, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, have consistently backed the ban.