Jerry Finch, President of Habitat for Horses, is a long time advocate for horses. His opinion was sought by TheHorse.com, an online horse health and news website, on horse slaughter, the possibility of US citizens eating horse meat and its effect on the health of the American public. This is an issue that our Congress overlooked in their recent vote that will allow horse slaughter once again on US soil. ~ HfH
From: The Horse
By: Pat Raia
The U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee has rejected an amendment to its agriculture funding bill that would have prevented the USDA from paying personnel to conduct inspections at horse processing plants in the United States.
In 2007 a combination of legislation and court rulings shuttered the last existing U.S. horse processing plants, which were located in Illinois and Texas. Congress continued to prevent U.S.-based horse processing by passing amendments that stripped the USDA of funding for inspections at facilities that process horsemeat for human consumption.
Funding bills contained similar amendments until November 2011, when lawmakers passed an appropriations bill that did not contain language specifically forbidding the agency from using federal dollars to fund horse slaughter plant inspections. Afterward, horse processing plans were proposed in several states. None of those plants became operational. Succeeding federal funding bills did contain language denying the USDA horse processing plant inspection funds.
Despite the legislation, horses from the United States were exported for processing at plants in Canada and Mexico. Last year an audit from the European Union’s (EU) Food and Veterinary Office banned the sale of horsemeat derived from American horses that were processed in slaughter plants in Mexico.
In April a bipartisan group of lawmakers responded to the foreign horse processing issue by introducing the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) act. Also known as HR 1942, the act would prevent horse processing plants from ever opening in the United States and would ban the transport of horses to foreign plants for processing. The legislation, said supporters, would also protect consumers from horsemeat derived from animals injected with unregulated drugs and other substances.
That legislation remains pending.
On July 8 the U.S. House Appropriations Committee voted to exclude Rep. Sam Farr’s amendment to eliminate funding for horse processing plant inspections from the USDA budget. The tie 24-24 vote was broken by Rep. Robert Aderholt, chairman of the subcommittee that oversees the agriculture funding bill.
Horse processing advocate Dave Duquette said the tie-breaking vote was significant.
“It went that way because they (lawmakers) wanted it that way,” Duquette said. “This is a nonpartisan issue and legislators are finally listening the horsemen that we need this. We have plants ready to open when Congress votes to let inspections begin.”
But horse processing opponent Jerry Finch said the vote ignored serious health concerns connected to horsemeat.
“The effort to legalize the slaughter of horses and sale of horsemeat in the U.S. is a sick, almost comical effort by politicians,” Finch said. “Understanding that the EU is doing its best to ban horsemeat coming from the U.S., putting horsemeat on the same level as (meat from) cattle showing signs of mad cow disease, should lead to the conclusion that something is wrong; there is a serious food safety issue, yet the politicians want to ignore the dangers.”
The final appropriations subcommittee bill now moves to the full House for consideration.