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Monday, August 27, 2012

Horse Slaughter Prevention Bills and Issues

Tadlock Cowan
Analyst in Natural Resources and Rural Development

In 2006, two Texas plants and one in Illinois slaughtered nearly 105,000 horses for human food, mainly for European and Asian consumers. In 2007, court action effectively closed the Texas plants, and a state ban in Illinois closed that plant. However, horses continue to be shipped to Mexico and Canada for slaughter, and several states have explored opening horse slaughtering facilities. Animal welfare activists and advocates for horses continue to press Congress for a federal ban. Bills in the 111th Congress would have made it a crime to knowingly possess, ship, transport, sell, deliver, or receive any horse, carcass, or horse flesh intended for human consumption. The bills were referred to the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security and the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, respectively, and no further action was taken. Companion bills entitled the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act of 2011 (S. 1176 and H.R. 2966) were introduced by Senator Landrieu and Representative Burton in June and September 2011, respectively. The bills would amend the Horse Protection Act (P.L. 91-540) to prohibit shipping, transporting, possessing, purchasing, selling, or donating horses and other equines to be slaughtered for human consumption. The bills were referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and to the House Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry.

A general provision in the House-passed FY2012 Agriculture appropriations bill (H.R. 2112, §739) would have continued to prohibit any funds to pay salaries or expenses of the Food Safety Inspection Service personnel to inspect horses under the Federal Meat Inspection Act (21 U.S.C. 603). This general provision was not included in the Senate-passed version of H.R. 2112, nor was it included in the final bill (P.L. 112-55). Without this provision, FSIS could again inspect horse meat. A facility in New Mexico became the first to apply for a grant of inspection from FSIS following the lifting of the ban. Another facility in Missouri also has an application pending. However, the FY2013 House agriculture appropriations bill (§744, H.R. 5973) would reinstate the ban.

The provision had been included in Agriculture appropriations bills since 2008. The ban does not prohibit the transport of U.S. horses into Canada or Mexico for slaughter. Its absence in P.L. 112- 55 may have reflected a June 2011 Government Accountability Office report that recommended action on the unintended consequences of ending horse slaughter in 2007. The report provided evidence of a rise in state and local investigations for horse neglect and more abandoned horses since 2007. Some opponents of the horse slaughter ban, including the American Veterinary Medical Association, have argued that humane slaughter in the United States is preferable to lessregulated slaughter in Mexican abattoirs, or more humane than abandoning unwanted horses to starve because owners can no longer afford to feed and care for the animals. Animal welfare groups have countered the argument that there are large numbers of unwanted horses being abandoned.

Date of Report: August 15, 2012
Number of Pages: 11
Order Number: RS21842
Price: $29.95

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