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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

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 ban in Illinois closed the plant in that state. However, U.S. horses continue to be shipped to Mexico and Canada for slaughter. Several states have explored opening horse slaughtering facilities, and Oklahoma enacted to lift the state’s 50-year-old ban on processing horsemeat. Animal welfare activists and advocates for horses have continued to press Congress for a federal ban. The Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2009 (H.R. 503/S. 727) 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 in the 112th Congress. The bills would have amended 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. No further action was taken.

A general provision in the House-passed FY2012 Agriculture appropriations bill (H.R. 2112, §739) would have continued to prohibit funds to pay salaries or expenses of Food Safety Inspection Service personnel to inspect horses under the Federal Meat Inspection Act (21 U.S.C. 603). This provision was not included in the Senate-passed version of H.R. 2112 or in the final bill (P.L. 112-55). Although an amendment by Senator Landrieu to the FY2013 continuing resolution (H.R. 933) would have prohibited FSIS inspection, the CR continues the policy of P.L. 112-55, permitting FSIS to 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. That application could be approved within months. Another facility in Missouri also has an application pending.

The provision prohibiting FSIS inspection had been included in Agriculture appropriations bills since 2008. The ban does not prohibit the transport of U.S. horses to Canada or Mexico for slaughter. Its absence in the FY2012 appropriations bill 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 less-regulated 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 large numbers of unwanted horses are being abandoned.

Recent news from the EU that horse meat was found in various processed foods has raised the profile of the horse slaughter issue in the United States. The Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act (S. 541/H.R. 1094) was introduced in the 113
th Congress. The bill would amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to prohibit the sale or transport of equines and equine parts in interstate or foreign commerce for human consumption. The House bill was referred to the both the Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Committee on Agriculture. The Senate bill was referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Date of Report: April 9, 2013
Number of Pages: 13
Order Number: RS21842
Price: $29.95

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