- Feb 10, 2005
- Reaction score
- Montgomery, Al
President Obama earlier this month quietly signed into law a spending bill that restores the American horse-slaughter industry, just a few months after a government investigation said the ban on slaughtering for human consumption was backfiring.
The agriculture spending bill Mr. Obama signed the week before Thanksgiving did not include a ban on the inspection of horse meat — a backdoor prohibition that had, since 2006, effectively halted the U.S. horse-slaughter industry.
In June the Government Accountability Office, Congress’s official investigative branch, released a report saying the ban had shut down U.S. slaughter, but that only depressed prices for horses here while causing many of the animals to be shipped to “foreign slaughtering facilities where U.S. humane slaughtering protections do not apply.”
In unusually blunt language, GAO suggested Congress and Mr. Obama reconsider the ban.
The options facing Congress were to further ban export of horses for slaughter or to lift the domestic slaughter ban. Congress chose the latter.
“While we have a long way to go, responsible processing represents a vital first step in reversing the unintended consequences to blame for the dismal state of neglected horses and their frustrated caregivers across our country,” said Rep. Adrian Smith, Nebraska Republican. “Reinstating a humane, accountable and legal management tool is good for horses, good for owners, and is good policy.”
The Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service said there are no horse slaughterhouses operating in the U.S. that produce meat for human consumption, but if a facility opens FSIS will be ready to do inspections.
Horse meat regularly is used for consumption by circuses and zoos, and it is now sent to Eastern Hemisphere countries, where it is an accepted food. But slaughter has been a prickly issue in the U.S., where animal-rights activists and some horse lovers pushed to close slaughterhouses and ban exports.
In 2010, about 138,000 horses were exported for slaughter, and another 30,000 horses were shipped for other purposes, though some of those likely were sent to feedlots to be fattened for later slaughter.
Horse slaughter itself was never specifically banned, but Congress in 2006 prohibited any money being spent to regulate and inspect horses being transported for domestic slaughter. Under a 1996 law, those inspections were required for any slaughter intended to produce meat for human consumption.
This year, the House version of the agriculture spending bill maintained the slaughter-ban language. But the Senate spending bill did not include the ban, and when the two chambers reconciled their bills, it was not in the final version.
Mr. Obama signed the spending bill by autopen Nov. 18. He was traveling in Asia at the time the bill was presented to him, so he used the automated signature machine for the second time in his presidency.