For the first time in five years, Americans can slaughter horses, provoking both complaints from animal rights advocates and cheers from business owners, who have already begun filing applications for slaughter plants.
“Adding millions of dollars to the federal budget to inspect foreign-owned horse slaughter plants would be a step backwards for America’s iconic horses and a waste of tax dollars,” Wayne Pacelle, president of The Humane Society of the United States, said in a statement.
In 2006, the U.S. Congress effectively banned horse slaughter when it cut funding for horse meat inspectors. Consequently, slaughterhouses closed and horses were instead sent to Mexico and Canada for slaughter.
The de facto ban on horse slaughter, while applauded by animal groups, unfortunately created more neglect and abuse, according to a Government Accountability Office report published in June 2011.
With slaughtering plants closed, lower-end horses that were more likely to be bought for slaughter lost value and many were instead euthanized. There was a substantial increase in horse abandonment and neglect, and the number of equines being killed each year didn’t change — the killings were simply moved across the border to Mexico and Canada.
Some animal advocacy groups have disagreed with the findings, citing the economic recession as the cause for many of these problems.
After the GAO report came out, legislators decided to reinstate funding for horse inspectors, reports USA Today.
With this hurdle eliminated, a few businesses have already filed applications to begin slaughtering horses, arguing that horse meat is commonly consumed in Japan and countries in Europe and that domestic slaughter would be better than exporting. However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has yet to update inspection regulations for the change, so none of the applications have been approved.
Valerie Pringle, an equine protection specialist for The Humane Society, spoke with TakePart about the consequences of horse slaughter.
“The argument that slaughter is better when it’s here [in the U.S.] is not true,” she says. “It’s horrific suffering for horses, either in the transport or slaughter process.”
Even more important to many animal activists is the lives of these horses, since they are seen as loving pets, not like cattle bred for meat.
“Horses are considered companion animals, not livestock for food,” Pringle says. “You owe a horse a peaceful death.”
The Humane Society is in support of a horse slaughter prevention bill in the House of Representatives, which includes an amendment that would block spending for horse slaughter inspections, effectively reinstating the ban. However, the bill is currently still sitting in the House, awaiting approval. In the meantime, businesses are trying their best to restart slaughterhouses.
Would you be interested in eating horse meat? And do you think horse slaughter should be allowed? Let us know in the comments.
Related Stories on TakePart:
Kelly Zhou hails from the Bay Area and is currently a student in Los Angeles. She has written on a variety of topics, predominantly focusing on politics and education. Email Kelly | @kelllyzhou | TakePart.com