Ban sends horses to Canada and Mex­ico to be slaugh­tered

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DI­NAN

Congress im­posed a back­door ban on horse slaugh­ter in 2006 to try to im­prove hu­mane con­di­tions, but a new gov­ern­ment re­port says it has back­fired and the same horses are now be­ing ex­ported for slaugh­ter in Canada and Mex­ico, and they likely are suf­fer­ing more along the jour­ney.

The Gov­ern­ment Accountability Of­fice said the pol­icy has led to “un­in­tended con­se­quences” such as de­pressed prices for all horses and an in­crease in re­ports of an­i­mal ne­glect, abuse and aban­don­ment. GAO said Congress and the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion may need to re­visit the en­tire is­sue.

“Those horses are trav­el­ing far­ther to meet the same end in for­eign slaugh­ter­ing fa­cil­i­ties where U.S. hu­mane slaugh­ter­ing pro­tec­tions do not ap­ply,” GAO said in un­usu­ally blunt lan­guage that said that the horses are some­times shipped in toosmall con­tain­ers for hun­dreds of miles, and that the in­spec­tion regime is too lax to help.

Horse meat is reg­u­larly used for con­sump­tion by cir­cuses and zoos, and it is now sent to East­ern Hemi­sphere coun­tries where it is an ac­cepted food. But slaugh­ter is a prickly is­sue in the U.S., where an­i­mal-rights ac­tivists and some horse lovers pushed to close slaugh­ter­houses and ban ex­ports.

Rather than a to­tal halt, though, Congress elim­i­nated fund­ing for in­spec­tions of horses in transit and of slaugh­ter­houses. Ini­tially, three slaugh­ter­houses shipped for other pur­poses, though some of those were likely sent to feed­lots to be fat­tened for later slaugh­ter.

No­body ap­pears happy with the cur­rent half-baked so­lu­tion.

GAO said pol­i­cy­mak­ers could ei­ther go back to the pre­vi­ous state of af­fairs, when slaugh­ter was al­lowed and cre­ated a mar­ket for sur­plus horses, or go the other direc­tion and ban ex­port of horses for slaugh­ter.

“Those horses are trav­el­ing far­ther to meet the same end in for­eign slaugh­ter­ing fa­cil­i­ties where U.S. hu­mane slaugh­ter­ing pro­tec­tions do not ap­ply,” GAO said in un­usu­ally blunt lan­guage.

paid for in­spec­tions them­selves, though by late 2007 they had closed down be­cause of state laws, and horse slaugh­ter ended in the U.S.

Still, that just shifted the mar­ket to neigh­bor­ing coun­tries, and the horses that once were des­tined for U.S. slaugh­ter are now sent across the bor­der.

In 2010, about 138,000 horses were ex­ported for slaugh­ter, and an­other 30,000 horses were

For Rep. James P. Mo­ran, Vir­ginia Demo­crat, that’s not much of a choice.

“Given the iconic role horses have played in our nation’s his­tory and the over­whelm­ing op­po­si­tion of the Amer­i­can peo­ple to the slaugh­ter of horses, I be­lieve the lat­ter op­tion is the moral choice and one that most Amer­i­cans would sup­port,” he said.

Ear­lier this month, Mr. Mo­ran spon­sored an ex­ten­sion of the in­spec­tion ban, and it was in­cluded in the agri­cul­ture spend­ing bill that passed the House last week. The Se­nate is tak­ing a much slower ap­proach to this year’s spend­ing bills, so it’s un­clear whether its leg­is­la­tion will in­clude the same pro­vi­sion.

But Rep. Adrian Smith, a Ne­braska Repub­li­can who has fought to change the rules, said a ban is cost­ing jobs and hurts the horse in­dus­try.

“The GAO re­port makes it clear end­ing horse pro­cess­ing has had a detri­men­tal ef­fect on both the econ­omy and an­i­mal wel­fare,” he said. “In light of this in­for­ma­tion, Congress should reeval­u­ate this mis­guided pol­icy to al­low re­spon­si­ble horse man­age­ment which would cre­ate jobs, gen­er­ate rev­enue and strengthen a strug­gling horse in­dus­try.”

The Hu­mane So­ci­ety of the U.S. has been call­ing for a full ban on ex­port for years, and said the au­dit’s find­ings back it up.

Keith Dane, di­rec­tor of equine pro­tec­tion for the group, dis­puted claims that no slaugh­ter will lead to more un­wanted horses, say­ing the mar­ket is con­trolled by de­mand, not sup­ply.

“We con­tend that the num­ber of horses go­ing to slaugh­ter is not a func­tion of the num­ber of horses need­ing homes, it’s a re­flec­tion of the de­mand for horse meat abroad,” he said.

He said the econ­omy has been the key fac­tor in spurring horse ne­glect, not an over­sup­ply of horses.

Sen. Mary L. Lan­drieu, Louisiana Demo­crat, has in­tro­duced leg­is­la­tion for an out­right ban on both horse slaugh­ter here and ex­port for slaugh­ter else­where.

“There is al­most no mar­ket for horse meat in the United States, and the ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans op­pose the prac­tice of horse slaugh­ter,” she said.

The re­port also rec­om­mends that the Agri­cul­ture Depart­ment is­sue long-de­layed rules that would bet­ter pro­tect horses dur­ing trans­port, and Mrs. Lan­drieu said she’ll work to get those rules put into place.

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