US animal rights groups: 'Nay' to horse slaughter plan

March 1 Fri Mar 1, 2013 6:19pm EST

March 1 (Reuters) - Animal rights groups are threatening to sue the U.S. government if officials move ahead with plans to allow meat-packing companies to resume the slaughter of horses for human consumption, a practice that was banned in 2006.

"It's a big fight," said Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States. "We will sue if we have to. We're also working with Congress to stop this."

Congress lifted a 2006 ban in the fiscal 2012 appropriations act and since then "several" companies have asked for government inspections that would allow them to start slaughtering horses, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Without new action by Congress, the department has no choice but to allow slaughterhouse inspections to proceed, USDA said. Though horse meat cannot be sold in the United States for human consumption, it could exported.

Indeed, USDA notified Valley Meat Co. of Roswell, New Mexico, this week that the company's application for inspections would be approved after an extended delay, according to Valley Meat owner Ricardo De Los Santos.

Valley Meat filed suit against the USDA for delaying the process after it shut down beef operations and retrofitted its plant to allow for horse slaughter, said De Los Santos.

The company slaughtered cattle for two decades but closed that business down as drought and poor market conditions eroded profits, said De Los Santos. With roughly 130,000 horses currently estimated to be shipped out of the United States annually to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico, horse slaughtering seems like a viable market, he said.

"We've always killed cows. But business has slowed down and we're looking at things we can do to keep operating," De Los Santos told Reuters.

The last U.S. plants to slaughter horses for human consumption were shut in 2007, after Congress banned the USDA from funding the required inspections of the plants. That measure was renewed every year until 2011.

Horse meat is sold for human consumption in China, Russia, Mexico and other foreign countries, and is sometimes used as feed for zoo animals.

A scandal continues to roll in Europe after testing in Ireland in January found that some products marketed as beef contained equine DNA.

The contamination has since been found in Taco Bell products as well as spaghetti Bolognese and beef lasagna, according to British regulators, in the meatballs sold by Sweden's IKEA furniture superstore in much of Europe, and in other outlets.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Front Range Equine Rescue, and Animal Protection of New Mexico joined the Humane Society in saying they would try to beat back the decision to process inspection applications for horse slaughter.

USDA faced criticism in 2012 when plans were announced for a horse slaughter plant in Rockville, Missouri. Those plans have been put on hold.

De Los Santos, though, said he has been forced to lay off his 40 employees awaiting government action since Valley Meat filed its application over 18 months ago. He has been fielding threatening phone calls and an onslaught of insults after word got out this week about his plans.

"They call and tell me 'I'm a murderer, I have blood on my hands,'" he said. "They pick on the little guys, not the big beef packers. I have to make a living one way or the other."

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (13)
Doctorgee wrote:
I’ll expose this for what it is: the Bureau of Wildlife Management wants to get rid of all wild horses in the USA for its rancher friends, and slaughering these majestic mustangs is their answer. Instead of sending our horses, we should send our congress members to the slaughterhouse.

Mar 01, 2013 7:13pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Smokeysdad wrote:
Doctorgee you’re right but let’s aim the blame at the right folks. The Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971 charged the Sec. of the Interior to manage the wild horses and burros found on public lands via the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). They deeded the horses priority rights on just over 50 million acres of land. Over time Congress has passed the Federal Lands Protection and Management Act of 1976 that contradicts the 1971 law.

This has lead the BLM to roundup (most heinously) nearly 50,000 wild horses and burros, terrorizing them, separating their families and incarcerating them for the rest of their lives.

The cost to maintain the captives is nearly $80 million a year when on the open range they cost us nothing. Equids do not overpopulate and will live their lives like other wild animals given the chance.

Ultimately Congress needs to change the laws by exempting the herd areas of the 1971 act from the Multiple Use policy of the 1976 act and releasing the captives back to their home ranges to live out the life God gave them.

But like so many other things our government does…”it’s just easier to kill ‘em” so that’s what they want to do.

Call you congressman unless you want to be complicit in the mass murder of 50,000 wild animals known as the Icons of the American West.

Mar 02, 2013 8:46am EST  --  Report as abuse
LynnIL wrote:
What the article doesn’t say is that the guy who wants to open the first horse slaughter house had his cattle slaughter house closed by the Feds for animal cruelty and other violations. This guy could have gotten his cattle business back but he didn’t want to go to court as he knew he would serve jail time because the violations were solid. So now we want this guy to slaughter our horses and believe they will be handled humanely. I think not. Horse slaughter is cruel and inhumane and can not be made humane. Even Dr. Temple Grandin, the slaughter house design guru, said it can not be humane and that 24/7 offsite video monitoring would be a must. So that in itself is very telling that it can not be humane. That being the case, it would be against the humane slaughter act and we can not allow this horrible business to get started again. Call your Congressmen/women and get them to pass the Horse Protection Act.

Mar 02, 2013 10:10am EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.