On November 18, 2011, the U.S. Congress lifted the five-year-old ban on slaughtering horses, backed by President Obama (who signed it into law), which prohibited horse slaughtering within U.S. borders. Now, it looks like horses will be heading back to the slaughterhouse.
Missouri farmers, as well as some state political leaders, say that lifting the ban is a good thing, as they believe the prohibition on slaughtering horses had caused a fair amount of harm, resulting in older horses being both abandoned and neglected. Animal rights activists disagree.
Many people cry foul at the passage of this provision, as our country’s political leaders seemed to do it in secrecy. The ban in question that was lifted first passed in 2006, preventing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from spending federal money on inspection of any meat-processing plants that included horses in its slaughter line-up. This swiftly brought an end to the slaughtering of domestic horses, as processing plants that are not inspected and approved by the USDA cannot distribute meat across state lines.
So, what does this mean for the future of the horse-slaughtering industry? While there is really no market for horse meat in the United States (most people balk at the thought of consuming domestic horses), horse meat is considered a delicacy overseas in various European and Asian countries. Horse meat is also commonly used to feed animals in U.S. zoos, as it is an excellent source of protein.
Since the ban on horse slaughtering in the United States went into effect in 2006, the market for slaughtering horses shifted to the north and south of our country’s borders. Exportation to Canada and Mexico of U.S. horses for slaughter increased dramatically between 2006 and 2010 (by 148 and 660 percent, respectively). Horse prices dropped, as those which would had previously been sold for slaughter were now pretty much unmarketable here in the United States.
After carefully studying the impact of the ban on U.S. horses for slaughter, the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) suggests that Congress should either revise restrictions or consider a permanent ban on horse slaughtering altogether. Needless to say, animal rights groups are rooting for the latter.
While many people accept the fact that the ban of horse slaughtering was mainly ineffective, it can’t be denied that the ban killed hundreds of thousands of jobs. Opening more slaughterhouses throughout the United States would reinstate what was once a $65 million industry.
But what about the horses? Will lifting the ban on horse slaughtering reinstate a more humane fate for our four-legged friends? Unfortunately, only time will tell. If you’re a horse owner, don’t run to lock your horse behind your garage door just yet. Unless you decide to sell your horse for slaughter, she is safe out to pasture.