States Move to Legalize Slaughter of Horses for Human Consumption

Courtesy: BLM

In Japan and several European countries, horsemeat is a delicacy. Equine entrees include horse tartare in Belgium, horse sashimi in Japan, and pastissada, a traditional horsemeat stew, in Italy. In the U.S., eating horses is no-no. But that doesn't mean America won't once again provide horse meat to other countries. Last year Montana passed a bill that cleared the way for horse slaughterhouses to be built in the state, and bills that would allow such facilities are currently advancing in Missouri and Tennessee.

On April 8, a subcommittee in the Tennessee House approved a horse slaughter bill 7-6. A week earlier, the Missouri House approved 91-61 bill HR1741. The bill hasn’t yet been scheduled for the Senate calendar.

From the AP:

The measure is intended to get around a federal ban on meat inspectors working in horse slaughtering plants. The House bill would levy fees on slaughterhouses that the state would then transfer to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The country’s last equine slaughterhouse closed its doors in 2007. Cavel International shut down its Dekalb, Illinois, facility after a circuit court upheld a state law prohibiting the slaughter of horses for human consumption. (An Illinois state representative has proposed reopening the plant.) Before that, the few remaining operations closed after Congress barred the USDA from spending federal fund to inspect horse slaughterhouses—no inspection means no meat.

Before Congress pulled funding for meat inspectors, about 100,000 horses were slaughtered each year in the U.S.; in 2001, 11,940 metric tons of processed horse meat was exported from the U.S. valued at more than $41 million, Bloomberg

Supporters say slaughterhouses are necessary to deal with horse cruelty and abandonment, where owners are unable to care for the animals and can’t find new homes for them.

The BLM, which manages wild horses and burros, announced in 2008 that it might slaughter some of the more than 30,000 in federal holding pens to cut down on the expense of holding the animals. The agency later said it would look for other solutions. (The BLM regularly holds horse and burro adoptions, but
doesn't sell or send any horses or burros to slaughter.) Currently, the GAO is looking into the impact of the closing of slaughterhouses on horse welfare, as some say the slaughter ban has led to an increase in abandoned equines.

Proposed legislation has drawn vociferous protest from horse advocates, most notably singer-songwriter Willie Nelson. “We ride horses in America, we don't eat them,” he
wrote in a letter printed in the Tennessean

Rep. Niceley is sponsoring a bill (HB 1428) in the Tennessee General Assembly to allow a horse slaughterhouse in Tennessee. He wants folks to believe it is more humane to allow buyers to travel around our great country purchasing healthy, wanted horses, then haul them to Tennessee to be slaughtered for human consumption. Who benefits: foreign-owned companies and high-end diners overseas.

Nelson, and other equine activists including Illinois Equine Humane Center, are pushing Congress to pass the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act (HR 503/S 727) that will outlaw domestic horse slaughtering for food consumption overseas.

Nowhere in the debate is anyone calling for Americans to eat equine meat. “Horse, it’s what’s for dinner” is unlikely to be a slogan that appeals to consumers here.

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