The AAEP (American Association of Equine Practicioners) has prepared a summary of the status of horse processing in the U.S.
Congress Passes USDA Appropriations Bill - USDA Inspection of Horse Processing Allowed to Resume
A provision that had prohibited USDA funds being used for personnel inspecting the slaughter process at horse processing facilities was not included in the Fiscal Year 2012 Agriculture, Commerce/Justice/Science, and Transportation/Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bills signed into law by President Obama on Nov. 18. The appropriations bill passed the House on a vote of 298-121, while the Senate voted 70-30 in favor of the bill. The bill funds a variety of federal programs and agencies and is not solely a bill addressing horse processing.
What does the passing of this bill mean for horse processing?
It means that USDA can now pay inspectors to inspect horses and meat that may be processed for human consumption at U.S. plants.
This bill does not, however, appropriate any new money to pay for these inspections. The USDA would have to find the money in the funds appropriated in the FY' 12 bill.
Is there a federal law that has been reversed?
No. There has been no law passed or changed dealing with processing itself. There is no current prohibition on the processing of horses in the U.S. The federal bills introduced in Congress to prohibit this are still before Congress. The only change is that for the past five years the USDA was not allowed to fund the inspection of horses at the plants - even though no plants were open - and now they are should a plant begin operating.
Will horse processing plants open?
While a plant could open and start processing horses, it should be understood that this appropriations bill is only good until September 30, 2012. In addition, as mentioned above, there are two bills currently in Congress proposing to ban horse processing in the U.S.: H.R. 2966 and S. 1176.
Due to state laws passed in Texas and Illinois, the home of the last plants to process horses in the U.S. in 2007, the processing of horses for human consumption in those states, even with USDA inspections allowed, will not be possible. Horse processing also is banned in California.
Does AAEP support the reopening of processing plants in the U.S?
With challenging economic times continuing to impact the United States, the large number of horses in our country that are considered unwanted and without viable care options remains a tremendous concern. Because of the increased potential for abuse, neglect and abandonment faced by this population of horses combined with the lack of financial resources for their long-term care, the AAEP does not oppose the reopening of processing facilities in the United States provided the facilities meet the following provisions:
1. Strict oversight of operations by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the Commercial Transport of Horses to Slaughter Act and the regulations there under, including the presence of and inspections by USDA veterinarians at the facilities.
2. Horses are euthanized by trained personnel in a humane manner in accordance with the requirements of federal law and guidelines established by the American Veterinary Medical Association.
3. Transportation to the production facility is conducted according to the law and guidelines established by the USDA.
When other humane options do not exist, the AAEP supports processing as an acceptable form of euthanasia under these controlled conditions.
History of USDA inspection funding
Since 2007, no federal money has been allowed to be used to inspect horse slaughter facilities in the U.S., as stipulated in the Agricultural Appropriations bill over the past five years. Without U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspections, horse processing facilities could not process horses for human consumption because the meat could not be shipped internationally or interstate and a majority of the market for horse meat is overseas. Although this clause had support due to the undesirable idea of horse meat for human consumption in the U.S., many, including the AAEP, believe the ban had "unintended consequences" and this was again emphasized in a June 22, 2011 report issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) titled - "Horse Welfare: Action Needed to Address Unintended Consequences from Cessation of Domestic Slaughter."