USDA: Horse Slaughter Not Expected to Resume Soon

USDA: Horse Slaughter Not Expected to Resume Soon

In November 2011 the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate passed H.R. 2112 which did not contain specific language stripping the USDA of funding for horsemeat inspections.

Photo: Photos.com

Horse processing at U.S.-based plants is not expected to get under way soon according to a statement posted on a White House petition website this week.

On Nov. 17 both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate passed H.R. 2112, a bill establishing budgets for the Department of Agriculture and other federal agencies. Unlike previous Agricultural Department funding bills, H.R. 2112 did not contain specific language stripping the USDA of funding for horsemeat inspections. The bill became law on Nov. 18, when President Barack Obama signed it.

Even before the bill became law, the horse processing issue was the subject of petitions filed on the We The People website (a White House-sponsored site that allows groups and individuals to create and post petitions on government policy issues). Petitions that garner a specific number of signatures are passed on to the White House staff, then to appropriate agencies for review.

On Dec. 13 Elizabeth Hagen, MD, USDA undersecretary for food safety, posted a written response to the "Restore humane horse slaughter to improve horse welfare, stop needless and wasteful suffering, and create jobs," and the "Support a Ban on Horse Slaughter" petitions on the We The People website.

In her statement Hagen said, "While Congress has technically lifted the ban, USDA does not expect horse slaughter to resume in the near term as a number of federal, state, and local requirements and prohibitions remain in place. Furthermore, there have been no requests that the department initiate the authorization process for any horse slaughter operation in the United States at this time."

Despite Hagen's statement, equine welfare advocate Fran Burns, public relations director for the Angel Acres Horse Haven Rescue, is unconvinced horse processing isn't poised to resume soon.

"I'm skeptical," Burns said. "We know eight applications for horse slaughter plants have already been submitted to the USDA."

Meanwhile, horse processing proponent Wyoming State lawmaker Sue Wallis said that prospective plant developers have already met with USDA officials about plant construction and operation regulations: "We met with (USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service) Deputy Administrator Phil Derfler and others from the agency when we were in (Washington) D.C. and were assured by them that when we had plants that fulfilled the requirements, that there would be no obstruction and that all we had to do was request the inspector."

How soon a horse processing plant might go online is uncertain, Wallis said.

The petitions and Hagen's response can be viewed online at whitehouse.gov/petitions#!/response/ensuring-humane-treatment-horses.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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