Fee-For-Service Plan Implemented

The nation's three horsemeat-processing plants began paying USDA employees on March 10 to conduct pre-slaughter inspections of horses. The highly debated fee-for-service program allows the plants to continue processing despite the 2006 Agricultural Appropriations bill, which eliminated federal funding for the inspectors.

The plants will pay each inspector $43.64 an hour, plus overtime and holiday pay, as they already do under an existing pay system for exotic animals. The inspections are estimated to cost each plant from $22,000 to $36,000 for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends in October.

Slaughter opponents tried to prevent the USDA from providing the fee-for-service inspections by filing a lawsuit against the agency and filing for a temporary injunction to suspend horse slaughter until the suit could be settled. The courts have yet to rule on either case. For more information see http://www.TheHorse.com/ViewArticle.aspx?ID=6665.

Several animal rights groups protested the USDA's action by sending a convoy of 20 empty horse trailers to Washington, D.C., which they said represented horses going to slaughter.

Chris Hyde, a lobbyist for the Society of Animal Protective Legislation, told the Kansas City Star, "We are still anxiously awaiting a decision from the judge. We are obviously disappointed by the USDA's action."

Representatives from the three horsemeat plants banned together last month to strengthen the slaughter industry's voice in Congress. They hired Charles Stenholm, a former Texas representative who had been a powerful member of the Agriculture Committee in Congress, and the Washington-based public relations and lobbying firm SciWords.

"Many horse owners absolutely oppose horse slaughter," Stenholm told the Kansas City Star. "And I agree with them--on their horses. The fundamental issue involved is that the horse owner makes the choice. It's always been a property-rights issue."

About the Author

Chad Mendell

Chad Mendell is the former Managing Editor for TheHorse.com .

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