Amendment Defunds USDA Horsemeat Inspections

Funding for USDA horsemeat inspections will not be part of the U.S. House of Representatives $125.5 billion 2012 Agricultural Appropriations Act passed by the House Appropriations Committee on May 31.

Every year since 2006, lawmakers have denied funding for USDA meat inspections at horse processing plants in the U.S. The lack of funding eliminated food safety certifications necessary for U.S.-produced horsemeat products to be exported to Europe and other offshore markets. As a result, the defunding figured significantly in operators' decisions to shutter the last U.S.-based horse processing plant in 2007.

In recent years, however, lawmakers in Montana and Wyoming have passed legislation that could facilitate private sector horse processing plant development in those states. In May Nebraska legislators passed a bill authorizing a study to determine the feasibility of private-sector horse processing plant development in that state.

Language stripping the USDA of funding for horsemeat inspections did not appear in the original House Agricultural Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2012. In response, Virginia Congressman Jim Moran introduced an amendment prohibiting the use of federal revenue to pay the salaries or expenses of USDA personnel to conduct horsemeat inspections at horse processing plants located in the U.S. On Tuesday, House Appropriations Committee members passed the Moran amendment by a bipartisan vote of 24-21.

"Industrial slaughter of horses should not be condoned by the United States Government," Moran said. "We have to put an end once and for all to this practice."

In addition, the inspection funding cuts will reduce federal spending by $5 million annually, Moran said.

"Americans shouldn't be forced to foot the bill for international gourmands," said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of Government Relations for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

However, Wyoming State Rep. Sue Wallis, who introduced successful legislation intended to facilitate private-sector horse processing plant development in that state believes defunding the inspections denies U.S. participation in foreign food markets, and deprives some owners of their rights to use personal property as they see fit.

"A horse in a processing plant dies instantaneously with a minimum of pain or stress and their meat is welcomed by a thriving worldwide market providing the horse owner who chooses to receive some return on their investment a decent price," Wallace said.

The 2012 Appropriations Act now advances to House floor for a full vote.

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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