Sponsor Nixes Fee-Based Horsemeat Inspection Amendment

An amendment that would have reestablished USDA horsemeat inspections on a fee-for-service basis failed to become part of the 2012 U.S. House of Representatives' Agricultural Appropriations Act this week when the bill sponsor withdrew it.

Prior to 2005, USDA personnel carried out horsemeat food safety inspections at U.S. horse processing plants. In 2005 Congress voted to strip the USDA of funding for horsemeat inspections. USDA personnel continued to carry out those inspections on a fee-for-service basis until 2007 when a federal court judge ruled against the arrangement. The combination of the funding prohibition and the court decision resulted in the decline of the U.S. horse processing industry.

However, 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 May 31 House Appropriations Committee members passed the Moran amendment.

On June 15 U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming introduced an amendment to the Agricultural Appropriations bill that would have allowed the USDA to perform horsemeat inspections at U.S.-based horse processing plants on a fee-for-service basis. However, Lummis withdrew that amendment.

Lummis was not available for comment on the amendment.

Moran said he opposed the amendment based on public opinion regarding horse processing issues.

"When an overwhelming number of Americans oppose the slaughter of horses, the U.S. government should not condone this practice," he said.

Nancy Perry, senior vice president of Government Relations for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said she believes the Lummis amendment was intended to complicate the horse processing issue.

"The effort to create a private payment plan was an ... attempt to confuse legislators," Perry said.

Wyoming State Rep. Sue Wallis, who introduced successful legislation intended to facilitate private-sector horse processing plant development in that state, was unavailable to comment directly on the amendment. However, previously Wallace said lawmakers should refrain from making decisions on horse processing-related legislation until the release of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the economic impact the horse processing industry's demise has had on the U.S. horse industry. That report, commissioned by the U.S. Senate in 2009 is expected to be released later this month.

"It is a mistake for anyone in Congress to sponsor or support any legislation that affects horses or horse welfare until they have read and studied the GAO report," Wallis said.

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.

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with FREE weekly newsletters from TheHorse.com. Learn More

Free Newsletters

Sign up for the latest in:

From our partners