The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) made revisions to Directive 6130.1, the "Ante-mortem, Postmortem Inspection of Equines and Documentation of Inspection Tasks", which was originally released on June 28, 2013.
The Directive provides instructions to inspection program personnel (IPP) on how to perform ante-mortem inspection of equines before slaughter and post-mortem inspection of equine carcasses and parts after slaughter.
It also instructs Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) Public Health Veterinarians (PHVs) making ante-mortem and post-mortem dispositions of equines how to perform residue testing, verify humane handling, verify marking of inspected equine products, and document results using the Public Health Inspection System (PHIS).
On December 18, 2013, FSIS reissued Directive 6130.1 Revision 1, to include minor changes to the instructions to IPP how to record equine in the PHIS plant profile. FSIS is also making other changes to reflect the implementation of Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS)-Direct and to clarify instructions concerning increased sampling for “repeat violators.”
A. The Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) provides that there is to be an inspection of horses and other equines, among other species, to assess whether the carcasses of these animals are not adulterated, can be passed for human consumption, and are eligible to bear the mark of inspection (21 U.S.C. 604).
B. The FMIA requires that the slaughter or preparation of products of equines be conducted under inspection. FSIS regulations require that horse slaughter and preparation of products of equines be done in establishments that are separate from any establishment in which cattle, sheep, swine, or goats are slaughtered or their products prepared (9 CFR 305.2 (b)).
C. The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act of 1978 and 9 CFR Part 313 require that all livestock, including horses, slaughtered under inspection be handled humanely. Equines must be rendered insensible to pain (i.e. unconscious) before being shackled, hoisted, thrown, cast, or cut.
In response to the emergency motion filed on September 19, 2013, Federal Judge Christina Armijo has suspended Horse Slaughter operations at Rains Natural Meats until October 4, 2013.
Judge Armijo furthered ordered that this matter be referred to the Honorable Robert H.Scott for an evidentiary hearing to determine if her order should be extended beyond October 4th.
Judge Scott will also be ruling on the request from Rains Natural Meats to be included on the bond, which he granted to Valley Meats and Responsible Transportation on August 8, 2013. Our attorneys continue to contest this bond, as this case is against the federal government (USDA) and its permitting process, not the companies that were recently given permission to begin slaughtering horses.
A third business has met all the statutory and regulatory requirements to require USDA to provide inspection services when it begins processing horsemeat for human consumption.
Department of Justice (DOJ) attorneys representing USDA have informed the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico that it may want to expand its temporary restraining order against horse slaughter to include Rains Natural Meats in Gallatin, MO.
That restraining order currently only prevents USDA from providing inspection services to Valley Meat in New Mexico and Responsible Transportation in Iowa, the first two businesses to qualify since a five-year ban on spending federal money on horse slaughter inspections ended in 2012. “When this court entered its temporary restraining order, Rains Natural Meats had not yet met the requirements for a grant of inspection, and thus the temporary restraining order expressly applies only to FSIS’s (Food Safety and Inspection Service’s) inspection of the Valley Meat and Responsible Transportation facilities,” the DOJ attorneys wrote, adding, “But circumstances have changed, and Rains Natural Meats is now eligible and requesting a grant of inspection.”
The government attorneys said that, while they were not waiving any of their earlier objections to federal Judge M. Christina Armijo’s order, they understood that she may want to amend it in light of the new reality.
Rains Natural Meats is a small meat and poultry slaughter and processing facility with about 5,300 square feet. Built in 1998, it has been a USDA-inspected facility for various meat and poultry processing since it was built, but the business has had difficulties due to the slow economic recovery.
Owner David Rains opted to file for an equine grant of inspection on Jan. 13. While waiting for the application to be approved, he told local media outlets that he’s been driving a school bus to pay his bills.
In its “Decision Memo,” USDA said the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) requires government inspectors to conduct ante-mortem inspection of all amenable species, including cattle, sheep, swine, goats, horses, mules and other equines, including a post-mortem inspection of “carcasses and parts of all amenable species.”
“Horses, mules, and other equines have been among the livestock species that are amenable to the FMIA since it was amended by the Wholesome Meat Act in 1967,” wrote Philip S. Derfler, FSIS deputy administrator.
FSIS is required to conduct an examination and inspection of the methods of slaughter to ensure they are in compliance with the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, which calls for prevention of needless livestock suffering.
In the USDA memo, Derfler says the decision to provide inspection services under the FMIA “is purely ministerial because if a commercial horse slaughter plant meets all of the statutory and regulatory requirement for receiving a grant of federal inspection, FSIS has no discretion or authority under the FMIA to deny the grant on other grounds or to consider and choose among alternative ways to achieve the agency’s statutory objectives.”
“Therefore, a grant of federal inspection services under the FMIA is not a major federal action that is subject to NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) requirements,” he added.
Horse rescue and animal-welfare groups have sued in federal court in New Mexico, charging that NEPA requires USDA to conduct environmental reviews before granting inspection services for horse slaughter. Judge Armijo granted a temporary restraining order just ahead of the start dates for Valley Meat and Responsible Transportation.
In a separate proceeding, a federal magistrate has ruled that a plaintiff’s bond of almost $500,000 per month might be required to cover potential losses by the defendants while the case is argued. The bond is intended to compensate the defendants if the plaintiffs lose.
Government attorneys then suggested the case be accelerated and the plaintiffs agreed. Both sides are now preparing briefs that should frame the issues for the judge to decide by about Oct. 10. After she rules, the losing side will likely appeal to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.
About 175,000 horses from the United States are exported for slaughter each year to Canada and Mexico. New USDA-inspected horse-slaughter facilities in the U.S. would export horsemeat for human consumption to areas of the world where
there is a demand, mainly Europe and Asia.
Source: Food Safety News by Dan Flynn
>>> Click Here to View the Department of Justice's Legal Notice regarding grant of inspection for Rains Natural Meats in Gallatin, Missouri.
The parties suing USDA to stop horse slaughter before it can start up again in the U.S. agree with the government on one thing: they, too, want to get the court case they brought over as quickly as possible. Bruce A. Wagman, attorney for the plaintiffs, has filed a motion with the U.S. District Court in New Mexico supporting the government’s request for an expedited hearing and briefing
on the merits.
Wagman, who represents the Humane Society of the U.S. and several other animal welfare and horse rescue groups, has suggested a schedule that could put the issue in the hands of Federal District Court Judge M. Christina Armijo by Oct. 10. New Mexico Attorney General Gary K. King joined in Wagman’s motion, which was filed Tuesday.
Judge Armijo has scheduled a Sept. 3 status conference, which attorneys can access by telephone.Wagman still wants Armijo to rule on his motions to change the Aug. 2 temporary restraining order that blocks two companies with grants of inspection for horsemeat packing from starting those operations unless permitted by the court and to reduce or eliminate the costly bond plaintiffs must come up with for the case to proceed.
On the TRO, Wagman wants it to only prohibit USDA from providing equine inspection services to Valley Meat in New Mexico and Responsible Transportation in Iowa. Currently, it also prohibits those companies from operating horse-slaughter businesses, even though the plaintiffs are not suing them. As long as USDA is barred from doing inspections, horses cannot be slaughtered for human consumption.
That became a big concern for the plaintiffs after a federal magistrate imposed a bond against them of nearly $500,000 a month to cover the possibility that USDA wins the case. In other words, it’s meant to cover the economic harm imposed by the plaintiffs if they lose.
Government attorneys representing USDA’s top three food-safety officials say it’s time to end the court battle that has temporarily banned horse slaughter in the U.S. They’ve asked the U.S. District Court in New Mexico to move immediately
to an expedited hearing and ruling on the merits of the case.
This would eliminate the next step that had been anticipated in the case – a hearing on whether to grant the plaintiffs a preliminary injunction. They already won a temporary restraining order.
Source: Food Safety News by Dan Flynn
Supporters of horse slaughter put forth many arguments to support their position.
But if you look at the facts, you'll see the truth: The slaughter of horses for meat is not only unneccessary and inhumane but it is also harmful in many ways.
Once you learn the truth about horse slaughter, you'll understand why you should work to ban the cruelty of horse slaughter in the United States.
Here are the facts:
Is it possible to conduct commercial horse slaughter in a humane manner?
No. Horse slaughter, whether in U.S. or foreign plants, was never and cannot be humane due to the nature of the industry and the unique biology of horses. Slaughter is a brutal and terrifying end for horses and is not humane. Horses are shipped for more than 24 hours at a time without food, water, or rest in crowded trucks in which the animals are often seriously injured or killed in transit. Horses are skittish by nature due to their heightened fight or flight response, which makes accurate stunning difficult. As a result, horses often endure repeated blows and sometimes remain conscious during dismemberment; this
is rarely a quick, painless death. Before the last domestic plant closed in 2007, the USDA documented in the slaughter pipeline rampant cruelty violations and severe injuries to horses, including broken bones protruding from their bodies, eyeballs hanging by a thread of skin, and gaping open wounds.
Additionally, border pen inspections conducted from 2010–2012 show further proof of the cruelty and lack of oversight that exists throughout every step of the slaughter process. The USDA documented dead horses and severe injuries to horses
in border pens, including broken legs, head trauma, and eye lacerations. The answer is not to return to subjecting our horses to abuse and unacceptable conditions at plants in the U.S., but to ban horse slaughter and the export of horses for slaughter altogether and provide our horses with a decent life and, when necessary, a humane death.
Will horse slaughter have a negative financial impact on American taxpayers?
Yes. Subsidizing horse slaughter cruelty will divert precious financial resources away from American products and food safety. The authority to fund horse slaughter inspections was restored last year, and the USDA has been asked to process horse slaughter applications to provide inspection of horse slaughter facilities. The many millions of tax dollars necessary to conduct horse slaughter inspections would be diverted away from food safety programs in place to protect Americans, to enable a practice that 80% of the American public opposes. The EU is on the verge of tightening requirements for lifetime regulation of horses sent to slaughter, due to overwhelming evidence that drugs administered to American horses are dangerous to humans. The EU food safety regulations would require onerous and ever-evolving USDA oversight – at additional taxpayer expense – to ensure compliance. At a time when funding for many vital programs for Americans is being cut, it is outrageous that Congress
would spend tax dollars on horse slaughter.
Because of growing concern about the health threats of drug-laced American horsemeat, the European Union (EU), a primary importer of American horsemeat, may soon require that American horses presented for slaughter at EU approved plants be accompanied by lifetime medical records verifying that the animal was never administered toxic drugs. Horses are gathered from random sources at various stages in their life, and there is no system in the U.S. to track medications and veterinary treatments given to horses to ensure that their meat is safe for human consumption.
Can the federal government ensure the safety of horsemeat?
No. The USDA has no system in place to track horses’ lifetime medical histories, and the reputation of the entire U.S. meat industry is at risk. Testing random samples of horsemeat overlooks the fact that every single horse has a unique, unknown past. Unlike animals raised for food, horses do not spend their lives being prepared for the food chain. Every horse is a pet, riding companion, race horse, show pony, or work partner. Each may be a single patient to any number of vets, transferred by any number of owners, and has a unique life story. Relying on random-sample testing of horsemeat is inadequate at best
and dangerous at worst.
Has ending domestic horse slaughter damaged the U.S. horse market and led to fewer options for disposal of horses, causing neglect and abandonment?
No. Horse neglect and abandonment cannot logically be attributed to the closure of U.S slaughter plants because the number of U.S. horses sent to slaughter has not decreased since domestic slaughter ceased in 2007. The same number of horses are still being sent to slaughter, across our borders in Canada and Mexico. The slaughter option still exists, so any increase in neglect or abandonment can only be attributed to other economic factors. Any downturn in the horse market is clearly related to the economic downturn that began the same year that the last slaughter plant closed and continues today. Historically, all
animals—dogs, cats, horses, and even farm animals raised for food—face greater chances of neglect in a poor economy.
Are there any other ways to address an overpopulation of horses?
Yes. There are several ways to address homeless horse issues. We can limit overbreeding, provide shelter, and expand adoption work. More than 160,000 horses went to slaughter last year alone, but not every horse going to slaughter needs to go to rescue; the vast majority could be given new homes. The USDA documented that 92.3 percent of horses sent to slaughter are in good condition and are able to live out a productive life. These horses could be sold, donated, or otherwise rehomed; however, kill buyers regularly outbid legitimate horse owners and rescues at auctions. Based on the USDA’s own finding, fewer than 1 percent of the U.S. horse population may require the help of rescues or euthanasia.
There are countries who consume dogs, cats, and other pets as food, but the U.S. does not allow dogs and cats to be exported for food purposes—even though there is a well-documented overpopulation issue regarding these animals. The idea of slaughtering companion animals is unacceptable to the American people and will never be embraced. Our attitude toward horses is not so different: A 2012 national poll found that 80 percent of Americans support a ban on horse slaughter for human consumption.
Horse slaughter enables and perpetuates overbreeding, neglect, and irresponsibility. As long as slaughter is an outlet for breeders to sell their excess horses, they will be rewarded—and continue to overbreed. Horse slaughter is purely a function of supply and demand, not a disposal service.
Attracting new business was difficult for communities burdened with the presence of a horse slaughter plant because of the related negative stigma. Real estate values also plummeted. The minimal financial contributions of horse slaughter facilities are vastly outweighed by the enormous economic and development-suppressing burden they present.
Source: Humane Society Legislative Fund
Though the work is far from done, this is shaping up to be a very encouraging year for animals on the appropriations front. We already reported on the House Appropriations Committee’s approval of solid funding levels to support USDA’s enforcement of key animal welfare laws, as well as its inclusion of much-needed language to stop horse slaughter plants from operating in the U.S. The Senate Appropriations Committee followed suit with parallel language de-funding USDA inspections att horse slaughter plants.
Now we’ve learned that the Senate Appropriations Committee has also come through with terrific news on funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s enforcement and implementation of key animal welfare laws. Thanks to the strong leadership of Chairman Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and Ranking Member Roy Blunt, R-Mo., the Committee bill contains the full amounts requested by President Obama in his recommended budget for Fiscal Year 2014—which include substantial increases for several programs, notwithstanding the pressure to cut spending overall. The committee understood that it’s possible to achieve macro-level cuts while still taking care to ensure that specific small and vital accounts have the funds they need.
Here are details of what the Senate committee approved:
•$893,000 for USDA’s enforcement of the Horse Protection Act to end the cruel practice of “soring” show horses (deliberately inflicting severe pain on the horses’ legs and hooves to make it hurt for them to step down, so they will exaggerate their high-stepping gait and win prizes). This is well above the current funding level of $678,510, as well as the House committee bill’s level of $500,000.
•$28,203,000 for USDA’s enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, which sets basic standards for care of animals at almost 28,000 sites across the country—commercial breeding facilities (including puppy mills), laboratories, roadside zoos, circuses, and airlines. Current funding of AWA oversight is $26,406,304 and the House committee bill provides $27,087,000.
•$16,350,000 for USDA’s Investigative and Enforcement Services division, whose responsibilities include investigation of inspectors’ findings regarding alleged violations of federal animal welfare laws and the initiation of follow-up enforcement actions. Current funding is $15,866,009 and the House committee bill provides $16,275,000.
•$89,902,000 for USDA’s Office of Inspector General, which covers many areas including investigations and audits of the agency’s enforcement efforts to improve compliance with the Animal Welfare Act, Horse Protection Act, Humane Methods of
Slaughter Act, and regulations to protect downed animals. The Senate committee report specifically flags the OIG’s work to address animal fighting violations under the AWA, in coordination with state and local law enforcement. Current funding for the OIG is $86,779,028 and the House bill provides $86,779,000.
•Helpful committee report language directing the Food Safety and Inspection Service to ensure that funds provided for Humane Methods of Slaughter Act enforcement will be used to ensure compliance with humane handling rules for live animals as they arrive and are offloaded and handled in pens, chutes, and stunning areas. Similar language is in the House committee report and was included last year for FY13 Agriculture Appropriations.
•$4,790,000 for the veterinary student loan program that helps ease the shortage of veterinarians practicing in rural communities and in government positions (such as those overseeing humane slaughter, AWA, and HPA rules), by repaying student debt for those who choose to practice in one of these underserved areas. Current funding is $4,669,627 and the House bill provides $4,790,000.
Whether an animal welfare law will be effective often turns on whether it gets adequately funded. Having legislators seek that funding is crucial, especially when there are such strong competing budget pressures. We are grateful to Senators Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and David Vitter, R-La., who reached out to their colleagues and mobilized a broad showing of 34 Senators voicing bipartisan support for these animal welfare funds, as did Reps. Chris Smith, R-N.J., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., marshaling the support of 164 Representatives in the House. Their collective efforts set the stage for positive committee action,
which in turn has put us in a strong position for good outcomes in the House-Senate negotiations.
We will continue to watch the appropriations process closely and press for the highest possible amounts when the House and
Senate reach agreement on the final legislation. Proper enforcement of these laws not only helps animals but benefits people, too—for example, by protecting consumers from disreputable puppy mills and from mishandling of pets on airlines, reducing food safety risks associated with poor management at slaughter plants, and reducing the risk of bird flu transmission via cockfighting. Our fortunes are intertwined with those of animals, and doing right by them is good policy for all of us.
Equine Slaughter: FSIS update on a grant of inspection to a horse slaughter establishment and related materials
The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has issued a grant of inspection to a horse slaughter establishment, Valley Meats Company, in Roswell, NM. FSIS expects two other applicants to be ready to receive grants of inspection for equine slaughter in the coming days.
The Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) requires Federal inspection of amenable species when slaughtered for human food and prepared for commerce. Horses, mules, and other equines are among the livestock species that are amenable under the FMIA.
Beginning in fiscal year (FY) 2006, Congress prohibited the use of Federal funds to pay the salaries and expenses of personnel to perform ante-mortem inspection of equines intended to be slaughtered for human consumption (Section 794 of Pub. L. 109-97). Without ante-mortem inspection, no horse meat is eligible for the FSIS mark of inspection, and without the mark, no horse meat can move in commerce. Thus, the effect of this prohibition was to end the slaughter of equines in the United States. The prohibition continued from 2007 to 2011.
However, Congress has not continued this prohibition and did not include it for the use of appropriated funds in the FY 2012 Agriculture Appropriations Act (see Pub. L. 112-55). Therefore, if an establishment meets and complies with all of the FSIS requirements for equine slaughter and processing, FSIS must grant Federal inspection to the establishment.
Just as FSIS does for all other amenable species, at establishments that receive a grant of inspection to slaughter equines, FSIS will ensure compliance with all relevant statutes and regulations, including the FMIA, the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (9 CFR 417) and Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (9 CFR 416) regulations, and the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (21 U.S.C. 603(b)) and implementing regulations (9 CFR 313).
Among other measures to protect the public health, FSIS will test equine carcasses for illegal drug residues. Because of the particular concerns about the possibility of drug residues in equine carcasses, FSIS will conduct intensified residue testing at establishments that receive a grant of inspection to slaughter equines.
Under this framework, inspection program personnel will tag equines that appear unhealthy or have visible needle puncture marks as "U.S. Suspect" and perform inspector-generated testing. In addition, FSIS inspection program personnel will randomly select and sample a number of carcasses from every lot of equines that pass ante-mortem inspection. The rate at which we will randomly select carcasses for sampling will be above our normal rate until we have significant experience with equine slaughter. FSIS has issued instructions to inspection program personnel on inspection of equines in FSIS Directive 6130.1, available at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/horses/6130.1.pdf.
FSIS has modified several Chemistry Laboratory Guidebook Methods to add equine muscle. These methods include: Screening for Phenylbutazone by ELISA; Screening for Chloramphenicol by ELISA; Screening and Confirmation for
Aminoglycosides by LC-MS-MS; Screening for Pesticides by LC-MS-MS and GC-MS-MS; Identification of Poisons and Toxins by GC-MS; and Screening and Confirmation of Animal Drug Residues by UHPLC-MS-MS, which can analyze for multiple drug
In addition, FSIS methods for other residues are available for equine. They include: Determination of Arsenic by Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy; Determination of Ivermectin, Doramectin, and Moxidectin by HPLC; and Liquid Chromatography/Atmospheric Pressure Chemical Ionization Mass Spectrometric (LC/APCI/MS) Confirmation of Ivermectin, Doramectin and Moxidectin.
To review the revisions to the guidebook, visit http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/science/laboratories-and-procedures/guidebooks-and-methods/chemistry-laboratory-guidebook.
Because of FSIS’ stringent inspection process, testing capabilities, and labeling requirements, American consumers should not be concerned that horse meat will be labeled and sold as the meat of another species, as happened earlier this year in other countries. Horses are not allowed to be slaughtered and horse meat is not allowed to be processed in the same facility as other species in the United States.
More information on FSIS’ inspection of equine slaughter can be found at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/horses/horses.html
Click Here to view this document as a PDF
Today, the House Appropriations Committee marked up its agriculture spending bill for Fiscal Year 2014, and it included much good news for animals. Most notably, the committee approved by voice vote an amendment offered by Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., and Bill Young, R-Fla., to forbid spending by USDA on inspections of horse slaughter plants on American soil. The Senate should follow suit.
A similar spending prohibition was put in place each year beginning in 2005, but was not renewed in 2011 or 2012, leading to the opportunity for
horse slaughter profiteers to initiate plans to reopen equine abattoirs in the
U.S at an estimated cost to taxpayers of at least $5 million each year. If the de-funding amendment restored by the committee survives the entire legislative process, it will block any effort to resume slaughter of horses for human consumption on U.S. soil. We are grateful to Reps. Moran and Young for leading this effort, and to all the committee members who voiced their approval for the measure to save horses from brutal slaughter and save taxpayers from the gambit of wasting their money on this predatory enterprise.
In other good news, the bill approved by the committee includes strong levels of funding for the USDA’s enforcement of key animal welfare laws such as the Animal Welfare Act, Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, animal fighting statute, and programs related to veterinary medical services and disaster planning for animals. This was despite a reduction in spending overall on federal programs, in a very competitive budgetary climate where every single program has its advocates. The animal welfare line items no doubt got a boost from the 164 Representatives and 34 Senators led by Reps. Chris Smith, R-N.J., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and David Vitter, R-La., who signed letters to the House and Senate committees urging that they adequately fund the enforcement of animal welfare laws.
We are grateful to them and especially to House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., and Ranking Member Sam Farr, D-Calif., for supporting the strong funding levels in the House committee bill to help ensure
that the nation’s animal welfare laws are properly enforced. We will keep you posted on the spending levels as the appropriations bill moves through the process in the House and Senate, as well as next steps on the horse slaughter
Source: Food Safety News by Dan FlynnNew Mexico Attorney General, Gary King
An official opinion from New Mexico Attorney General Gary K. King either marks the end of horse slaughter in The Land of Enchantment or a meaningless intervention into federal meat regulation. In a June 10 AG’s opinion, the Democrat King said veterinary drugs are too commonly administered to horses not to view their meat as adulterated under state law, a ruling that would make horse meat unfit for human consumption.
Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, NM has been close to becoming the first USDA inspected horse slaughter facility in the U.S. since 2007. Valley Meat’s attorney, A. Blair Dunn, told the media the state AG’s opinion was meaningless. Dunn said the horse slaughter facility will have a USDA-approved drug residue testing program in place just like those used for other animals.
King’s opinion came in response to a request from State Sen. Richard Martinez (D- Española). “Based on our examination of the relevant constitutional, statutory and case law authorities, and the information available to us at this time, we conclude
horse meat from U.S. horses would fit the legal definition of an adulterated food product under the NM Food Act if the meat came from horses that had been treated with chemical substances that the federal Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) has deemed unfit for human consumption,” King wrote. “We also conclude that if horse meat were an adulterated food product, the NM Food Act would prohibit its manufacture, sale or delivery.”
A ban on horse slaughter in the U.S. was imposed from 2007 through 2011, but then lifted after an Inspector General’s report suggested the ban was causing more inhumane treatment of horses, including widespread instances of starvation and abandonment.
Valley Meat, a former bovine slaughter operation, has been in the lead in its request for USDA inspection services, among a handful of other applicants mostly from small towns in rural states.
Meanwhile, national animal welfare groups are pressuring Congress to re-impose the ban and are conducting public opinion surveys in states with applications to show the generally large opposition to horse slaughter. Owners who have no intention of ever sending their horse to slaughter often treat horses with many drugs for pain and other aliments. If those horses fall
into the hands of someone who does send them to slaughter, there is a potential problem with drug residues getting into the meat.
Ironically, the Interior Department’s huge population of wild horses, which are never suppose to be slaughtered, are the most drug-free horses. USDA’s National Residue Program exists to test newly slaughtered meat for illegal drug residue, pesticide, hormones, and other contaminants. There probably would be little difference in the way equine testing would work from
the bovine testing, for example.
There is no safe level for some animal drugs. Phenylbutazone or “bute,” often used to control pain in horses, has no safe level for any horse used for slaughter. The European Union bans it from horses sold in the EU for human consumption.
One point of controversy is that the National Residue Program conducts post-mortem testing, meaning there is not a pre-slaughter way of cutting drug residue in meat.