U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told reporters Wednesday Congress should come up with a better solution for handling homeless horses than slaughtering the animals for meat for human consumption. His comments came as USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has five at least partially completed applications to slaughter horses for human consumption, probably only for export, under active review.
Since Congress and the Obama Administration lifted the ban on horse slaughter for human consumption, five pending applications have been filed and one has appealed USDA’s delay into federal court. USDA prefers renewing the ban instead.
Vilsack said that since the last inspected horsemeat slaughterhouse closed in 2006, science has improved on monitoring equine drug residues, a consideration which is getting attention in the current application process.
After the ban was imposed, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) of Congress studied the issue of unwanted horses in the U.S. and found sharp increases in starving and abandoned horses after the domestic slaughterhouses went out of business. It is a burdensome trend for many tribal and county governments. A brisk business exists, however, for exporting live horses to Mexico and Canada for slaughter.
The five applicants for horse slaughter facilities are:
1. Valley Meat of Roswell, NM
2. Oklahoma Meat Co. of Washington, OK
3. Rains Natural Meats of Gallatin, MO
4. Trail South Meat Processing of Woodbury, TN
5. Responsible Transportation of Sigourney, IA