The last plant to process horses in the U.S. closed six years ago. The result was a decline in the value of horses, increased cases of horse abuse, and an exodus of horses moving across the border to be processed in plants that were possibly not subject to the same standards as U.S. plants.
The ban on horse slaughter in the U.S. expired in 2011, but USDA kept the ban alive, in effect, by not issuing inspectors to the plants. USDA subsequently lost a lawsuit whereby the agency was instructed to begin to provide inspection services. Two plants – the first in New Mexico and the second in Iowa – have now received USDA approval. In addition, a third plant, this one in Missouri, has asked for, and is expected to receive, permission as well.
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There’s been a lot of excitement within the horse industry that the return of horse slaughter to the U.S. will eliminate many problems the industry has experienced – on both the price and humane care fronts – since the processing ban was initiated. While the prospective plants are all indicating that they will ramp up production, it may be premature to say that the return of horse slaughter has indeed returned to the U.S.
The Humane Society of the U.S. has filed suit requesting injunctive relief to stop the processing of horses, and the Obama administration has requested Congress to reinstitute the ban. With the political polarity in Congress, no one can predict that such a ban will be reinstituted, but the question is whether the plants have enough confidence that the ban will remain shelved if the House majority reverts back to the Democrats in 2014. The way seems to be cleared for a reinstitution of horse slaughter, but the hurdles remain.
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