Horse slaughter inspection funding restored in 2012 budget

Bad news for unwanted horses, good news for the protection of show horses in the federal budget moving through Congress.

Without funding to pay U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors, horse slaughter has been effectively outlawed in the U.S. since 2005.

But a House committee stripped out that language, which means tax dollars could once again fund inspectors and that could be the first step toward reviving slaughterhouses in this country.

Reps. Jack Kingston (R-GA) and Sens Herb Kohl (D-WI), and Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) put the language back in, according to the Animal Welfare Institute.

Chris Heyde, deputy director of AWI's government and legal affairs department,  said the program will cost Americans at least $5 million a year and "pull limited USDA inspectors from ensuring the humane treatment and safety of our nation’s food supply.

"To make matters worse," Heyde said, "this was all done to appease a few foreign companies and Big Ag."

Michael Markarian of The Humane Society of the United States in his blog today says slaughterhouses would still have to approved by the states and that there will likely be court challenges.

Also, bills in the Senate (Sen. Mary Landrieu D-LA) and the House (Rep. Dan Burton R -IN) to outright ban slaughter of horses for human consumption are still alive.

Tens of thousands of unwanted horse are shipped each year to Canada and Mexico to be killed and butchered for meat for diners in France and Japan.

Many in the horse industry see slaughter as the easy answer to dealing with unwanted, old or sick horses and better they say, than having them starve to death.

Animal welfare advocates argue that overbreeding - particularly in horse racing and showing industry - leads to the glut of horses and contend that horse owners should take responsibility for their animals from birth to death.

Nor do the majority of Americans want to see horses beloved symbol of the nation, inhumanely slaughtered for foreign diners.

Americans don’t eat horses, and they don’t want them inhumanely killed, shrink-wrapped, and sent to Japan or Belgium for a high-priced appetizer. Horse slaughter lobbyists have been using a recent Government Accountability Office report to argue for the resumed use of tax dollars to produce horse meat for foreign gourmands, but the report is much more nuanced than they claim: One of the GAO’s recommendations is to ban the export of American horses for slaughter in Canada and Mexico. That’s exactly what we must do, and animal advocates must now redouble our efforts to pass the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, S. 1176 and H.R. 2966, to finally stop American horses from ending up on foreign dinner plates.

But Markarian also notes the committee increased funding - by almost $200,000 - for enforcement of the Horse Protection Act, which, as he put it, has been stuck at the woefully inadequate ceiling of $500,000 since 1976.

Imagine no funding increase for 35 years to enforce cruelty in show horses - specifically "soring" the use of caustic chemical and sharp objects on the legs of Tennessee Walking Horses to make them step higher in competition.