For the first time in almost seven years, slaughter plants in the U.S. are preparing to butcher horses for human consumption.
This development - decried by animal welfare advocates - comes after a U.S. Appeals court lifted an emergency stay on plans by companies in Missouri and New Mexico to begin processing horse meat.
“They are pushing full steam ahead to be ready to go as soon as possible,” said Blair Dunn, an Albuquerque attorney who represents Valley Meat Co. of Roswell and Rains Natural Meats of Gallatin, Mo.told the Associated Press.horses on site.
Dunn said the Missouri plant had horses on site, but it was unclear if the plants would open before Christmas.
Two years ago Congress restored funding for Department of Agriculture inspectors. An effective ban had been in place prior to that because Congress defunded the inspectors critical to the processing of meat. (The International Fund for Horses, an equine advocacy group, describes the slaughter practice here.Warning: graphic images.)
The Humane Society of the United States and other animal protection groups sued to contest the Department of Agriculture’s permitting process.The two sides have been battling it out in court since with the animal welfare advocates winning an emergency stay in federal court this fall.
But the 10th circuit court lifted that order late Friday, saying the groups “failed to meet their burden for an injunction pending appeal.
A bill has been introduced in Congress to ban horse slaughter. The Safeguard American Food Act (SAFE), introduced in the House by Pennsylvania Rep. Patrick Meehan, would also prohibit the transport of horses across the border for slaughter. Since the closure of the last U.S. horse slaughter plant in Illinois in 2007 some 150,000 horses a year have been shipped to plants in Canada and Mexico to be killed and butchered for consumption in France and elsewhere.
Lest anyone think that the horses who end up on the kill floor at a slaughter plant are old and lame, take a look at Hawser, a Thoroughbred with a racing career, who was pulled off a trailer (see photo above) bound for Canada at the age of six.
Racing careers are short but horse lives are long and far too often those dumped at auction are young and healthy, just not fast enough.
In the video below, featured on the blog OfftrackThoroughbreds.com Hawser was in training last year with a childhood friend of mine, Steuart Pittman of Dodon Farm in Maryland. Pittman is the founder of the Retired Racehorse Training Project, an initiative dedicated finds new lives for Thoroughbred horses when their racing careers end.