So where did the "ban" come from? Prior to 2007, there were three horse slaughter facilities in the United States - two in Texas and one in Illinois. The meat from these plants went mainly to overseas markets, but about 10% went to zoos to feed the carnivores. Early in 2007, Judges in Texas re-instated previous legislation that effectively outlawed horse slaughter, thereby forcing the plants in that state to close. Illinois followed suit later in the year. So the only place where horse slaughter is banned, currently, are these two states.
The reason no other plants were opened after 2006 is because the government removed funding for the inspection of the processing facililties. Since 2005, the sponsors of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act sought enactment of a rider in the Appropriations Acts (budgeting bills) to deny federal funding for USDA inspections of horse slaughtering operations under the Federal Meat Inspection Act. Whoa! What did I just say? Basically, the representatives were not able to push their bill through, but they were able to affect the budget. The funding that was normally allocated to the USDA for oversight of these slaughterhouses was withdrawn. Since there was no money, the meat inspectors could not be paid and they were removed from the plants. If the meat is not inspected, it cannot be shipped, and the facilities are unable to operate. This legislation has been maintained for the past several years.....until now.
This past summer, the GAO (Government Accountability Office) filed a report in regards to horse welfare in the US since the cessation of domestic slaughter. The report stated that there has been an increase in abandoned and/or neglected horses in the past 5 years. The current economy was admitted to be a confounding factor, since it is very difficult to separate the two issues. This report also stated that there has been increased movement of horses to slaughter facilities outside of the United States. They showed that these shipped horses are not fully protected by the USDA, as there are not laws in place to protect them. These horses are travelling long distances to slaughter-houses not regulated by our country. Based on this report, the GAO recommended that "Congress may wish to consider allowing USDA to again use appropriated funds to inspect horses at domestic slaughtering facilities".
Just before Thanksgiving, funding was put into place to allow for inspections of horse processing facilities. The "ban" was lifted. So, does that mean that processing plants are going to open immediately and horse slaughter will resume in this country? Not necessarily - primarily because it's not that simple.
As with most governmental budgeting, appropriations bills are only good for one year. Next year, Congress will re-allocate funding where they see fit. So, yes, horse slaughter can legally resume in this country. However, with inspection funding only guaranteed for one year, opening a facility would be a risky endeavour. Only time will tell if this legislation is here to stay.
We've tried to outline the facts of this situation as clearly and objectively as we can. This is merely a rough overview of what has been going on with horse slaughter over the past few years. There is a lot of information out there, and many different viewpoints on that information. We've given you the facts. What's your opinion?
For a more detailed summary, read this from the Congressional Research Service.
For some great answers to FAQ's, check out the AVMA.