Horses could soon be on the menu in US

2011-11-30 22:44

Tulsa - Horses could soon be butchered in the US for human consumption after Congress quietly lifted a 5-year-old ban on funding horse meat inspections, and activists say slaughterhouses could be up and running in as little as a month.

Slaughter opponents pushed a measure cutting off funding for horse meat inspections through Congress in 2006 after other efforts to pass outright bans on horse slaughter failed in previous years.

Congress lifted the ban in a spending bill President Barack Obama signed into law November 18 to keep the government afloat until mid-December.

It did not, however, allocate any new money to pay for horse meat inspections, which opponents claim could cost taxpayers $3m to $5m a year.

The US department of agriculture would have to find the money in its existing budget, which is expected to see more cuts this year as Congress and the White House aim to trim federal spending.

The USDA issued a statement on Tuesday saying there are no slaughterhouses in the US that butcher horses for human consumption now, but if one were to open, it would conduct inspections to make sure federal laws were being followed.

USDA spokesperson Neil Gaffney declined to answer questions beyond what was in the statement.

Although there are reports of Americans dining on horse meat as recently as the 1940s, the practice is virtually non-existent in this country, where the animals are treated as beloved pets and iconic symbols of the West.

The last US slaughterhouse that butchered horses closed in 2007 in Illinois, and animal welfare activists warned of massive public outcry in any town where a slaughterhouse may open.

"If plants open up in Oklahoma or Nebraska, you'll see controversy, litigation, legislative action and basically a very inhospitable environment to operate," predicted Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of The Humane Society of the United States.

But pro-slaughter activists say the ban had unintended consequences, including an increase in neglect and the abandonment of horses, and that they are scrambling to get a plant going - possibly in Wyoming, North Dakota, Nebraska or Missouri.

They estimate a slaughterhouse could open in 30 to 90 days with state approval and eventually as many as 200 000 horses a year could be slaughtered for human consumption.

Most of the meat would be shipped to Europe and Asia, where it's treated as a delicacy.

Dave Duquette, president of the nonprofit, pro-slaughter group United Horsemen, said no state or site has been picked yet but he's lined up plenty of investors who have expressed interest in financing a processing plant.

While the last three slaughterhouses in the US were owned by foreign companies, he said a new plant would be American-owned.

"I have personally probably five to 10 investors that I could call right now if I had a plant ready to go," said Duquette, who lives in Hermiston, Oregon. He added, "If one plant came open in two weeks, I'd have enough money to fund it. I've got people who will put up $100 000."

Romantic notions

Sue Wallis, a Wyoming state lawmaker who's the group's vice president, said ranchers used to be able to sell horses that were too old or unfit for work to slaughterhouses but now they have to ship them to butchers in Canada and Mexico, where they fetch less than half the price.

The federal ban devastated "an entire sector of animal agriculture for purely sentimental and romantic notions", she said.

Lawmakers in California and Illinois have banned the slaughter of horses for human consumption, and more than a dozen states tightly regulate the sale of horse meat.

Federal lawmakers' lifting of the ban on funding for horse meat inspections came about in part because of the recession, which struck just as slaughtering stopped.

A federal report issued in June found that local animal welfare organisations reported a spike in investigations for horse neglect and abandonment since 2007.

In Colorado, for example, data showed that investigations for horse neglect and abuse increased more than 60% - from 975 in 2005 to almost 1 600 in 2009.

The report from the US government accountability office also determined that about 138 000 horses were transported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter in 2010, nearly the same number that were killed in the US before the ban took effect in 2007.

The US has an estimated 9 million horses.

  • Cracker - 2011-11-30 23:04

    Just as little as we humans care about other creatures and their pain and suffering so we can be sure that there is no higher hand caring about us. If there was that hand would also have cared about our animals.

      Maureen Webster - 2011-11-30 23:40

      Well said.

      Sharon Dreyer - 2011-12-03 17:09

      Very well said.

  • Marius Koen - 2011-12-01 01:06

    Some animals are not mend to be eaten. Dogs, cats, horses, the ape family... I am sure this started with the Chinese!

      Paul - 2011-12-01 05:03

      Blame communism for western cultural savagery, stereotype tunnel vision.

      Kim - 2011-12-01 05:31

      The only reason that horses, dogs or cats were not made to be eaten is because we human beings decided that. Nobody and nothing else decided it. If you want to know what is right or wrong, look at Mother Nature - she sets the rules.

      Martin - 2011-12-01 11:55

      big cats, crocs eat humans, any meat is fair game in nature, we are not above it

      Sharon Dreyer - 2011-12-03 17:08

      Asia market poaches perlemoen, rhino horns, tiger bones, eat cats and dogs by skinning them alive to increase their stress and the USA just goes right along with supplying them horses now. God the animal laws have got so bad in that country they have the same attitude as their Asian buyers. No doubt that's why Americans are the biggest supporters of the canned lion hunting in Africa. And here we sit between a rock and hard place with having these two countries as SA's trade partners. Which is the lesser evil?!?!

  • Shelley - 2011-12-01 06:18

    The same problems with owner abandonment and neglect are happening in Canada, yet they have five horse slaughter plants. There is no correlation between the two--primarily because horses raised as pets are given drugs that would make their meat unusable. This is about deliberately breeding horses for sale as meat.

  • romeo - 2011-12-01 06:26

    the next step is lifting the ban on human eating human.

  • OSSY24 - 2011-12-01 07:43


  • mamtad - 2011-12-01 07:58

    this is so inhuman. why the need to eat any animal flesh? as @Kim said so rightly, "If you want to know what is right or wrong, look at Mother Nature - she sets the rules." Human beings can live perfectly healthy and vibrant lives without needing to kill a living being to continue doing so. horses? really? we're not fit to be called human beings. we're barbarians.

      Anthonie - 2011-12-01 08:12

      The word MONEY!!! That is IT.

  • Fatty - 2011-12-01 08:32

    Whether or not we think it's ethical, horse has been eaten long before we developed sentimental attitudes towards animals as pets. It's widely eaten in Europe and it's actually very healthy and tasty. So for as long as we eat equally sentient creatures such as Beef, Pork and Lamb, we really have no moral leg to stand on (pardon the pun).

      nataschja.ferreira - 2011-12-01 11:29

      You clearly have no idea - horse meat is not meant for human consumption. No Its got nothing to do with being sentimental - it tastes disgusting by the way otherwise you're just a moron who should be living in the east where you can add cats and dogs to your fine palette.......

      warren.nieuwoudt - 2011-12-01 12:31

      @nataschja.ferreira : You say horse meat is not meant for human consumption because it tastes disgusting. I don't like cabbage but I am not saying you can't eat it. @Fatty - I agree with your rational and non emotional opinion.

      Fatty - 2011-12-01 16:20

      And do you eat meat nataschja? If you don't, Respect. If you do, well think about the pig or chicken you last ate and how it more than likely never had a chance to walk more than few metres in it's whole life. What should be more of a concern is whether ANY animal we choose to consume has had a humane existance. And we should also try and understand other people's ways of life before being ignorantly critical or just plain hypocritical.

  • carey.estermann - 2011-12-01 14:42

    Absolutely DISGUSTING!!!!!!!!!!

  • carey.estermann - 2011-12-01 14:44

    Absolutely DISGUSTING!!!!! How can they allow this???

  • ludlowdj - 2011-12-01 14:52

    The final twitches of the american dream before Riga-mortise sets in. As already predicted, the US as with the rest of the world will experience a complete financial collapse within the next 12 months. Their stupidity in allowing a private profit driven company to control their money (the federal reserve) has resulted in mass manipulation of a currency which has depreciated by 50% in the last 5 years. Wall streets involvement in the of the currency as well as sales of non existent dollars can only prevent the total collapse of the system for a while and their time is fairly much up.

  • Enlightened - 2012-01-22 09:49

    Before engaging in any debate, let us just get one thing clear. The slaughter of any animal is strictly regulated and designed by law not only to minimize pain but also any kind of anguish. Whilst these can not be totally eradicated, they certainly can be minimized and can in no way be compared to our own local killing of a bull 1st week in Anguish by our fellow countrymen. I work closely with this industry and the main concern is, and should be, the dignity of the animal in question. Anyone claiming differently simply has never visited an approved site. It is also very important to be aware of the fact that even slight nervousness of the animal in question, causes a number of biochemical reactions that can render the eat unsuitable for processing. You may look up PSE and DFD meat on the net. and this is just the most elementary. Secondly, horse meat tends to be fairly cheap and hence a good source of protein for those less fortunate. Whilst I can fully understand that some people get emotional about horses, this is the real world and should be dealt with rationally.

  • marc.ross.965 - 2013-02-08 10:14

    Horse meat is consumed in France, Italy, Romania, Bulgaria and many others. The meat is lean and fairly healthy compaired to beef. Unlike beef horse flesh becomes more tender with age. Horse, like Zebra, have higher iron content in blood as they are endurence runners and more oxygen is transported per unit of blood. This gives the meat a slightly sweeter taste than beef. If you can eat a cow, why not horse? The only people who can justifiably object are people who dont eat meat at all. I've met some pretty cute cows in my time and they will bond with humans as readily as a horse given the chance. (and I have worked with horses in a professional capacity). So the objection to equine meat is hypocritical if you eat meat at all.

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