American Horse Meat Makes a Comeback
American Horse Meat Makes a Comeback

 The American horse meat industry is back in business. Regulators recently gave the green light to facilities in New Mexico and Iowa, with more approvals expected soon. 

Right out of the gate, however, the burgeoning enterprise already faces big hurdles. With two bills to ban the practice before Congress and a recent European contamination scandal, appreciation for equine eats is at an all-time low.

Animal rights groups have fought for years to terminate the industry, and although there has been broad support for a ban in both the House and Senate, the Farm Bureau and a handful of lawmakers have prevented past bills from going to committee.

Congress previously snuffed out horse meat production by repealing inspection provisions for horse slaughterhouses. But the strategy was only designed to be temporary, and since the repeal ended in 2011, plants eager for production have been prodding the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to fulfill its obligation.

USDA spokeswoman Courtney Rowe told reporters that while the Obama administration has requested that lawmakers reinstate the ban on horse slaughter, “Until Congress acts, the Department must continue to comply with current law.”

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Preventing a cruel and painful death is one reason that many want to stop the horse meat trade. According to Nancy Perry, Senior Vice President of government relations for The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), unlike cows and pigs, horses are easily startled, making a profitable yet humane slaughter system impossible to achieve. 

“Even if you did everything possible and put all kinds of money into it, horses have a different response,” Perry said. “They are the most extreme example of a flight animal you can imagine.”

Photos the ASPCA obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request show animals with deep puncture wounds in the eye and head, revealing that a system designed for an immediate kill instead just jabs the jittery target.

“We’re talking about a more fractious animal in an environment that’s already pretty imperfect and expecting that to be done humanely,” Perry said. “It’s a foolish expectation.”

Contamination Threat

Although horse meat is a culinary tradition in some parts of Asia and Europe, Americans tend to see the animal more as a pet than a main course. The horse meat industry functions exclusively to supply a foreign market, but recent history has shown that horse meat can easily spread beyond intended boundaries.

In February, food inspectors in Germany, Greece, France, and other European countries found that packages said to contain beef also contained a significant amount of undeclared horse—in some cases the package was found to be 100 percent equine. 

While no one wants mystery meat, researchers say the prospect of horse is particularly dangerous. Since horses are raised primarily for work and entertainment, they are likely to have been treated with any of 110 drugs deemed unsafe for human consumption. Animals raised for food would not be given those drugs.

New Mexico Attorney General Gary King tried to prevent horse meat production in his state by directing attention to the threat of drug contamination. In a June 10 statement, King pointed to a 2010 food safety study involving phenylbutazone (PBZ)—a strong anti-inflammatory widely prescribed for horses, but potentially fatal to humans.

Researchers from Tufts University found that while veterinary records from horses sent to slaughter are not available to the public, “there appears to be inadequate testing to ensure that horses given banned substances such as PBZ do not enter the slaughter pipeline.”

Federal regulators say they have since improved their technology and know how to prevent problems. According to a statement from the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, American consumers should not be worried that horse will be mixed with other meat as happened in Europe, because “horse meat is not allowed to be processed in the same facility as other species in the United States.”

Regulators boast a “stringent inspection process, testing capabilities, and labeling requirements,” but Perry isn’t convinced.

“What happened in Europe could easily happen here now,” she said.

“When the scandal was at its height in the UK and Europe, the USDA was asked if it could happen here and their only reassurance was horses aren’t slaughtered in the U.S. So they must have believed just a few short months ago that domestic horse slaughter was actually creating a risk.”

Even if the USDA managed to mitigate all problems related to horse inspection, critics say it still diverts necessary attention away from other endeavors, like poultry and beef. With recent reports showing meat inspections already falling short, diverting resources to horse slaughterhouses adds insult to injury.

“We’re going to take resources in this time of sequester and spread it thinner so we can cover a product that we don’t want, that we don’t politically support, and that we’re not going to consume,” Perry said.

 

  • TomDurfee

    AS Fire fighters die we cut funding to them and then fund
    horse slaughter.

    The U.S. Forest Service’s $2 billion-a-year firefighting
    budget – the government’s biggest – has been cut by 5 percent. Agency officials
    say that has meant 500 fewer firefighters and 50 fewer fire engines than last
    year. Just think of the 19 fire fighters that died, maybe if they had the
    funding that would be used to slaughter horses they would be alive today.

  • TomDurfee

    AS Fire fighters die we cut funding to them and then fund
    horse slaughter.

    The U.S. Forest Service’s $2 billion-a-year firefighting
    budget – the government’s biggest – has been cut by 5 percent. Agency officials
    say that has meant 500 fewer firefighters and 50 fewer fire engines than last
    year. Just think of the 19 fire fighters that died, maybe if they had the
    funding that would be used to slaughter horses they would be alive today.

  • savinghorses2

    Ok so here we go The USDA has labeled meats with ecoli, salmonella, hepatitis, anthrax, mad cow, toxoplasmosis, etc, etc,. To clarify-WE don’t eat the label which is indicating safety, no we eat the meats, when meats are on re-call, people are already ill, which is in our minds too late. The USDA supports the ban in order to protect people, then the FDA which states which drugs are safe or not, puts horse drugs in a separate classification than the drugs for say cattle, so cattle people think the exact same antibiotics and drug levels for medications that cross species are the amounts rated for cattle and there fore are safe. In fact, not true doesn’t even cover it. The fact are cattle have 4 stomachs which break down internal medications and their given a far different version of antibiotics and medications that give the supposed safety barrier. In horses they are more streamlined and have only one stomach so the process for drugs which enter the stomach distributes medications more evenly throughout the bodies. As well, the amount of drugs administered to horses are strictly on the needs and tolerance of the horses, so they are administered in most cases at the highest possible dosage the horses bodies can tolerate which then changes the amount of time they would need to withdraw from. As well, horses given medications and such over extended periods of time build these drugs up in their bloodstream which makes it impossible to make a set withdrawal period, in fact, they based the amount of the withdrawal times on the base amount you give a horse one dosage of medication or one routine treatment that doesn’t account for the period of time the horses receive extended injury or period of illness. FSIS has NO absolutely NO identifiable way to determine if they are checking for the Correct drugs, the document they released does not state they have a determination which verifies that each horse has NO risk of any dangerous drugs prior to slaughter, without that they have to depend on the kill buyer to be honest, so keep in mind the kill buyer is the person male or female who makes their money off of bringing the most horses to the plant. So they have no interest in anything but numbers, so they will say yeah, drug free to every horse, we cannot depend on the horse suppliers, the slaughterhouse only makes their money off the meats they process, so they accept anything that walks knowing FSIS inspectors only spot check the meats. Sp Spott

  • savinghorses2

    Petition to Overturn the Legalization of the Slaughter of Horses for Human Consumption on change.org and under animals. May I also point to the Farm Bureau who also brought you Monsanto and GMO’S and may I also point out the Farm Bureau has absolutely NO connection to the Horse Industry and otherwise is NOT a benefactor to support the welfare of animals, no contributions to the Industry Financially and doesn’t sponsor the Horse Industry except for the death of the animals. We must also ask why a Farm Bureau Insurance would get involved in the lobby for the slaughter of horses. They almost wiped out 4-H until parents became advocates to stop the closure of FFA and 4-H in many states and saved it, then they stated oh we lobbied. I am amazed at how they are NEVER the leader when it matters but only when others put the torch in the air. Our local FFA and 4-H asked the Farm Bureau for a sponsorship and the guy on the phone stated they DO NOT SUPPORT the horse related groups! HOW dare they get involved in horse slaughter when they don’t support the on-going productivity of the clubs and organizations that support the usefulness of the horses they are attempting to kill. WE also got a taste of the foul attitude of the Farm Bureau when we asked them in Illinois to re-consider the slaughter issue and fight for the right to life, the man responded with, the only good horses are dead ones! So that folks is the Farm Bureau, in the RAW! THe ONLY good horse is DEAD one. That clearly defined the Farm Bureau. That would mean that they were on the phone talking to 4-H leader and her club was on speakerphone-so 27 under the age of 18 kids and their parents were listening in during the daytime meeting call. They combined own 65 horses/ponies/miniatures/burros/and 1 zeony. The Farm Bureau’s stance on this situation is crass, irresponsible, unbelievable, as these children in various ages were so up set by the wording the younger ones cried out in disbelief and the older kids were shocked and yelled out responses, the person on the phone asked if people were listening and the quick thinking leader regrouped and said, All of club now knows the undeniable, resprehensible truth! That’s every member present, as I said at the start of the call, we are all present and listening as we are requesting a special sponsorship for our horse club. Then he simple got quiet and hung up. That’s your government folks! Abusive to kids, need a reason not to like a killer buyer? That’s pretty close right there.

    • debbie

      Absolutely despicable, but NOT surprised, I guess what I have come to believe is OUR collected voice WE THE PEOPLE does not exist anymore, the big backers of campaign’s, BIG MONEY matters only with there own agenda’s certainly not the American People and CERTAINLY NOT the horses…. You know our Gov. COULD do good things with our horses and stop this slaughter that only endorses over breeding and abuse it’s their dumping grounds, instead we could set up such great humane facilities with great humanitarian jobs to start there are ALL kinds of avenues, with the money they would spend on horse slaughter just THINK what we all could do for a better world for us and the horses and any animal for that matter, but anyone or almost everyone in politics runs from any animal welfare such a waste and shame, it really shows to me what kind of a society we have become, if this behavior continues this America that we know will be gone it already has been happening, because our OWN ELECTED official’s are killing it from the inside out…….

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