Budget pressure on the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) may prove a saviour for slaughter horses should the industry resume on American soil, a horse advocacy group believes.
A $US2 billion budget cut to the USDA has prompted slaughter plant inspector furloughs – mandatory time off work with no pay – within days of discovering the department intends to approve horse slaughter inspections inside the US.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told the House Agriculture committee that due to the cutbacks, each USDA inspector will likely be furloughed for 11 to 12 days at a time. The White House suggests the furloughs will cause meatpacking plants to shut down periodically.
“USDA inspections must take place on site at each US slaughterhouse in order for its meat product to be legally available for interstate commerce,” said Katia Louise, of the Wild for Life Foundation (WFLF).
The former ban on the spending of taxpayer dollars for USDA inspections of horse slaughter had stopped the slaughter of horses at US plants. However, this provision was stripped in a farm bill in November 2011.
“Proponents of slaughter argue that it would be better to slaughter horses in the US where we can supposedly ensure their humane treatment,” Louise said.
“But numerous governmental reports and undercover investigations show that USDA inspections fail to stop insidious abuses from taking place inside our slaughterhouses.
“Substantial documented evidence reveals egregious violations and a total lack of enforcement by the USDA in US horse slaughterhouses before they were shut down in 2007. If horse slaughter plants are reopened in the US, horses will undoubtedly suffer torturous agony on US soil again.”
In the absence of a federal ban, tens of thousands of US horses are shipped across federal borders to slaughter plants in Mexico and Canada each year and from there the horse meat is shipped primarily to the EU.
Before 2006, the USDA spent about $US5 million annually for inspections at US-based horse slaughter plants.