US horse slaughter a step closer, with federal nod


Federal authorities have granted permission for horse-meat inspections at a New Mexico abattoir, clearing the way for the resumption of horse slaughter on US soil.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced approval for Valley Meat Company and said it expected to issue permits next week for Rains Natural Meats in Missouri and Responsible Transportation in Iowa.

The USDA decision has been condemned by animal welfare groups, who have long labelled horse slaughter a cruel and predatory industry.

A still from the undercover video.Valley Meat Company has been pushing to restart the slaughter industry in the US for more than a year, with plans to use a converted cattle-processing facility. The meat will be exported for human consumption.

The company said it would begin final preparations, with plans to hire up to 100 employees in the coming weeks and months to man the plant.

The plant has been involved in litigation with the USDA, accusing it of intentionally delaying a grant of inspections. Friday, June 28, was a deadline set by the court for a response from the USDA in the case.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and Front Range Equine Rescue indicated their intention to file suit immediately against the USDA to put a stop to the decision.

The plant’s approval comes on the heels of a push by lawmakers to prevent the slaughter trade getting re-established.

The House and Senate appropriations committees have both passed amendments to the 2014 USDA budget that would prohibit funding for federal inspections, in essence banning horse slaughter in the US.

The Obama Administration and Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack have requested that they not be funded.

If the USDA budget in the House and Senate receives a vote, it is expected to pass in both chambers, and the plants would again lose inspectors and be forced to close at the end of October.

USDA spokeswoman Courtney Rowe said: “Since Congress has not yet acted to ban horse slaughter inspection, (the agriculture department) is legally required to issue a grant of inspection today to Valley Meats in Roswell, N.M., for equine slaughter.”

“The Administration has requested Congress to reinstate the ban on horse slaughter. Until Congress acts, the Department must continue to comply with current law.”

Inspections were first defunded in 2007, but all three foreign plants then operating in Illinois and Texas had already been shut by state laws before the courts had decided on challenges to the defunding. Essentially the defunding simply kept the plants from moving to other states.

Funding was restored in 2011 when the House passed a defunding amendment, but the Senate did not.

A four-member conference committee then reinstated the funding by a three to one vote. Since the reinstatement, several plants have requested that they be granted inspections.

The Equine Welfare Alliance, in commenting on Valley Meat Co approval, said it was unclear how soon any of these companies might begin slaughtering horses. Valley Meat Co must still obtain a water discharge permit in order to begin operations, and there is some question about other permits, it said.

The New Mexico Environmental Department is expected to hold a public hearing on the Valley Meats discharge permit within 30 days.

The Humane Society of the United States said the approval for Valley Meat Co meant the federal government could potentially spend millions of taxpayer dollars to start inspections at horse slaughter plants, only to have Congress terminate the process in the coming months.

The society and Front Range Equine Rescue said they planned to file suit immediately against the USDA to put a stop to the decision.

The two groups had previously told the USDA that they would take aggressive legal action against the agency, in light of the serious unresolved environmental and food safety issues surrounding horse slaughter.

The senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation at the HSUS, Jonathan Lovvorn, said: “The USDA’s decision to start up domestic horse slaughter, while at the same time asking Congress to defund it, is bizarre and unwarranted.

“Slaughter plants have a history of polluting their communities and producing horsemeat that is tainted with a dangerous cocktail of banned drugs. We intend to hold the Obama administration accountable in federal court for this inhumane, wasteful and illegal decision.”

Front Range Equine Rescue president Hilary Wood said: “America’s horses are not raised as food animals, and they receive numerous substances during their lives making them unfit and illegal for human consumption.

“Adding insult to injury, the suffering of the horses in the slaughter pipeline and the danger to humans makes this action more than inhumane.

“Horses bound for slaughter have many alternatives open to them including re-training, re-homing, and humane euthanasia.

“We remain committed to stopping this insult to justice and our sense of justice.”

The groups said the USDA’s approval was particularly surprising, considering the recent scandal in the European Union, where horsemeat was discovered in food products labeled as beef.

The operation of horse slaughter plants in the US will make it more difficult to prevent such cross contamination, they said.

The groups noted there was no system in the US to track medications and veterinary treatments given to horses to ensure that their meat is safe.

Latest research and information from the horse world.

13 thoughts on “US horse slaughter a step closer, with federal nod

  • June 29, 2013 at 10:08 am

    Even though I am sadden at the thought of all those horses being killed, having been raised on a ranch, I see the need for this. It will allow the old, crippled, unhealthy, ect… a place to go. Without it, SOMEONE has to feed all these animals. With feed costs the way they are, I believe that all the people that are against this opening, then let THEM feed all the unwanted, no longer usefull, whatever… otherwise they should SEE the NEED for this. Or feed them yourselves.

    • June 29, 2013 at 1:32 pm

      The average age of a horse going to slaughter is 7 years old. Over 90% of the horses that are slaughtered are sound and healthy. Horse slaughter is a predatory and cruel business. This is not about old, lame and sick horses…it’s about our family riding horses being stolen out of their pastures and whisked away where they can’t be traced. It happens every day. It’s about kill buyers out bidding families and rescues just for spite…it’s about people being tricked into selling their horses to “good homes’, when the reality is their horse will soon be a toxic pot roast for someone in Europe. Get the facts…this is not right in any way. We may as well open up slaughter houses for all the unwanted cats and dogs in this country. After all, other countries eat them!I am president of a non-profit rescue…I feed the “unwanted”…they are wanted….

      • June 30, 2013 at 3:52 am

        People who slaughter horses to eat are barbarians…..plain and simple. I think these people have some serious mental issues.

    • June 29, 2013 at 2:34 pm

      What about the horse stolen Lisa? Who will protect our horses from these greedy people? Talk to owners who have had this happen.

      There were other ways, no one wanted them because they could not get $$$ for them.

      And BTW people like me have always taken horses no one wants and made great horses out of them, we have taken them on but the breeders have bred out of control. AQHA brags about it really you think this was the only way. Sad…

    • June 29, 2013 at 2:53 pm

      I agree with Lisa but I would prefer these Horses to be killed in a humane way in which they do not suffer or realize what is happening. We do have too many unwanted Horses in this country and I really don’t see how they can all be adopted. It saddens me that this is the way it has become but with the huge percentages of unwanted Horses the BLM Horse have a slimmer chance of adoption.

    • June 29, 2013 at 3:21 pm

      no offense but you’re a b****. Useless horse? well who made it useless? Humans did… so humans should take responsibility, call the vet, and have it put down. I’m sickened to live on a planet with people like you saying there’s a NEED for horse slaughter plants. I hope you never own horses again in your life. YOU should be slaughtered. Humans are the reason there are too many horses bred every year and I see PERFECTLY good horses thrown into slaughter by the thousands. I’m one of the people that help STOP that and let me tell you I’ve taken some horses that were “useless” and lame and older and turned them into show horses so you my friend are the useless one.

    • June 29, 2013 at 3:23 pm

      Not to mention that slaughter is NEVER humane. It’s cruel and a lot of horses end up nearly dying just getting there not to mention not being fed properly before slaughter or treated right. All the old and useless huh? SO i guess we should just round up all our old and useless elderly people that don’t work and live off of government support and send them to slaughter too right? Humans are idiots. I’m ashamed to be one sometimes. Especially when i come across people like you

    • December 19, 2013 at 11:31 am

      Old and crippled their not wanted the young ones average age 7 years old.

  • June 29, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    I agree with Lisa but I would prefer these Horses to be killed in a humane way in which they do not suffer or realize what is happening. We do have too many unwanted Horses in this country and I really don’t see how they can all be adopted. It saddens me that this is the way it has become but with the huge percentages of unwanted Horses the BLM Horse have a slimmer chance of adoption.

  • June 29, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    Is there a need to feed people in Europe poisoned meat? With ivermectin, and the myriad of other carcinogenic drugs fed to horses in this country, and without proper meat inspection, WHY would anyone want to eat horse meat exported from the USA? Contrary to propaganda, the animals sent to slaughterhouses are healthy, young, well-fed animals – old, sick, crippled animals don’t make good steaks. Some are even stolen from their homes and slaughtered before their owners can find them. It really has nothing to do with eliminating unwanted animals. It has everything to do with the high price of horse meat as a delicacy on European tables. It is illegal to eat horse meat in the USA or even put it into dog food here. There are millions of unwanted dogs and cats too, but no one is suggesting those be slaughtered for food – is that next?

  • June 29, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    The old and infirmed are not slaughtered it is the young healthy overbred horses. I do feed my 40 year olds myself because I take horse ownership seriously.
    maybe we could use the millions of tax dollars required to pay inspectors to benefit a few greedy individuals and buy hay. I do not want my tax dollars funding horse slaughter.

  • June 29, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    Lisa, your ‘old, crippled and unhealthy’ pro-slaughter argument is, well, old, crippled and unhealthy.

    Did you bother to actually read the above article or do any research at all on horse slaughter?

    As is typical of the pro-slaughter fanatics, you completely fail to comprehend the simple fact that horse meat is toxic. You also don’t seem to know that it’s illegal to transport crippled horses to slaughter.

    I hope that the ranch you grew up on wasn’t a working ranch that raised food producing animals. The fact that you see nothing wrong with sending sick/medicated animals to market is disturbing.

    With regard to your ‘feed them yourselves’ remark, that is exactly what responsible owners do. We feed and care for our horses until their quality of life fades. Then we call the vet and have the horse humanely euthanized.

    I recently had a horse euthanized and the cost was significantly less than the cost of 30 days of care so don’t bother with the ‘can’t afford to call the vet’ argument.

    Of all the horses that die each year only one percent of them die in a kill box. In other words, the other 99% of horses were owned by people who found an alternative to shipping to slaughter.

    The fact of the matter is this, slaughter is simply about greedy owners trying to get the last few bloody dollars out of their horses.

  • June 30, 2013 at 9:53 am

    Well put Joyce, and stolen horses wind up there as well Wallis was all talk when she said they had things in place to stop it, my Mustang’s butt!

    There have been 3 pro slaughter people who NEGLECTED their horses and had them removed.

    Dorothy Robertson *Coloredcowhorse* has had 3 set of horses removed, her 10 yo stallion foundered and weak from being skeletal had to be put down by the county. She claims she had a $40 arguement with the vet is why that poor horse was alive. Being in NV she lived 7 miles from an auction house and they sent to slaughter. She claims the registry would be disappointed if they went to slaughter. She half assed tried to sell these horses

    Another Pro idiot has had one herd removed, half of this recent one TB horses. She is very vocal and in with Wallis’ crowd.

    Then you have the one Warmblood breeder who starved her champion horses.

    So see they do more neglecting and blame others as Dorothy had.

    There are other solutions we have addressed but they cry foul because there is no $$$ given for the horse. NOW you tell me Lisa how is it we have other alternatives but since no $$$ is given to the owner that we are supposed to pay for their mistakes?

    I think we ought to make a law that if a foal hits the ground a $100 tax should be applied $50 to the state and the other to a fund to care for homeless horses.

    If people would stop breeding everything in their barn, outside mares, shipping semen, cloning and breeding those clones and the niche breeders such as halter, reining etc MAYBE their dang horses would be worth more as less of the bloodlines would be available and the good breeders can do their job and the wannabes and the I want a foal types will stop!


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