Horse slaughter controversy costing U.S. jobs, potentially hurting more horses

By Sara Wyant

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WASHINGTON, June 23 - Federal and state regulations intended to protect horses from being slaughtered in the U.S. have drained U.S. jobs, lowered the value of U.S. horses and created opportunities where horses destined for slaughter could be treated even less humanely as they might have --- if they had remained under the U.S. regulatory structure. Those are at least part of the conclusions reached by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in a report released Wednesday.

 “The GAO report makes it clear ending horse processing has had a detrimental effect on both the economy and animal welfare,” noted Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb, in reaction to the report.  “In light of this information, Congress should re-evaluate this misguided policy to allow responsible horse management which would create jobs, generate revenue, and strengthen a struggling horse industry.”

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 The GAO report, “HORSE WELFARE: Action Needed to Address Unintended Consequences from Cessation of Domestic Slaughter,” was developed after the Senate Committee on Appropriations directed that the agency examine the status of horse welfare in the United States since horse slaughter operations ceased in 2007. Several lawmakers are supporting a measure that would ban slaughter in the U. S. and the export of horses across our borders for slaughter.

 The GAO found that, after U.S. slaughter facilities were shut down, the slaughter industry has grown just across U.S. borders. From 2006 through 2010, Canadian and Mexican imports increased by 148 percent and 660 percent, respectively, with the total number of horses imported from the United States for slaughter increasing from about 33,000 in 2006 to about 138,000 in 2010, according to GAO.

 Other key findings:

    ·         GAO showed a statistically significant reduction in average sale price across all price categories after the cessation of slaughter in 2007. For example, the average sale price for horses in the lowest price category (20th percentile), dropped by about $110 per head (from $433 to $323), and the average price for the highest price category (80th percentile) dropped by about $140 per head (from $2,380 to $2,241).

    ·         State and local governments, tribes, and animal welfare organizations, especially horse rescues, are facing growing pressures to care for abandoned and neglected horses at a time of economic recession and tight budgets.
    ·         The increase in unwanted domesticated horses available for sale or being abandoned on public lands is affecting the federal government's ability to manage wild horse and burro populations. In an October 2010 Web message, the BLM Director estimated that the number of horses and burros on lands the agency manages exceeds by about 12,000 the number that would allow these lands to remain sustainable for other uses and species.


Both advocates and critics of the slaughter issue have raised concerns about unintended consequences of the cessation of domestic slaughter, pointed out GAO.  For example, “both sides note that horses intended for slaughter must now travel much farther distances to foreign slaughtering facilities, potentially, during some part of that trip, in conveyances designed for smaller animals and without adequate rest, food, and water,” according to the report.

 “For those who oppose horse slaughter, the solution is to ban both domestic horse slaughter and trade in horsemeat or horses intended for slaughter for human consumption, effectively ending the export of horses intended for slaughter. Bills were introduced in the 107th and 108th Congresses to create such a ban, but none were enacted into law. In contrast, for those who support horse slaughter, the solution is to reopen domestic slaughtering facilities.”

 Again this year, Sens. Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., have introduced the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act of 2011, a critical measure that will end the inhumane killing of American horses for human consumption and the export of horses across our borders for slaughter. Original cosponsors of this legislation, in addition to Sens. Landrieu and Graham, includes Daniel K. Akaka, D-Hawaii., Mark Begich, D-Ark., Scott Brown, R-Mass., Thomas R. Carper, D-Del., Susan Collins, R-Maine, Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Mark Steven Kirk, R-Ill., Frank R. Lautenberg, D-N.J., Carl Levin D-Mich., Joseph I. Lieberman, I-Conn., Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., Bernard Sanders, I-Vt. and Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y.

 For a copy of the full GAO report:





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