Updated on 06/19/2012 4:54PM

Bill would deny funds for inspectors at U.S. horse slaughter facilities

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LEXINGTON, Ky. – In a move that could prevent equine slaughterhouses from reopening in the U.S. in the near term, the House Appropriations Committee has voted once again to deny funding for federal inspectors at horse slaughter facilities.

In a voice vote Wednesday, the committee adopted Virginia Representative Jim Moran’s amendment to the Fiscal Year 2013 Agricultural Appropriations Bill. Moran’s amendment prohibits funding for the inspectors. The bill will now go to the House floor for a vote.

Legal U.S. horse slaughter ended in 2007, when plants in Texas and Illinois closed due to legal action and a state ban, respectively. Congress first denied funds for USDA inspections in 2008.

Moran introduced similar language in the Fiscal Year 2012 Agricultural Appropriations Bill, but although the language was adopted in the House’s version, it was removed in conference committee last November. That opened the door to horse slaughter within U.S. borders after a five-year effective end to the practice.

Earlier this month, Unified Equine announced plans to open a horse slaughterhouse in a retrofitted beef processing plant in Rockville, Mo., after residents of Mountain Grove, Mo., strongly rejected the plan. Unified Equine abandoned the plan, citing feasibility issues and expense. According to the Kansas City Star, the plant had planned to buy healthy, mature horses to be slaughtered for markets in China, Mexico, and Europe, as well as for some smaller horsemeat markets in the U.S. The company said it planned to employ about 50 people.

Valley Meat Co. also applied earlier this year to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service for federal inspection to allow it to slaughter horses for meat export. That would have opened a horse slaughter plant in Roswell, N.M.

In a study released last June, the U.S. Government Accountability Office estimated that nearly 138,000 U.S. horses – or roughly the same number as were slaughtered domestically in the year before the practice ceased in 2007 – shipped to slaughter in Canada and Mexico in 2010.

In May, Canadian slaughterhouse operator Viande Richelieu said it would no longer accept Thoroughbreds at its two Canadian facilities. That move followed an investigation by Ohio racing officials that resulted in the highly unusual return of two slaughter-bound racehorses, Canuki and Cactus Cafe. Ohio’s Beulah Park has an anti-slaughter policy. Viande Richelieu, which operates two of Canada’s four equine slaughterhouses, cited the expense and effort of returning the horses as part of its decision.