RPT-US animal rights groups: 'Nay' to horse slaughter plan

Fri Mar 1, 2013 6:24pm EST
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By Carey Gillam

March 1 (Reuters) - Animal rights groups are threatening to sue the U.S. government if officials move ahead with plans to allow meat-packing companies to resume the slaughter of horses for human consumption, a practice that was banned in 2006.

"It's a big fight," said Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States. "We will sue if we have to. We're also working with Congress to stop this."

Congress lifted a 2006 ban in the fiscal 2012 appropriations act and since then "several" companies have asked for government inspections that would allow them to start slaughtering horses, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Without new action by Congress, the department has no choice but to allow slaughterhouse inspections to proceed, USDA said. Though horse meat cannot be sold in the United States for human consumption, it could exported.

Indeed, USDA notified Valley Meat Co. of Roswell, New Mexico, this week that the company's application for inspections would be approved after an extended delay, according to Valley Meat owner Ricardo De Los Santos.

Valley Meat filed suit against the USDA for delaying the process after it shut down beef operations and retrofitted its plant to allow for horse slaughter, said De Los Santos.

The company slaughtered cattle for two decades but closed that business down as drought and poor market conditions eroded profits, said De Los Santos. With roughly 130,000 horses currently estimated to be shipped out of the United States annually to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico, horse slaughtering seems like a viable market, he said.   Continued...