KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Members of Congress showed a growing understanding of the unintended consequences of the closing of America’s three horse slaughter plants, according to participants in Livestock Marketing Association’s fourth annual Washington, D.C. Fly-In.
Since a series of legislative and judicial actions closed the three plants, Livestock Marketing Association President Jim Santomaso said the industry is seeing “more and more reports of abandoned horses, and of horses turned out and left to starve, because owners can’t afford their upkeep, or have the means to properly dispose of them.”
Santomaso, the operator of a Sterling, Colo., market, said association members are also reporting that horses are being left at their facilities when they don’t sell, “because their owners don’t want them back.”
Lawmakers, he said, “are ready to listen to the argument that banning slaughter is creating huge problems.”
The representatives made these points in meetings with the chairman or staff members of key panels, including the House and Senate Agriculture Committees and lawmakers from the members’ home states.
The group, which was in Washington April 27-30, also met with the chair of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., to discuss the unintended consequences of using the appropriations process in removing a humane method of disposal for unwanted horses.
DeLauro is an advocate of the horse slaughter ban. Her subcommittee voted to end federal funding for plant inspection, which meant the U.S. plants could not stay open.
In February, the Livestock Marketing Association filed an “amicus curiae” (friend of the court) brief with the Supreme Court, asking it to overturn the Illinois law and the federal appeals court decision upholding that law.
That law, and the subsequent appeals decision, effectively exempted 40,000–60,000 horses from humane slaughter, the brief said.
The Cavel plant slaughtered that many horses annually, all under the provisions of the federal Humane Slaughter Act, which applies only to U.S. plants.
“We told the lawmakers that horse owners want and need a legitimate, practical and humane way to dispose of their horses that have come to the end of their useful life, but still have value as a slaughter animal,” Santomaso said.
The “terrible result” of legislation banning this slaughter, he said, “is to close legitimately operated food processing plants, based solely on cultural and emotional arguments. And that sets a very dangerous precedent of banning a legitimate meat product for reasons other than food safety or public health.”
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