May 07 2013
Americans don’t want to eat horse meat and Congress is trying to forbid its sale and export. Yet for the first time since 2007, new horse slaughterhouses are set to open in the United States.
While Europe has been embroiled in a horse meat scandal since January, five new US slaughterhouses have filed requests for licensing at the Agriculture Department (USDA), a spokesman told AFP.
One of them, in the New Mexican city of Roswell in the US Southwest, could start processing a hundred horses a day starting as early as this month.
“Everything is completed and ready to go,” said lawyer Blair Dunn, who represents owner Ricardo De Los Santos. According to Dunn, the USDA has confirmed the plant has passed inspection and that final authorization should come through within a matter of days.
The meat will be exported, mainly to Japan and to Europe, where controversy has erupted over products labeled as beef containing horse meat, but where horse meat nevertheless has a market.
But the future of the plant and others like it is far from assured, with animal protection groups and their allies in Congress trying to pass laws banning horse meat production.
Lawsuits and votes in Congress led to the closure of the last three horse slaughterhouses between 2007 and 2011. However, lawmakers later failed to renew the ban, a lapse some now want to correct.
“Horses are not bred for human consumption — they’re companion animals, similar to dogs or cats,” said Patrick Meehan, a Republican from Pennsylvania who has proposed a complete ban on the industry in the House of Representatives.
“Not only is it inhumane, it’s unsafe: over the course of their lives, horses are regularly treated with drugs that are potentially toxic to humans if ingested,” he told AFP over email.