WASHINGTON — Horse slaughter for meat will continue in the United States, despite a vote in Congress to halt the practice, the Agriculture Department announced Tuesday.
U.S. horse meat is sold mostly for human consumption in Europe and Asia, although some goes to U.S. zoos to feed animals.
Congress didn't ban horse slaughter outright, but last year used a tactic that is common in spending legislation. Horses to be slaughtered must pass inspection by department veterinarians, so lawmakers voted to yank the salaries and expenses of those inspectors.
Department officials say the law requires inspections regardless. They announced Tuesday they would pay for live horse inspections by charging the slaughterhouses for inspections.
Rep. John E. Sweeney (R-N.Y.) denounced the decision, saying, "Commerce and greed have ruled the day.
"To end this practice, Congress, with widespread public support, passed this amendment by a landslide vote in both the House and the Senate," said Sweeney, who serves on the House Appropriations Committee. "This action is a direct defiance of congressional intent."
The department "is thumbing its nose at Congress," said Michael Markarian of the Humane Society of the United States. "The lives of America's horses, which have served us faithfully and provided us with companionship, are at stake."
The department acted on requests from slaughterhouses in Texas and Illinois that said their communities could be facing $41 million in losses.