There is no market these days for horse meat in this country. The last horse slaughterhouses in the U.S. stopped production in 2007, the result of laws in Illinois and Texas banning horse slaughter or the sale of horse meat for human consumption. That same year, a congressional appropriations bill that included a rider banning the funding of U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection of horse meat went into effect. And without inspections, U.S. plants can't sell meat anywhere in the world. But after years of renewing the ban, Congress let it lapse in late 2011. Now the Department of Agriculture is under pressure from a New Mexico meat-processing company to resume horse meat inspections.
Congress should reinstate the ban on funding such inspections, for several reasons.
In this country, horses are not raised as food animals, with the sort of controls and restrictions in place for cattle, poultry and swine destined for our tables. Currently, horses that are bought here to be sold to processing plants in Mexico and Canada are acquired from random sources, aggregated at feedlots or ranches, and then shipped to slaughter. They have not been tracked from birth, as cattle and pigs are.
In addition, the horses have usually been treated over their lifetimes with a vast array of drugs, the most common of which is the pain reliever phenylbutazone, a substance the U.S. Food and Drug Administration stipulates can never be administered to animals processed for food.