USDA grants horse slaughter plant approvals

Appropriations process has banned the use of funds for FSIS inspections, but loophole in 2011 requires USDA to determine safety of facilities.

In recent days the agency has approved applications for horse slaughter facilities at Valley Meat Company LLC in Roswell, N.M. and Responsible Transportation in Sigourney, Iowa for equine slaughter. The agency is also reviewing the application for Rains Natural Meats in Gallatin, Mo., which the FSIS said it expected to receive its grant soon.

Since Congress has not yet acted to ban horse slaughter inspection, the Food Safety Inspection Service is legally required to issue a grant of inspection. Both the House and Senate appropriation bills banned funding for horse slaughter.

However, Congress lifted the ban on spending for horse slaughter inspection in 2011, which legally obligates FSIS to restart its horse slaughter inspection program.

Given that FSIS last conducted equine inspection seven years ago, a significant amount of time was required to reestablish the processes needed for inspection of equines, the agency said in a statement. 

Because of FSIS' stringent inspection process, testing capabilities, and labeling requirements, American consumers should not be concerned that horse meat will be labeled and sold as the meat of another species, as happened earlier this year in other countries.

FSIS said horses are not allowed to be slaughtered and horse meat is not allowed to be processed in the same facility as other species in the United States. FSIS also conducts species tests on meat and poultry products that are produced domestically and that are imported to the United States. FSIS' species tests are capable of detecting beef, sheep, swine, poultry, deer and horse.

In response to the USDA’s decision, The Humane Society of the United States and Front Range Equine Rescue plan to file suit immediately against the USDA to put a stop to the agency's action. The two groups previously informed USDA that they would take aggressive legal action against the agency, in light of the serious unresolved environmental and food safety issues surrounding horse slaughter.

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