Ag in the Courtroom
John Dillard grew up on a beef cattle farm and now works as an agricultural and environmental litigation attorney with OFW Law. His blog analyzes legal issues and court decisions that affect America’s farmers and ranchers.
Congress Effectively Kills Horse Slaughter
Jun 20, 2013
The Farm Bill’s demise is not the only thing that took place in our Capitol today. The Senate Appropriations Committee voted to de-fund FSIS inspections for horse slaughter on a voice vote. This action, coupled with the House Appropriation Committee’s adoption of a similar amendment all but ensures the 2013 Agriculture and Rural Development Appropriations bill will include a ban on FSIS inspections for horses, which will effectively re-instate a de facto prohibition on horse slaughter in the United States. No doubt, Congress’ decision to re-instate the ban is a major victory for Wayne Pacelle and the Humane Society of the United States.
While Congress has made its position known on the horse slaughter issue, it still has to address a few questions and issues:
- 142,740 horses were slaughtered in the United States in 2006, the last year horse slaughter was allowed. In 2012, 176,223 U.S. horses were slaughtered in foreign countries, mostly Canada and Mexico. Has the U.S. slaughter ban prevented horse slaughter or has it simply changed the location and applicable humane slaughter laws?
- Does Congress intend to compensate the horse industry for the long-term damage that the horse slaughter ban has wreaked on the horse market?
- Does Congress intend to compensate horse owners for the additional costs they bear (feed, veterinary care, shelter, humane euthanasia, burial) in caring for and ultimately disposing of unwanted horses?
- Does Congress intend to compensate Native American tribes whose grazing lands are decimated by feral horses and unwanted horses that are released onto tribal property?
- Congress spent $44 million in 2012 to manage 49,000 feral horses. 34,000 of those horses were adopted out to ranches that received payment in return. 15,000 feral horses are currently housed in holding pens. Congress will provide for 11,000 additional feral horses in 2013 at a cost of $2,000 per horse. Does Congress want to add to the glut of unwanted horses in the country?
While Congress has provided an answer as to how it feels about horse slaughter, it has conveiently punted on some harder questions. I will keep you updated on any developments.
John Dillard is an attorney with Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz P.C. (OFW Law), a Washington, DC-based firm that serves agricultural clients and clients with issues before federal and state courts, EPA, FDA, USDA, and OSHA. John focuses his practice on agricultural and environmental law. He occasionally tweets at @DCAgLawyer.