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Horse slaughter ban lifted in U.S. after report on unintended consequences

BY CHRIS CASTEEL Published: November 27, 2011

Sen. Herbert Kohl, D-Wisconsin, and Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Georgia, were among the members of a House-Senate subcommittee that stripped out an amendment to keep the ban in place for another year. Kingston and Lynn Becker, a spokeswoman for Kohl, cited statistics from the GAO report in explaining why they took action.

The report says the number of horses exported to Mexico and Canada from the U.S. for slaughter increased to 138,000 last year, up from 33,000 in 2006. And, according to the report, both sides of the issue agree that horses must now travel much further to be slaughtered, without adequate rest, food and water and potentially in vehicles designed for smaller animals.

Lobbyists for animal rights groups say the GAO report ignores the fact that horses were being neglected and abused before the ban and were also being transported long distances within the United States for slaughter. They also say that the increase in abandonments is directly attributable to the economy, since many types of animals are abandoned when people no longer can afford to care for them.

The GAO recommended that Congress either end the ban and resume inspections that could improve the welfare of horses or make the ban explicit and extend it to exports.


Horses slaughtered in the U.S.

• 1990: 345,900

• 2000: 47,134

• 2004: 66,183

• 2006: 104,899 (last full year of domestic slaughtering operations)

• 2007: 29,767 (last operations close; congressional ban on USDA inspections in effect)

Estimates of U.S. exports of horses for slaughter:

• 2004: 23,782

• 2007: 78,061 (last three domestic slaughterhouses closed)

• 2008: 99,049

• 2009: 109,487

• 2010: 137,984

SOURCE: General Accountability Office


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