Congress's five-year-old ban on domestic horse slaughter died a quiet death right before Thanksgiving. The reason cited for ending the ban? A GAO report on unintended consequences, says the Oklahoman:
Members of Congress who decided to end the prohibition on domestic horse slaughtering relied heavily on research provided in June by the General Accountability Office, Congress' auditing arm.
At the request of top members of the subcommittees that oversee spending for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the GAO looked into the effects of the ban — in place since 2006 — and released a report entitled "Horse Welfare: Action Needed to Address Unintended Consequences from Cessation of Domestic Slaughter."
Though there are some shades of gray, the report clearly connects the ban to an increase in abandoned horses, a drop in prices for some horses and a dramatic increases in exports of horses for slaughter.
"Horse welfare in the United States has generally declined since 2007, as evidenced by a reported increase in horse abandonments and an increase in investigations for horse abuse and neglect," the report states.
"The extent of the decline is unknown due to a lack of comprehensive, national data, but state officials attributed the decline in horse welfare to many factors, but primarily to the cessation of domestic slaughter and the U.S. economic downturn.
"Abandoned, abused, and neglected horses present challenges for state and local governments, tribes and animal welfare organizations."
As I noted during an earlier guestblogging stint here at Hit & Run in June, the unintended consequences GAO reported and that led Congress to act may have been unintended, but were nevertheless predictable:
[A] 2006 report, The Unintended Consequences of a Ban on the Humane Slaughter (Processing) of Horses in the United States… predicted, among other problems, that "[t]he potential for a large number of abandoned or unwanted horses is substantial."
Justifications for a ban were never clear nor convincing. For example, the claim (made by an official from a group that helped usher in the ban) that "we don't eat horses" is disingenuous and lacks support. Under the ban, Americans can't buy domestic horsemeat. What's more, while the completely NSFW case earlier this month of a Portland nudist who slaughtered and gutted a horse, posed for pictures inside the horse, and then ate the horse may be somewhat of an outlier, an unscientific CNN poll last year found 37% of respondents either had or would eat horse.
Another argument–that jobs slaughtering horses "are of dubious economic value to the individuals who take them"–doesn't even warrant a response beyond noting it for posterity.
So now that horse slaughter is coming back to the U.S., will you eat horse meat?
Baylen Linnekin is the director of Keep Food Legal, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving and increasing "culinary freedom," the right of all Americans to grow, sell, prepare and eat foods of their own choosing. To join or learn more about the group's activities, go here. To follow Keep Food Legal on Twitter, go here; to follow Linnekin, go here.