Language that ended domestic horse slaughter and processing in the United States was stripped from the Ag Appropriations bill approved by Congress as part of a larger spending package.
Dave Duquette, President of the United Horsemen's group, says there were no riders prohibiting the inspection of horse meat, which he says is a huge victory. Duquette says he had been told by many people that horse slaughter would never return to this country, but he says they are going to have to take another look.
According to Duquette many calls, texts and emails have come through thanking his not-for-profit group for getting through to Congress.
"We've all done it for the love of the horse, not for the money," Duquette said. "The other side would tell you it's all about money, it's not about money for us."
The United Horsemen and others blame the Humane Society of the United States and other animal rights groups for getting Congress to approve those riders in 2007 effectively ending horse slaughter. They say that led to less humane treatment of horses through increased abandonment and neglect.
Now that the legislation has been signed lifting the federal ban on horse slaughter, the focus among horse groups is finding suitable plants for processing. Sue Wallis, co-leader of United Horsemen and the International Equine Business Association, says they have a great network across the country looking for facilities in places where meat processing is common practice. In particular they are looking at existing facilities that are already processing large mammals that could be retrofitted to handle horses relatively quickly.
Wallis says the horse processing facilities that were shuttered in 2007 when amendments passed banning the USDA from inspecting horse meat will not be reopened because the states where they are located, Texas, Illinois, California and Florida, have passed laws banning horse slaughter.
Once plants are in place, Wallis says it'll take years to recreate the market and reverse the damage done to the welfare of horses that have been left behind.
"When an industry takes as big and as deep and as hard of a hit as the horse industry has taken, it is going to take a while," Wallis said.
Wallis says the tide turned away from the animal rights/anti-slaughter movement when the Congressional GAO report this spring detailed the problems that were caused by the elimination of horse processing in the U.S. She believes knowledge and understanding of the situation will prevent most other states from enacting horse slaughter bans in the future.