The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia filed an opinion March 28 to block the Department of Agriculture from providing antemortem horse inspections for a fee to horse processing facilities.
In 2005, Congress passed the Fiscal Year 2006 Agriculture Appropriations legislation that prohibited federal funding for inspections of horses slaughtered for human consumption. But following a petition by the three horse processing facilities in the United States, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service decided in February 2006 to provide a voluntary fee-for-service program under which the plants could apply for and pay for antemortem inspections.
In the court's opinion, the FSIS ruling was in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.
The court's decision will affect the country's last fully operational horse processing facility, located in DeKalb, Ill. The other two facilities, located in Texas, stopped processing horses to export for human consumption after an appeals court ruled in January that the practice was illegal in Texas (see JAVMA, March 1, 2007).
The two court decisions are part of a broader effort by multiple groups and individuals to permanently end in the United States the slaughter of horses for human consumption. In January, two bills were introduced in the 110th Congress that would amended the Horse Protection Act to prohibit the shipping, transporting, moving, delivering, receiving, possessing, purchasing, selling, or donating of any horse or other equid to be slaughtered for human consumption (see JAVMA, March 1, 2007).
Some 200 groups, including the AVMA, are opposed to the legislation because for one thing, it fails to address the welfare of thousands of unwanted horses that would be affected by the provisions. One source for information about the issue of unwanted horses is the Unwanted Horse Coalition, which recently released a new Web site, www.unwantedhorsecoalition.org, and an awareness brochure.