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The U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee has rejected an amendment to its agriculture funding bill that would have prevented the USDA from paying personnel to conduct inspections at horse processing plants in the United States.
In 2007 a combination of legislation and court rulings shuttered the last existing U.S. horse processing plants, which were located in Illinois and Texas. Congress continued to prevent U.S.-based horse processing by passing amendments that stripped the USDA of funding for inspections at facilities that process horsemeat for human consumption.
Funding bills contained similar amendments until November 2011, when lawmakers passed an appropriations bill that did not contain language specifically forbidding the agency from using federal dollars to fund horse slaughter plant inspections. Afterward, horse processing plans were proposed in several states. None of those plants became operational. Succeeding federal funding bills did contain language denying the USDA horse processing plant inspection funds.
Despite the legislation, horses from the United States were exported for processing at plants in Canada and Mexico. Last year an audit from the European Union’s (EU) Food and Veterinary Office banned the sale of horsemeat derived from American horses that were processed in slaughter plants in Mexico.
In April a bipartisan group of lawmakers responded to the foreign horse processing issue by introducing the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) act. Also known as HR 1942, the act would prevent horse processing plants from ever opening in the United States and would ban the transport of horses to foreign plants for processing. The legislation, said supporters, would also protect consumers from horsemeat derived from animals injected with unregulated drugs and other substances.
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