by Phil Derfler, Deputy Administrator for Food Safety and Inspection Service, on December 9, 2011
There has been a lot of talk in the past week about Congress’ lifting of the ban prohibiting federal funding for the inspection of horses, which prevented the slaughter of horses for human consumption for the past five years. The issue is understandably a sensitive and emotional one for everyone who loves these majestic animals, but it is important that the discussion be tempered with the facts.
While Congress has technically lifted the ban, horse processing will not resume anytime in the near term. Under the Federal Meat Inspection Act, horses are an amenable species, which means that horse meat cannot be shipped or sold for human consumption without inspection.
To date, there have been no requests that the Department initiate the authorization process for any horse processing operation in the United States. In the two states where horse processing took place prior to the Congressional ban, Illinois and Texas, there are laws in place prohibiting the slaughter of horses. Even if these laws were changed, any processing facility will still need to satisfy a significant number of requirements, such as obtaining a federal grant of inspection, conducting a hazard analysis, and developing a Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan prior to the processing of any animals.
Note: Following this pronouncement, the White House through Under Secretary for Food Safety at USDA, Dr. Elizabeth Hagen, announced there would be no horse slaughter for human consumption in the U.S. in the "near term". Dr. Hagen denied that there have been any requests submitted to USDA to open a horse slaughter facility.