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FDA Approves Slaughter of Horse Meat for Human Consumption

Update Date: Jun 28, 2013 08:20 PM EDT

Fancy some roast horse meat with a side of potato salad? A New Mexico business has overcome a major obstacle to slaughtering horses for meat that could be consumed by humans in a case that will face a legal challenge from groups including the Humane Society of the United States.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said it was required by law to issue the permit to the New Mexico company, Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, once it met all the requirements which it now does.

The last U.S. horse-meat plant closed six years ago after Congress banned funding for inspections for such facilities. That ban failed in 2011 and proceedings to renew it are before lawmakers.

"Valley Meat Company is encouraged that after well over a year of delay that the process has finally reached completion," the company said in a statement. "Valley will now begin final preparation to hire 40 to 100 employees over the coming weeks and months so that they may go to work providing a humanely harvested, safe and legally compliant product to the world markets."

Proponents of a return to domestic horse slaughter say it is better to slaughter the animals in humane, federally regulated facilities than have them abandoned to starve or shipped to inhumane facilities in Mexico.

"The administration has requested Congress to reinstate the ban on horse slaughter," USDA press secretary Courtney Rowe said today in an e-mail, Business Week notes. "Until Congress acts, the department must continue to comply with current law."

Valley Meat Co. declared it satisfied requirements under federal law for a "Grant of Inspection." However, "it became the stance of USDA responding again to political pressure instead of science and the directives of Congress that because horses had not been slaughtered for a number of years that FSIS would have to create new protocols for evaluating drug residue testing programs," the lawsuit alleged.

The number of U.S. horses sent to other countries for slaughter has nearly tripled since 2006, the report says.  And many humane groups agree that some of the worst abuse occurs in the slaughter pipeline. Many are pushing for a both a ban on domestic slaughter as well as a ban on shipping horses to Mexico and Canada.

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