Slaughter Amendment Part of Agriculture Legislation

An amendment that removes money for United States Department of Agriculture inspections of horse slaughterhouses and horsemeat is included in the 2006 agriculture appropriations bill that was signed into law by President Bush on Nov. 10.

The Senate approved the omnibus bill Nov. 3 by an 81-18 vote. The ban on USDA appropriations ends Sept. 30, 2006. U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield of Kentucky told the Louisville Courier-Journal he and other lawmakers would now attempt to make the ban permanent.

The bill doesn't stop horses from being euthanized and sold to rendering plants.

There is some debate as to whether the cutoff of USDA funds for inspections of horses and horsemeat would actually force slaughterhouses to close. In addition, agriculture laws were amended to allow slaughterhouses to hire independent inspectors, but whether that means the slaughter of horses for meat consumption could continue isn't known.

The omnibus agriculture bill includes language that makes horses eligible for federal emergency relief, American Horse Council president Jay Hickey said. The aid is part of the Equine Equity Act supported by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.

Hickey said tax changes in the Equine Equity Act failed to make the agriculture bill. They would have to go through regular order in Congress or be attached to tax legislation, he said.