The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens


Secretary seeks horse-slaughter alternative

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called on Congress to come up with other ways to handle aging horses than to slaughter for meat for human consumption.

In comments to reporters, Vilsack said that horses might be used to help veterans who have returned from war, and noted that when he was governor of Iowa horses were used to work with inmates in prisons and that their use gave prisoners job skills when they got out.

“There needs to be a third way” to deal with the horses besides killing them or slaughtering them for human food, Vilsack said.

USDA officials have said recently that the Food Safety and Inspection Service is required by law to inspect the slaughter of horses for meat for human consumption, and that it has accepted applications from slaughter plants that want to go into that business.

The agency last inspected horse meat in 2006 before Congress imposed a ban on the slaughter. But Congress has not renewed the ban, and USDA recently called on Congress to put the ban back in place.

There has been controversy recently about drug residues in horse meat. Vilsack said that the science surrounding horse slaughter “has evolved” since 2006, and that the agency is taking more recent science into account while considering the applications.