Missouri state Rep. James Viebrock has introduced a bill, H.B. 1747, that would authorize registration and inspections for commercial horse slaughter for human consumption.
The bill proposes that the Missouri Dept. of Agriculture would register commercial horse slaughter operations and certify "that the parts of horses to be processed are fit for human food, and the processing establishment to be operated complies with ... sanitary standards". All registration and inspection fees collected" would "be paid to the director of agriculture and deposited into the state ‘Horse Meat and Product Fund'". Annual inspection fees would be used "to pay for USDA inspection of horse meat products and horse meat processing facilities."
According to the bill, H.B. 1747, "the [state] director [of Agriculture] shall make all necessary inspections and investigations" and the USDA would also have access "at all reasonable times to any building, room, vehicle, boat, or other premises in which any horse carcass, horse meat, or horse meat food product is processed, packed, transported, sold, exposed, or offered for sale at retail."
The USDA would be free to pay for samples or specimens of the carcass or "product" to determine if there are violations of USDA regulations.
The new law would have requirements for labeling, remedies to protect against adulteration, misbranding, failure to label or brand, or unfitness for human consumption. Places that serve horsemeat would be required to post conspicuous warning signs.
The proposal, of course, is simply another tactic to try to create a market in the U.S. for horse meat or at least pretend there is one with the hope of forcing a return of horse slaughter to this country. This bill is similar to a number of bills and resolutions introduced in 2009 in an effort to defeat the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act, H.R. 503/S.B. 727, now pending in Congress and which would make it illegal to "possess..., ship..., transport..., purchase.., sell... deliver..., or receive" in interstate or foreign commerce any horse "with the intent that it is to be slaughtered for human consumption".
Right now, commercial horse slaughter for human consumption is illegal in the U.S. though horses can be transported to other countries, typically Mexico and Canada, for slaughter. Since 2006 Congress has de-funded ante-mortem inspections required to slaughter horses for human consumption. Congress continued the de-funding in the 2010 Appropriations Act, Sec. 744.
In 2007 a federal court rejected an attempt by the USDA to allow horse slaughter operators to pay for the inspections. The USDA is currently not authorized to conduct ante-mortem inspections of horses to be slaughtered for human consumption. Without those inspections, it is illegal under the Federal Meat Inspection Act ("FMIA"), 21 U.S.C. §§601(w)(1), 603, to slaughter horses for human consumption.
If this bill becomes law, it is not clear the USDA would authorize Missouri state inspectors to conduct the required inspections. The funds to pay for the state as well as USDA inspections would come from horse slaughter operators, the same situation in the previous litigation. The judge in that case found the USDA violated the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 706 and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) 42 U.S.C. § 4321, et seq., by failing to consider adequately, or, really, at all, the environmental impact of its action in allowing horse slaughter operators to pay for their own inspections.