While much of the UK and Europe is still recovering from the heinous horsemeat contamination scandal that affected scores of meat supplies including foods served at Ikea and Taco Bell locations, the USDA has approved two horse slaughterhouses in the last week.
New Mexico's Valley Meats was approved last week, making it the first U.S. horse plant approved after a ban was lifted in 2011. The USDA approved another plant in Iowa yesterday. A third location in Missouri is expected to receive approval this week.
The ban went into effect in 2006 after Congress told the USDA that funding could not be used to inspect horse slaughter plants. A plant can't be operational without USDA inspections.
According to a statement released by the USDA, the agency has requested that Congress reinstate the ban, but "Until Congress acts, the department must continue to comply with current law." And that means that if facilities meet requirements, the USDA is required to approve them for operation.
While the USDA has appealed to Congress to reinstate the ban, animal welfare groups have vowed to sue the USDA to overturn approval of horse slaughterhouses. According to Reuters, the Humane Society of the United States and Front Range Equine Rescue claim there are greater risks of health issues from consuming horsemeat because the animals are given medications not approved for use in livestock.
Despite the ban being lifted, horsemeat is not allowed to be sold for human consumption in the U.S., but it can be exported to horsemeat eating countries including China, Russia and Mexico. It's also commonly fed to carnivorous animals in captivity in the U.S.
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