The interest and intent of meat processing facilities to obtain permits and resume domestic horse slaughter prompted a national debate over the issue, often dividing ranchers, animal welfare groups, politicians, and even Indian tribes.

While many applauded the virtual ban on horse slaughter operations imposed when Congress failed to fund federal inspections in 2007, many claimed it left the horse industry with few choices to deal with a growing problem of animal abandonment and neglect. As a result of several years of serious drought, especially across the Southwest and in the Midwest, forage crops suffered and were in short supply and hay and feed prices spiraled, adding to the problem by forcing many horse owners to sell their horses at auction.

Proponents of domestic slaughtering of horses say the crisis forced sale prices down for horses and that opened the door to companies that purchased unwanted horses wholesale at auction and shipped them to Mexico or Canada where they can be legally slaughtered. They argue a ban on domestic slaughter increases the risk of animal cruelty because unwanted horses are often packed into trailers and trucks and shipped great distances to international borders. Many of the animals die in route.

In addition, they argue that animals that survive are often subjected to worse slaughter conditions at unregulated foreign processing facilities.

Representatives of Valley Meat Company of Roswell, who were granted a federal permit and prepared to open just a few days after the initial temporary injunction was issued last summer, say company officials plan to resume slaughter operations but say it may be two weeks before they start processing animals.

Officials at the Humane Society of the United States issued a statement late Friday saying the fight to stop domestic horse slaughter is not over.

"We will press for a quick resolution of the merits of our claims," HSUS said last week.

The consumption and sale of horse meat in the United States is prohibited by law, but companies seeking permits to resume domestic horse slaughter say there is a market for horse meat in several countries where it is legal and say it is also lawful to sell horse meat to be used as animal food.


Also of interest:

Horse slaughter issue divides and confuses: PART I

Horse slaughter issue by the numbers: PART II

Improving forage, livestock production begins with the soil