The issue of whether horses will be slaughtered at processing plants in New Mexico or anywhere else in the nation may be resolved—at least for the present.

The House Appropriations Committee last week approved a $19.45 billion funding bill to support the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and other agencies for fiscal year 2014. In what some are calling an unexpected move, the bill would ban funding for USDA horse slaughter inspections.

The Committee staged an unscheduled voice vote after an amendment to the bill was offered by Reps. Jim Moran (D-VA) and Bill Young (R-FL) that would prohibit USDA funding for horse slaughter inspections. The move essentially bans horse slaughter practice in the United States in the new fiscal year.

The issue came the same day the House voted against the passage of a new Farm Bill.

Reactions from opponents to the horse slaughter issue were quick. Animal welfare groups publicly praised the action saying a ban on horse slaughter operations was necessary to prevent animal abuse and to minimize risks to human health.

A Roswell-based New Mexico slaughterhouse, Valley Meat Company, was not readily available for comment, but company owner Rick del los Santos has a pending law suit against USDA over a lack of action on a request for renewed inspections at his facility. Santos has accused USDA of being swayed by political pressure and of being unresponsive to what he termed “legitimate requests” to provide inspection services.

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In addition to Valley Meat Company, groups in Oklahoma and Wyoming had recently considered horse slaughter operations in those states but were awaiting federal response or court action on the New Mexico lawsuit.

While many applauded the virtual ban on horse slaughter operations, many say it leaves the horse industry with few choices to deal with the growing problem of animal abandonment and neglect. As a result of two years of serious drought, forage crops remain in short supply and hay that is available demands a hefty price, forcing many horse owners to sell their horses at auction.