With Walter White stealing the spotlight for New Mexico in the AMC hit show "Breaking Bad," it was only a matter of time before other questionable activities from the area entered the spotlight. A New Mexico slaughterhouse had stated it has plans to begin killing horses for meat this week, in the face of an impending lawsuit as well as a fire that damaged five of the facility’s compressors beyond repair. Why would people want to begin slaughtering an animal that's beloved for the Kentucky Derby and romantic carriage rides? And why is arson allegedly involved?
The concern here seems to be twofold: the protection of human beings from horse meat consumption, and the protection of the horses themselves. While the wellbeing of horses and the safety of what humans consume could clearly be argued as divergent issues, the situation is a microcosm of how poorly our government can function.
Several animal rights groups have filed lawsuits against the Agriculture Department, seeking to prevent inspection of horse meat that some companies want to produce for human consumption. The Obama administration has implored Congress to ban horse slaughter again after a congressional ban in 2007, which expired in 2011 and was not subsequently extended. The Agriculture Department has stated that until a ban happens through legislation, inspection services must be provided. In a July New York Times article, Hilary Wood, the president of Front Range Equine Rescue, said, “The USDA has failed to consider the basic fact that horses are not raised as a food animal. House owners provide their horses with a number of substances dangerous to human health. To blatantly ignore this fact jeopardizes human health as well as the environment surrounding a horse slaughter plant.”
The ban expired in 2011 and now the slaughter of horses and the facilities conducting them are at the mercy of seemingly ad hoc rules and regulations. The creation and maintenance of the inspection services will probably never reach their desired outcomes, as a plant in Iowa has also begun to produce equine meat for consumption. If other plants wish to move quickly and take advantage of the inspection services, now would be the time.
Either way, this deserves great media attention, because Seabiscuit’s gene pool may be appearing at a grocery store near you while our government (including a very bad Congress, I might add) continues to fail us.