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GAO: Action needed on slaughter issue

WASHINGTON, Oct. 24 (UPI) -- U.S. lawmakers are wrangling over whether to allow the resumption of domestic slaughter of horses or prohibit the shipment of horses abroad for their meat.

A U.S. report in June recommended congressional action to solve an unintended consequence of federal restrictions on the slaughter of horses. The restrictions, the result of Congress eliminating federal funding for horse-slaughter inspections, have led to more exports of horses to Canada and Mexico for slaughter, the Government Accountability Office concluded in its report. About the same number of U.S. horses are being slaughtered, just not in the United States, the report said.

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"It's just a hot political issue," Dr. Whitney Miller, a lobbyist for the American Veterinary Medical Association, which supports allowing horse slaughter, told The New York. "It's hard to see something definitive happening."

The last U.S. plant that slaughtered horses for human consumption was closed five years ago. The GAO report concluded that since then many U.S. horses have been neglected or abandoned because the restriction on slaughter led to contraction in the domestic market for horses.

RELATED U.S. horses now slaughtered elsewhere

Animal rights activists argue the increase in neglect and abandonment is a result of the recession and increased costs of feed, the Times reported Sunday.

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Nebraska horse breeder John Schoneberg told the newspaper the closing of the processing plants exacerbated the problem.

"When they closed the plants, that put more of a hardship on our horses than the people who wanted to stop the slaughter can imagine," he said.

The GAO report recommends Congress either allow a return to domestic horse slaughter or ban export of horses for slaughter.

Breeders and livestock auction operators say the end of slaughter led to the collapse of the market and owners who cannot support horses have to pay about as much to euthanize them as they used to collect for selling them to slaughterhouses.

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