The issue has galvanized the animal rights community, which contends that horses are too intelligent to be food animals, and that legal processing of horse meat will endanger wild horse populations and motivate Americans to raise horses specifically for human consumption.
The other view, accepted by Congress after a study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), is that more abandoned and neglected horses in the US – which has 9 million equines – are being sold and processed for meat anyway in countries that may not have the same standard of humane euthanasia that US law requires. Government statistics show that 138,000 American horses were sold and processed for meat in other countries in 2010 – a 660 percent increase from 2007, according to the GAO report.
"We can't monitor horse slaughter in a plant in Mexico or Canada … [a]nd so we don't know if it's being done humanely or not because the USDA obviously doesn't have any jurisdiction there,” Rep. Jack Kingston (R) of Georgia, who was instrumental in the reinstatement, told the Oklahoman newspaper's Sonya Colberg and Chris Casteel. “Along the way, these horses are having a rough transit. USDA does not have the jurisdiction over how the animals are treated along the way."
The poor economy has been tough on horse owners and the animals themselves, leading to what Representative Kingston calls an "unanticipated problem with horse neglect and abandonment.” In Colorado alone, horse abandonment "increased 60 percent from 975 in 2005 to 1,588 in 2009," the GAO report stated.