Number of slaughtered U.S. horses nearly the same as before ban

More than 100,000 U.S. horses a year are still being turned into chops and steaks for Europeans and Asians since three slaughter plants in Texas and Illinois were closed in 2007.

Only the work is now done by Mexicans and Canadians, a government study has found.

"From 2006 through 2010, U.S. horse exports for slaughter increased by 148 percent to Canada and 660 percent to Mexico," the U.S. Government Accountability Office said.

"Nearly the same number of U.S. horses was transported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter in 2010 — nearly 138,000 — as was slaughtered before domestic slaughter ceased," said the GAO's study on the "unintended consequences" of stopping domestic horse slaughter, released in June.

Lost are direct exports to Europe totaling 17,000 metric tons of horse meat valued at $65 million in 2006, when the three U.S. plants operated, including Beltex/Frontier Meats in Fort Worth and Dallas Crown in Kaufman, both owned by Belgian investors. Much of the Fort Worth horse meat was transported overseas by American Airlines.

U.S. zoos and circuses, which earlier could obtain horse meat domestically, now buy imported horse meat to feed their valuable collections of big cats, the GAO said. Pet food manufacturers are permitted to process meat from domestic horse corpses, it said.

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