House Committee Advances USDA Spending Bill

Shutting the door on horse slaughter and Class B dealers: In its fiscal year 2017 spending bill for the US Department of Agriculture, the House Appropriations Committee included two AWI priorities. The bill bars the expenditure of funds for licensing or relicensing Class B dealers who sell dogs and cats for use in research, teaching, or testing. This is another step on the road to ending a system that is cruel, scientifically unnecessary, and difficult to regulate. Also, acting on an amendment offered by Reps. Sam Farr (D-CA) and Charlie Dent (R-PA), the committee voted to prohibit funding of inspections at horse slaughter plants, which effectively prevents any such plants from operating in the United States. The accompanying report also instructs the USDA to “keep the Committee informed on the progress of implementing changes to policies and procedures” that Congress demanded in response to reports of abuse at the federal Meat Animal Research Center, published by the New York Times in 2015. (See AWI Quarterly, spring 2015.) The report language reaffirms Congress’ expectation that “all animals be treated humanely and that the risk of premature death will be limited wherever possible. No type of abuse or mistreatment will be tolerated.”

Getting sore about soring regulations: It was not all good news in the bill, however. Although the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act (HR 3268/S 1121) has overwhelming support in both chambers of Congress, House and Senate leaders have failed to act on it. Yet when the USDA drafted regulations to address long-standing problems in the Tennessee Walking Horse industry, the House Appropriations Committee—with no apparent shame at Congress’ failure to act—took them to task for it. In its report, the committee accuses the USDA of not working in “in good faith” to address its requests regarding working with stakeholders, providing transparency, and using objective measurements in its inspections, and reminds the department that any “substantive changes in the statute or its intent should be made by Congress”—even though Congress seems determined to do nothing.

Taking aim at wolves: Despite the availability of peer-reviewed research showing that the reckless slaughter of native predators causes broad ecological destruction, and despite the fact that the indiscriminate methods used by Wildlife Services have killed more than 50,000 nontarget animals since 2000, including family pets and endangered species, the committee nonetheless endorsed the program's cruel and environmentally damaging tactics. Report language expressed concerns over the (actually quite small) population of wolves in the Pacific Northwest and called on the USDA to assist states in their use of lethal control methods (e.g., aerial gunning operations) to “manage” predators for the benefit of a small group of ranchers.

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