Fee-For-Service Plan Implemented

by: Chad Mendell, Staff Writer
March 2006 Article # 6687

The nation's three horsemeat-processing plants began paying USDA
employees on March 10 to conduct pre-slaughter inspections of horses.
The highly debated fee-for-service program allows the plants to
continue processing despite the 2006 Agricultural Appropriations
bill, which eliminated federal funding for the inspectors.

The plants will pay each inspector $43.64 an hour, plus overtime and
holiday pay, as they already do under an existing pay system for
exotic animals. The inspections are estimated to cost each plant from
$22,000 to $36,000 for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends
in October.

Slaughter opponents tried to prevent the USDA from providing the fee-
for-service inspections by filing a lawsuit against the agency and
filing for a temporary injunction to suspend horse slaughter until
the suit could be settled. The courts have yet to rule on either
case. For more information see

Several animal rights groups protested the USDA's action by sending a
convoy of 20 empty horse trailers to Washington, D.C., which they
said represented horses going to slaughter.

Chris Hyde, a lobbyist for the Society of Animal Protective
Legislation, told the Kansas City Star, "We are still anxiously
awaiting a decision from the judge. We are obviously disappointed by
the USDA's action."

Representatives from the three horsemeat plants banned together last
month to strengthen the slaughter industry's voice in Congress. They
hired Charles Stenholm, a former Texas representative who had been a
powerful member of the Agriculture Committee in Congress, and the
Washington-based public relations and lobbying firm SciWords.

"Many horse owners absolutely oppose horse slaughter," Stenholm told
the Kansas City Star. "And I agree with them--on their horses. The
fundamental issue involved is that the horse owner makes the choice.
It's always been a property-rights issue."