Slaughter Legislation Stuck In Committee

Legislation designed to prevent horse slaughter at the national level could be indefinitely stuck in committee.

In January 2003, U.S. Rep. John Sweeney, a Republican from New York, proposed HR 857, the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act. HR 857 seeks to prohibit the slaughter of horses for human consumption; the sale, possession, and trade of horseflesh for human consumption; and the sale, possession, and trade of live horses for slaughter for human consumption. It calls for both criminal and civil penalties for those found to be in violation. Criminal penalties include a fine of between $2,500 and $5,000 and/or one year of imprisonment. Civil penalties include the fine and confiscation of all horses in that person's physical or legal possession at the time of arrest, if the horses are intended for slaughter.

What appears as a well-intentioned piece of proposed legislation has met with vociferous opposition from numerous horse industry groups, including the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), American Quarter Horse Association, American Veterinary Medical Association, and governmental entities such as the Utah Department of Agriculture. Ironically, the New York State Horse Council of Rep. Sweeney's home state also opposes the bill.

Supporters of the bill include 23 industry organizations, 16 national humane groups, nine celebrities, and numerous state organizations.

According to Lydia Gray, DVM, MA, executive director of the Hooved Animal Humane Society (, the bill has attracted a new Republican sponsor in Senate, veterinarian John Ensign (Nevada).

Agriculture Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia) has refused to allow a hearing on the bill, according to Chris Heyde, executive director of the National Horse Protection Coalition ( a Washington, D.C., non-profit group.

According to Tom Lenz, DVM, immediate past president of the AAEP, who wrote about HR 857 in a recent editorial in The Blood Horse, "The bill pays little attention to equine welfare and does not provide the infrastructure or funding provisions to care for (the) 80,000 unwanted horses (slaughtered annually in the United States)."

About the Author

Meg Cicciarella

Meg Cicciarella is a freelance journalist who lives and writes in Homer, on Alaska's banana belt, the Kenai Peninsula. Her articles have appeared in local, regional, and national newspapers and magazines.

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