Horse Protection Groups Hoping for Action on Slaughter Legislation

Animal protection groups are hoping legislation banning the slaughter of horses for people to eat gets to the president's desk before the lame duck session ends this year.

Before the elections, the House overwhelmingly approved a bill banning the transport of horses for such purposes, despite White House opposition.

The legislation also had bipartisan support in the Senate, but was held up in the chamber by Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont. Animal protection groups targeted Burns and other bill opponents in the elections. Burns lost to Democrat John Tester, a farmer and Montana state legislator, who opposes a ban on horse slaughter.

Three U.S. plants, two in Texas and one in Illinois, slaughter horses for human consumption of their meat. In Illinois, horses are slaughtered at Cavel International Inc. in DeKalb. The meat is largely eaten as a delicacy overseas and used by a few U.S. zoos to feed animals.

The legislation faced heavy opposition from agricultural, ranching, cattle and horse associations. But the House passed the measure 263-146 in September.

Wayne Pacelle, Humane Society of the United States' president, said supporters hope Burns' loss will free up the bill so it can get a vote in the Senate, which previously has approved other legislation that would have banned horse slaughter. The bill's Senate sponsors are John Ensign, R-Nev., and Mary Landrieu, D-La.

"We've got the votes in the Senate and we just need to get fair consideration of the bill as we did in the House," Pacelle said. "When you look back at this Congress, the House voted five times to crack down on horse slaughter and the Senate voted overwhelmingly one time. Where lawmakers stand is very clear. But it is frustrating we haven't been able to get final consideration of the legislation."

Congress returns from a two-week Thanksgiving break on Dec. 5 and is expected to adjourn by Christmas. Democrats won enough seats this month to take control of the House and Senate next year.

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The Associated Press

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