Slaughter: Committee Leaders Issue Letter Opposing Ban

Members of the House Committees on Agriculture and Energy and Commerce yesterday (Jan. 25) released a statement to Congress urging legislators to vote against the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, which was re-introduced into the House and Senate on Jan. 17.

The letter referred to a potential ban on slaughter as "bad for horse welfare, bad for animal agriculture, and bad for the U.S. economy."

The letter began with the point that the disposal of unwanted horses presents a different challenge than the disposal of euthanatized dogs and cats. The letter's authors then stated "… disposal of unwanted horses is not as simple as disposal of unwanted cats and dogs. It's illegal in many states to bury horses because they are vectors for West Nile virus."

Frank Hurtig, DVM, MBA, associate director of equine veterinary medical affairs at Merial (the company that manufactures RECOMBITEK Equine West Nile virus vaccine) said today this statement is incorrect.

"Mosquitoes are the only vectors known," Hurtig said.  According to Hurtig, horses were discussed as possible vectors years ago, and "it was put to rest as completely invalid."

Press contacts for the Agriculture and Energy and Commerce Committees did not return calls for comment.

The authors cited existing humane legislation, writing: "The United States is the only country in the world that has regulations that protect horses during transportation to processing plants. Once at the plants, the USDA, by law, inspects every horse and assures each animal is treated humanely. USDA inspectors are required to shut down the plants in the event of any violation of humane standards. The Humane Society of the United States and other animal welfare organizations helped shape these laws."

Groups in opposition to the bill, including numerous veterinary and breed organizations were listed.

The authors also cited the economic impact of a ban on horse slaughter, writing, "A study conducted by a number of land grant university professors, entitled 'The Unintended Consequences of a Ban on Horse Slaughter in the United States,' released last year, found that if the plants had been closed in 2000, the cumulative annual cost to taxpayers to care for these unwanted horses would have exceeded $500 million just five years later."

The letter stated that this study report is available at You can also read the report here.

Authors listed on the letter are Reps. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), John Dingell (D-Mich.), Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), and Joe Barton (R-Texas), the Chairmen and Ranking Minority Members of the Agriculture and Energy Commerce Committees.

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About the Author

Erin Ryder

Erin Ryder is a former news editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care.

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