Gathering Calls for Congressional Horse Slaughter Ban

A New Hampshire boy toting more than 1,000 letters from other children joined representatives from three equine welfare advocacy groups and a Virginia Congressman in Washington, D.C., this week to urge federal lawmakers to ban the processing of horses for human consumption.

Horse slaughter has not taken place in the United States since 2007, but processing again became possible in November when President Barack Obama signed a federal funding bill that did not contain language specifically denying the USDA funds for horse processing plant inspections. Since then, processing plants have been proposed for Missouri and Oregon, but plants have yet been established.

On March 27 Virginia Congressman Jim Moran, representatives from the Equine Welfare Alliance and the Wild Horse Freedom Federation, and 9-year-old Declan Gregg called on Congress to reinstate the funding ban on USDA horse processing plant inspections. Gregg carried more than 1,000 letters opposing horse process written by children and submitted to Gregg though the Children4Horses campaign launched earlier this year on Gregg's website. The letters were later submitted to Congress members.

During the press conference Gregg said he and the other children who submitted letters opposed horse processing on humane grounds: "I think horse slaughter is inhumane, cruel, and unnecessary. Horses and all animals should be treated with love and respect."

Moran, who unsuccessfully attempted to retain the defunding language in the budget bill, expressed food safety concerns specifically presence of chemical substances, such as the anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone, horsemeat may contain.

Moran also expressed animal welfare concerns over horse processing, and said that opposition to U.S. horse processing is widespread among Americans.

"When 80% of the American public opposes this practice, congressional leaders have a responsibility to listen to the people," he said.

In response to the press conference, Wyoming Rep. Sue Wallis, CEO of Unified Equine (the company planning to establish a horse processing plant in Missouri) said that defunding USDA horse processing plant inspections has not prevented U.S. horses from being sent to slaughter. Instead the ban caused those horses to be shipped to Canada and Mexico for processing, she said.

"If (horses) are processed in regulated and inspected facilities inside the U.S. under our Humane Methods of Slaughter laws, they are guaranteed handling with a minimum of stress and an instantaneous end," Wallis said.

Wallis suggested that processing opponents should consider working "collaboratively with the industry worldwide to find the best practices and the humane handling systems, to ensure that all horses--even those that aren't somebody's back yard pet or useful work or breeding animal--are handled appropriately from birth to death."

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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