Lawmakers, Celebrities Urge Anti-Slaughter Bill Passage

Celebrities and animal welfare group representatives joined lawmakers this week to urge congressional passage of twin bills that would prohibit the transport of horses across state and international borders to be processed for human consumption.

In 2007 a combination of legislation and court rulings shuttered the last remaining horse slaughter plants in the U.S. Since then, horses have been transported to plants in Mexico and Canada for processing. In recent years lawmakers have introduced legislation into Congress calling for a ban on transporting U.S. horses to foreign processing plants. Two of those bills, HR 6598 and HR 503, The Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act, were introduced in 2009 and again in 2010. The bills would also have criminalized the purchase, sale, delivery, or export of horse meat intended for human consumption. Neither became law.

In 2011 Senators Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Lindsey Graham, (R-S.C.) introduced S 1176, the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act of 2011. If passed, the bill would amend the Horse Protection Act to prohibit the sale or transport of horses or equine parts in interstate or foreign commerce with the intent of processing them for human consumption. In addition, Representatives Dan Burton (R-Ind.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) introduced a twin bill, HR 2966, the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act of 2011, into the U.S. House.

Both bills were introduced after the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report indicating that the demise of the horse processing industry in the U.S. has not prevented animals from sale for slaughter and has contributed to a rise in equine neglect and abuse incidents. The GAO is an independent, nonpartisan agency that provides Congress with objective, fact-based information intended to improve federal agencies' performance and accountability. The U.S. Senate Appropriations' Committee ordered the agency to study how horse processing plant closures have affected the U.S. horse industry during its consideration of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010.

Domestic horse processing became possible again in November 2011 when Congress passed an appropriations bill restoring revenue for USDA horsemeat inspections. Since then, developers have proposed horse processing plants in Missouri, Oregon, and New Mexico; however, no horse processing plants are currently operating in the United States.

On April 25 Landrieu; Sen. Scott Brown; and Representatives Ed Whitfield, David Rivera and Jim Moran, along with celebrities including actress and Animal Welfare Institute Spokesperson Bo Derek; and equine advocate Declan Gregg, the 9-year-old founder of Children 4 Horses, anti-processing letter-writing campaign gathered, in Washington, D.C., to urge Congress to pass HR 2966 and S 1176.

Landrieu urged the bills' passage on grounds that despite the GAO findings, processing does not represent the alternative for animals that are old, sick, or have reached the end of their productive years.

"When a horse is old, sick, or can no longer be productive, its owner should provide humane euthanasia," Landrieu said. "Ninety percent of all horses that die each year are humanely euthanized and/or safely disposed of--this additional 10 percent is not a burden. Brutal slaughter is not an appropriate alternative."

Jeri Dobrowski, web master of AMillionHorses.com, a website that posts statistics and other information pertinent to the horse processing issue opposes the bills' passage on grounds that the domestic processing plant closures have not significantly improved equine welfare. Dobrowski said that according to USDA statistics, 130,000 horses were processed at foreign processing plants in 2011 alone. Meanwhile, the plant closures have stretched the financial limits of equine rescue organizations charged with caring for horses owners are either unwilling or unable to maintain.

"A 2010 University of California, Davis, report noted that 144 registered nonprofit horse rescues spend an average of $3,649 per horse per year representing an annual care cost of $50 million for 13,700 animals," Dobrowski said. "Those who are supporting the bills to stop transport for slaughter, and who have successfully defunded live processing in the past, need to tell us how they are going to pay for the care of an additional 130,000 horses per year, which could conceivably cost $477 million annually.

Both HR 2966 and S 1176 remain pending in committee.

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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