The ban on the slaughter of horses on US soil now seems likely to be retained, following a crucial vote in Washington DC.
The US House of Representatives Agriculture Appropriations Committee has voted to block federal spending on horse slaughter inspections – a move which would effectively ban the killing of horses for human consumption on US soil.
The committee voted 28-22 to approve the amendment, offered by a Virginia Democrat, Rep. Jim Moran, to the 2015 agriculture spending bill.
The Senate earlier approved an identical amendment, offered by Senators Mary Landrieu and Lindsey Graham last week.
The House and Senate versions of the spending bills will now go to a conference committee, with the anti-horse-slaughter provision in both bills.
The measure is likely to be retained in the final bill sent to President Barack Obama for his signature.
The president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, welcomed the vote.
He said the practical effect of the action was to prevent the opening of horse slaughter plants in Iowa, Missouri and New Mexico, or in any other state that developed what he called a misguided plan.
“Horses helped settle the country, and we owe them more than to turn them into chopped patties,” he wrote in his blog, A Humane Nation.
“Horses are not raised for food here, and they are typically dosed with a variety of drugs not appropriate for human consumption.
“And since there’s no market for horse meat in the US, it’s entirely an export market, to the dwindling number of countries that tolerate horse-eating.”
Pacelle acknowledged that the US had many horses without homes.
“It’s best to get those horses to potential adopters or to rescues or sanctuaries. When that’s not possible, horses can be euthanized, a more humane option than random-source collection, long-distance transport, and inhumane slaughter at plants where they see can see or hear other horses being killed right in front of them.”
Pacelle said horse slaughter had no place in American society and the amendment affirmed that Congress did not condone the practice.
He said the push was now on to get the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act passed, which would not only permanently bar horse slaughter in the US, but prevent the live export of horses to other North American countries for the purpose of slaughter.
“We call on the House and Senate leaders to bring up those bills for a fair vote before the end of the year.
“We don’t set up dog and cat slaughterhouses because we have some homeless companion animals, and then ship the meat to some outlier foreign country. We shouldn’t adopt that practice for horses, either.
“Our economic decisions must always be guided by our values, including our opposition to cruelty and our recognition of the special place that some animals have in our culture.”
Moran, who has promoted the same amendment for several years in a bid to keep slaugherhouses shuttered, said: “These iconic creatures are a proud symbol of the American West that should be treasured for their beauty and treated humanely, not killed for export.
“The American public has made clear they oppose horse slaughter and today’s vote reflects the will of the people.”
The Animal Welfare Institute welcomed the vote and said it would monitor the progress of both versions of the Agriculture Appropriations bill as they made their way through the legislative process.
It said that while continuation of the annual defunding amendment was critical to ensure no horse slaughter plants could open, the ultimate goal was a permanently slaughter ban, which also prevented the export of live horses for the same purpose.
“Every time the issue of banning horse slaughter has been given a fair and public vote, support for a ban has been overwhelming and positive,” the institute’s deputy director of government and legal affairs, Chris Heyde, said.
He urged the public contact their legislators to urge support for the SAFE Act.