Bill to end horse slaughter is back

January 14, 2009

A bill which would put an end to horse slaughter in the United States and ban the export of equines to overseas abattoirs is back on the legislative radar.

The move has been welcomed by the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), which said an American horse is being slaughtered every five minutes at plants in Canada and Mexico.

The Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act was reintroduced this week by House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) and Representative Dan Burton (R-IN) in a week that saw the 111th Congress convene.

The pair first introduced the bill in the northern summer of 2008.

It gained bipartisan support and passed out of the Judiciary Committee but did not move further as the legislative clock wound down.

Committed to seeing the measure passed, Conyers has given the bill priority in his committee, as signalled by its reintroduction so early on the legislative calendar.

With sixty-one original cosponsors, the bill already enjoys strong bipartisan support.

Although the few remaining horse slaughter plants operating in the US were shut down in 2007 under state law, the absence of a federal law banning the practice means that American horses are still at risk of being slaughtered for human consumption.

More than 100,000 horses were exported to Mexico and Canada in 2008 for slaughter. In Canada horses are often shot to death while in Mexico some plants still use the "puntilla" knife to stab the horse into a state of paralysis before being slaughtered while still fully conscious.

The meat is sold to high-end consumers in Europe and Asia.

"There are naysayers who claim we should reopen the US plants rather than seek to ban all horse slaughter," said Chris Heyde, deputy director of Government and Legal Affairs for the AWI.

"Clearly, they've already forgotten how awful the plants here were," he said.

"The suffering of hundreds of thousands of our horses rests solely on the shoulders of those blocking this bill.

"Were it not for their stalling tactics horse slaughter would have ceased years ago.

"Meanwhile an American horse is slaughtered every five minutes. We commend Chairman Conyers and Representative Burton for taking the lead once again to end this cruel practice through introduction of the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act," said Heyde.