Horse slaughter a "betrayal of responsibility" - Humane Society

January 18, 2009

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has welcomed a fresh bid to pass a bill banning horse slaughter, saying the industry is a betrayal of the nation's responsibility to the animals.

The Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act, if passed into law, would ban slaughter in the US and prevent the current export of more than 86,000 horses a year to slaughter plants in Canada and Mexico.

No plants currently operate in the United States after the forced closure of three under state laws.

"Every day that passes means that there will be more torment and more suffering for America's horses," said Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of the HSUS.

"The horse is an American icon, and it is a betrayal of our responsibility to these animals to treat them like cheap commodities and send them across our borders for slaughter.

"We ask leaders in Congress for an up or down vote and passage of this critical legislation."

A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers introduced the legislation this week.

House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Dan Burton (R-Ind.) introduced the bill, known as the Conyers-Burton Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act.

Its passage is a top priority for the HSUS.

Conyers and Burton were joined by 59 original co-sponsors in introducing the bill, which failed to make it through the last Congress.

State lawmakers have acted to stop horse slaughter, shuttering the last remaining foreign-owned horse slaughter plants in the US in 2007, and federal courts have upheld those state laws.

But the HSUS says Congress has failed to act to stop the export of live horses to Canada and Mexico for slaughter.

More than 86,000 horses were sent across US borders to slaughter in Canada or Mexico in 2008.

Past congressional actions on horse slaughter have demonstrated a strong desire, across party lines, to prohibit killing horses for human consumption.

In the 109th Congress, legislation to stop horse slaughter passed the House of Representatives numerous times by a margin of more than 100 votes, and passed the Senate by a more than two-to-one margin.

But in the 110th Congress, prior legislation was not enacted because it was blocked by House committee leaders and Western senators.

Animal advocates hope the new bill will advance quickly in Chairman Conyers' House Judiciary Committee.

The HSUS is joined by members of Congress, the National Show Horse Registry, American Horse Defense Fund, Veterinarians for Equine Welfare, United States Equine Sanctuary and Rescue, and more than 500 endorsing organisations, along with a majority of Americans (according to surveys) in support of the Conyers-Burton Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act.