The US Senate Appropriations Committee has voted to introduce defunding language to an agriculture appropriations bill that would prevent the reopening of horse slaughter plants on American soil.
Senator Tom Udall offered an amendment to defund any US Department of Agriculture inspections of horse slaughter plants, which are are required for the abattoirs to operate.
The language is, in effect, a way of keeping such slaughter plants from operating.
The Humane Society of the United States said committee members recognized that Udall had a “posse” of other supporters on the committee, with five other lawmakers joining him as cosponsors — Senators Mark Kirk, R-Ill., Barbara Mikulski, D-MD, Dianne Feinstein, Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Chris Coons, D-DE.
The committee accepted Udall’s amendment in a voice vote.
The humane society’s president and chief executive, Wayne Pacelle, described horse slaughter as a predatory industry which targeted healthy horses.
“Long-distance transport, rough handling, and inhumane killing are standards fare for the poor horses caught up in this grisly trade,” he wrote on his blog, A Humane Nation.
“No Americans eat horses, and it’s purely for export to some European and Asian countries.”
The Senate committee’s vote follows the failure of a similar amendment to gain traction in the US House Appropriations Committee.
The defunding amendment to the agriculture appropriations bill, offered by Rep. Sam Farr, a Democrat from California, resulted in a tied vote, 24-24, with the measure not being adopted. Most of those in opposition were Republicans.
“We’re gearing up to sustain the Senate position in the final legislation that goes to President Obama, who is also an opponent of horse slaughter, to assure that these plants never again reopen in the United States,” Pacelle said.
Several companies have tried in recent years to re-establish slaughter plants during periods when the defunding language has been absent, but none has succeeded to date. They have faced an array of roadblocks, including legal action from horse advocacy groups, local objections, and issues around meeting consent conditions.
However, the existing ban on horse slaughter in the US, brought about by the defunding language, has not prevented the passage of tens of thousands of American horses through abattoirs north and south of the border.
More than 100,000 horses are transported annually to plants in Mexico and Canada.
Much of the meat is sold overseas, but the European Union has clamped down on meat sourced from US horses over concerns around drug traceability. Some routine medications used in horses are banned from entering the food chain, and there is no requirement in the US for lifetime medication records to be kept.