US lawmakers are now on a clear path to passing a provision that would prevent horse slaughter plants operating on American soil.
The Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday adopted an amendment that would bar the US Department of Agriculture from spending any funds to inspect horse slaughter facilities.
The Senate committee’s decision mirrors the House action on its version of the agriculture spending bill.
The president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, called it a great outcome.
“It sets us on a trajectory to sustain a crucial provision we secured at the end of last year to prevent any of these slaughter plants from opening in the near future,” he said in his blog, A Humane Nation.
Pacelle noted that the last three horse slaughter plants to operate in the US closed in 2007 as a result of legislative action in Illinois and a series of critical federal court rulings.
“But it’s been an ongoing battle to keep new plants from opening, and we’ve used a variety of strategies, including more litigation and congressional action, to ensure our hold on it.”
He said the vote was uneventful in the Appropriations Committee because lawmakers there recognized that a strong majority of American opposed killing horses for export to foreign meat markets. It was, he said, an appalling practice.
The House vote, which occurred last month, was touch-and-go, he noted, with Representatives Sam Farr, D-Calif., and Charles Dent, R-Penn., securing their amendment by the narrowest of margins on a 25 to 23 vote.
“We don’t round up dogs and cats for slaughter, and it should be unthinkable to do that to a species that helped us settle the nation. Our position is grounded on the notion that people who own horses should act responsibly and provide lifetime care or transfer horses to someone who can,” Pacelle said.
“Kill buyers and other key players in the horse slaughter industry trot out the notion that they are somehow ‘helping’ horses by routing them to slaughter, but there is nothing noble about their enterprise.
“Horses are dragged and whipped into trucks and endure long journeys without food, water, or rest. Many die or sustain injuries during transport, including broken legs and punctured eyes. The idea of providing veterinary care to an animal about to be slaughtered is unthinkable to these profiteers.”
The Animal Welfare Institute also welcomed the committee’s action.
“Coupled with passage of identical language in the House Appropriations Committee, we now hope Congress will move swiftly to approve the final FY17 Agriculture Appropriations bill,” the institute’s deputy director of government and legal affairs, Chris Heyde, said.
Senator Mark Kirk, R-Ill., one of six senators who advanced the amendment, said he supported the end of horse slaughter in the US.
“Americans have a long-established history with horses and overwhelmingly reject their slaughter for profit.”
Senators Tom Udall, D-NM, another lawmaker who put the amendment forward, said: “New Mexicans regularly write and call asking me to ensure we never allow horse slaughter in the US, and this amendment will ensure no federal dollars are used to allow the practice to exist.
“Horses are a beautiful symbol of Western independence. Most Americans find the idea of slaughtering horses for human consumption repulsive, and they have no tolerance for attempts to open horse slaughtering plants.
“This amendment is a strong step forward, and I will keep fighting to prohibit horse slaughter in the United States.”
Senators Udall and Kirk were joined in advancing the amendment by Senators Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., Lindsey Graham, R-SC., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Christopher Coons, D-Del.
While horses have not been slaughtered on US soil for nine years, they are still shipped in their tens of thousands each year on long-haul trucks to Canadian and Mexican slaughter plants.