A bipartisan bill that would permanently prohibit horse slaughter in the US and prevent equines being exported to abattoirs across the border has been announced by four senators.
The Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act was announced on Friday by US Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Susan Collins (R-Maine).
While its key aim is to forbid slaughter on American soil, it would also ban any related interstate or foreign commercial activity, such as the export of horse meat or the transport of live horses to slaughterhouses in other countries.
“The gruesome practice of slaughtering horses for food has no place in the United States, and it’s well past time for Congress to say once and for all that horse meat is not what’s for dinner,” said Menendez, an eight-time recipient of the Humane Society’s Humane Champion award.
“Horses are routinely treated with drugs that are not fit for human consumption and do not belong in our nation’s food supply.
“Our bipartisan legislation will help put an end to the cruel and inhumane slaughter of horses while protecting families from toxic horse meat and safeguarding the reputation of the US food industry worldwide.”
While slaughtering of horses for human consumption in the US is rare, figures from the National Agricultural Statistics Service at the US Department of Agriculture reveal that more than 100,000 American horses are exported to Canadian and Mexican slaughterhouses each year.
Earlier this year, Menendez led a bipartisan coalition calling on Senate appropriators to defund horse slaughtering plant inspections by the US Department of Agriculture, which effectively prohibits any slaughter plants from killing horses without imposing a direct ban.
The senior vice-president of ASPCA Government Relations, Nancy Perry, said horse slaughter was inherently cruel and posed serious threats to the safety and wellbeing of American horses and consumers.
She thanked the senators for “their commitment to saving America’s horses from this terrible fate, and protecting the American food supply from toxic horsemeat.”
The president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, said: “Americans don’t round up dogs and cats for slaughter and ship the parts of the animals to foreign countries. We shouldn’t do that with horses either.
“We commend Senators Menendez, Graham, Whitehouse and Collins for introducing this critical legislation to end horse slaughter once and for all.”
Pacelle has long been critical of the slaughter trade, arguing that was inherently inhumane to force horses to endure long journeys to slaughter plants without adequate food, water or rest.
He has labelled horse slaughter a predatory enterprise, saying buyers acquired young, healthy horses, often by misrepresenting their intentions, and inhumanely kill them to sell the meat to Europe and Japan.
Companion legislation was filed in the House earlier this year by US Representatives Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore), Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.).
The full text of the bill can be downloaded here.