Advocates push to end slaughter trade in US horses

"The slaughter pipeline is no place for our horses," the head of the Humane Society of the United States says.
Photo by Lara Baeriswyl

Congressional leaders are being urged to pass a law to prevent the long-haul transport of horses beyond United States borders to slaughter.

“There are no easy victories in the animal protection universe,” animal advocates Kitty Block and Sara Amundson wrote in A Humane Nation, a blog published by the Humane Society of the United States.

“They are all hard-won, and the fight to end horse slaughter has been one of the most demanding and difficult ones we have ever had to wage,” they wrote.

The pair are urging supporters to join what they say is a critical push for the passage of the Save America’s Forgotten Equines (SAFE) Act through Congress.

It has 216 cosponsors in the House of Representatives, and the pair say they are pressing leaders in Congress to advance the measure for passage in the remaining months of the session.

“The slaughter pipeline is no place for our horses, and once the bill becomes law, they won’t ever have to face that horror,” they said.

The act, they said, would take the US out of the circuit of cruelty as a supplier of horses to a global trade.

Block, who is president and chief executive of the society, and Amundson, who is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, said of all modern threats to the horse in the US, horse slaughter stands out for its sheer callousness and deceitfulness.

“It’s a problem rooted in wrong and outdated views of horses and how we should treat them, and it’s a problem of our own making here in the United States.”

The pair said animal advocates have been fighting to end the slaughter of American horses since the 1990s and have made steady progress.

In 2007, three federal courts upheld state legislation that effectively prohibited the sale of horsemeat for human consumption, which in turn effectively shut down the operation of horse slaughter plants on American soil. Since then, the industry in the US has been kept on ice by ensuring, year after year, that no federal funds can be used for US Department of Agriculture inspection of such plants.

“This de facto ban on domestic horse slaughter did not end the trade, however, and stopping the export market has proven to be a difficult challenge.

“The killing shifted to Canada and Mexico, where there is an existing slaughter industry satisfying the appetite for horsemeat in Europe and Asia.”

In 2021, 23,431 US horses were exported for slaughter, down 13,454 from the previous year — a 36.5% decrease. “It’s still a shocking number, and a great betrayal of horses,” the pair wrote.

Passage of the SAFE Act would end the trade, they said. “It’s a simple bill that permanently bans domestic horse slaughter as well as the export of American horses for slaughter elsewhere, something that 83% of citizens support.

“With the issue receiving a hearing in the Health Subcommittee in January 2020 and with nearly half the members of the House and six members of the Senate currently on as cosponsors, we are in the final stretch of getting this bill passed into law.”

Block and Amundson noted that there are many in the racing industry who agree that horse slaughter is out of step with American values. The Jockey Club, The Breeders’ Cup, the New York Racing Association and The Stronach Group (owner of five prominent racetracks) are all active in the campaign, they noted. There are other strong voices, too.

They urged people to speak out to end horse slaughter.

Their full blog can be read here

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