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January 16, 2009

Horse Slaughter Bill Introduced

Legislation would end the slaughter of American horses

Horses on trailer


The 111th Congress got off to a galloping start for America's horses with the introduction of legislation to end the slaughter of American horses for human consumption in the U.S. and abroad.

The Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2009 (H.R. 503) was introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Representative John Conyers (D-MI) and Representative Dan Burton (R-IN) just days into the new Congress, demonstrating their strong commitment to move this legislation through the process as quickly as possible and spare horses from bring transported to foreign slaughterhouses.

Trouble Abroad

While there are currently no operational horse slaughter plants in the U.S., tens of thousands of healthy, young American horses are still being trucked thousands of miles without food, water or rest to plants across the border into Mexico and Canada.

"Every day that passes means that there will be more torment and more suffering for America's horses," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. "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."

In 2008, more than 86,000 American horses were exported for slaughter—the majority going to Mexico. An HSUS investigation into horses being transported to Mexico for slaughter revealed the brutal handling and treatment of horses in transport to the slaughter plants, and the cruel and inhumane methods used to stun horses prior to dismemberment. At one plant in Juarez, Mexico, horses are stabbed with short, "puntilla" knives, a method that leaves them paralyzed and unable to breathe. The animals may still be conscious as they are hoisted up by chains and their throats slit.

Recent documentation uncovered by horse welfare advocates demonstrates that the plants in the U.S. were equally inhumane and riddled with gross abuse. There is no humane way to slaughter horses for food and most Americans are horrified to find out that all kinds of American horses—former show horses, race horses, lesson ponies, even wild horses and heavily pregnant mares—meet this fate.

Running Out of Time

Conyers and Burton introduced similar legislation in 2008, also called the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act. While that bill was voted favorably out of the House Judiciary Committee, time ran out before it could be considered by the full House and Senate. The new legislation enjoys wide bipartisan support, with 59 members of Congress signing on as original co-sponsors.

Past congressional actions on horse slaughter have demonstrated a strong, bipartisan desire to prohibit the killing of 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, H.R. 503 by Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), and John Spratt (D-S.C.), and S. 311 by Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and John Ensign (R-Nev.), was never enacted. Animal advocates hope the new bill will advance quickly in Chairman Conyers' House Judiciary Committee.

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