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June 10, 2011

The HSUS Praises Senate for Move to End Horse Slaughter

Horses in pen

Kathy Milani/The HSUS

WASHINGTON — The Humane Society of the United States applauds Sens. Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., for introducing the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act of 2011, a critical measure that will end the inhumane killing of American horses for human consumption and the export of horses across our borders for slaughter. Original cosponsors of this legislation, in addition to Sens. Landrieu and Graham, includes Daniel K. Akaka, D-Hawaii., Mark Begich, D-Ark., Scott Brown, R-Mass., Thomas R. Carper, D-Del., Susan Collins, R-Maine, Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Mark Steven Kirk, R-Ill., Frank R. Lautenberg, D-N.J., Carl Levin D-Mich., Joseph I. Lieberman, I-Conn., Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., Bernard Sanders, I-Vt. and Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y.

“This bill could finally take American horses off the menu for good, and put an end to shocking and inhumane treatment of these animals,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. “No animal played a bigger role in the settlement and expansion of our nation than the horse, and to treat them like some disposable, throwaway commodity is beneath us.”

“The last U.S. Slaughterhouses were closed in 2007, and there is virtually no demand for horse meat in this country. However, tens of thousands of horses are inhumanely transported across our borders where they are brutally slaughtered,” said Sen. Landrieu. “As a lifelong horse lover and rider, this practice is appalling to me, and more importantly, the majority of Americans oppose it. We raise and train horses to trust us, perform for us, and allow us on their backs, and as such, they deserve to be treated with human compassion. When horse owners are faced with the sad reality of having to put their animals down, it should be by humane euthanasia. I intend to work with Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina and my other colleagues to get this bill passed and permanently end the slaughter of our American horses.”

Approximately 100,000 American horses are sent to slaughter each year. This represents 1 percent of the total population of American horses, as the vast majority of horse owners do not choose slaughter as an end-of-life option for their treasured companions. USDA statistics show that 92 percent of horses sent to slaughter are in good condition—not old and injured—and could lead healthy, productive lives. States have acted to stop horse slaughter, terminating the last remaining foreign-owned horse slaughter plants in the United States in 2007, and federal courts have upheld these state laws, but Congress has failed to stop the export of live horses to Canada and Mexico for slaughter, which is still occurring. National polls show that 70 percent of Americans favor a ban on horse slaughter.

The slaughter plants in Canada and Mexico fail to practice horse welfare standards, and the plants slaughtering American horses on American soil—prior to their closure—were no better, as documented photos obtained through the Freedom of Information Act reveal. Undercover investigations in Canadian and Mexican slaughterhouses also revealed terrible cruelty: horses injured or killed during shipment under deplorable conditions, dragged and whipped into kill boxes and forced to suffer painful deaths. The horrendous end for these American icons sold for slaughter begins at an auction, where horses are corralled, sold and loaded into double-decker trailers with ceilings so low that most horses can’t balance themselves, exacerbating their transport injuries. The journey to and across a border can mean confinement in a trailer at temperatures in excess of 100 degrees for thousands of miles without access to food or water. Once unloaded, the exhausted, dehydrated and often battered horses are recklessly shoved into kill boxes where they suffer abuse and violence as workers’ repeated and often misguided attempts to render the panic-stricken animals unconscious cause additional suffering.

Horsemeat is not consumed in the United States, but the flesh of American horses slaughtered abroad is shipped as a luxury item consumed by foreign gourmands. Horsemeat tested by the European Union has revealed the presence of drugs prohibited from being administered to horses entering the EU’s food chain, because they can cause serious risks to human health. Horses are not raised as food animals in the United States and are frequently given these drugs.

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 Senate by an overwhelming vote of 69-28 and passed the House numerous times by a margin of more than 100 votes. In the 110th Congress, legislation to ban horse slaughter was not enacted because it was blocked by House committee leaders and Western senators, despite strong bipartisan cosponsorship in both chambers. Animal advocates hope this legislation will advance quickly in the House and Senate in the 112th Congress. The HSUS joins Sens. Landrieu and Graham, along with the vast majority of Americans, in support of this bill to protect our treasured companions from this cruelty by banning their slaughter for human consumption.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at humanesociety.org.

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