Critical votes on two horse protection bills and on a funding bill with key horse provisions made today a benchmark date in the long history of equine advocacy by the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund. The Subcommittee on Consumer Protection & Commerce of the House Energy & Commerce Committee voted 22-0 on legislation to ban soring in the Tennessee walking horse industry and the slaughter of horses for human consumption. The two measures are at the heart of the organizations’ equine protection agenda. And the House Appropriations Committee approved important provisions we sought for horses in the bill funding the U.S. Department of Agriculture for Fiscal Year 2023.
“Horse lovers and advocates have been seeking to hasten the day when we’d give horses a measure of justice on these issues,” said Keith Dane, senior director on equine protection for the HSUS. “It’s hard to imagine any greater betrayal of horses than slaughter and soring, and there could be no simpler solution than to ban them outright, no compromise.”
“If average Americans of any persuasion could vote on it, these cruelties would have long since disappeared. Neither one is worthy of a humane nation, and that should seal the deal with the 117th Congress, which we hope will pass these two measures immediately,” said Tracie Letterman, vice president of federal affairs at HSLF.
The subcommittee passed the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, H.R. 5441, as introduced, without any weaking amendments. The bill would amend the federal Horse Protection Act to eliminate industry-self policing, ban soring devices and strengthen penalties for soring, in which unscrupulous trainers use painful techniques to induce an artificially high-stepping gait in some show horses. The effectively-crafted PAST Act has the strong support of the HSUS and HSLF and other leading animal, veterinary and horse industry organizations, which have united to oppose the efforts of a single animal organization that recklessly promoted a so-called “compromise” that would have codified further cruelty and victimization of walking horses.
As for the slaughter of horses to eat them, more than 80% of Americans reject the practice. But the export of horses to other countries for slaughter continues, and the foreign slaughter industry would welcome the opportunity to restart operations in the United States. Passage of the Save America’s Forgotten Equines (SAFE) Act, H.R. 3355, would produce a permanent ban on domestic slaughter of horses for food and prohibit their shipment abroad for that purpose.
Their focus on equine protection is not the only thing the two measures have in common. Both enjoy the strong support of a bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives. The SAFE Act currently has 218 sponsors, while the PAST Act has 258 and already won House approval by a vote of 333-96 in 2019. This represents an historic opportunity to pass humane legislation for which there is clear and substantial support.
The vote today of the Fiscal Year 2023 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill in the House Committee on Appropriations could also prove decisive regarding horse slaughter. The bill contains a permanent defunding of inspections of domestic horse slaughter plants, which would prevent them from ever reopening on U.S. soil. Through the efforts of the HSUS, HSLF and allied organizations, there has been a de facto ban on funding for most of the past 17 years, but that requires an annual lobbying effort. A permanent prohibition on allocation of taxpayer dollars for inspections would signal the definitive end of horse slaughter for food on American soil. The bill also contains more than $4 million (a $1 million boost from last year) for USDA enforcement of the Horse Protection Act and provisions encouraging the agency to strengthen its enforcement against soring.