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U.S. Rep. Meehan, National Animal Welfare Groups Urge Philadelphians to Support Federal Legislation to Ban Horse Slaughter

Press conference held at mounted police headquarters to discuss animal welfare, human health concerns associated with slaughtering horses for human consumption
May 10, 2013

PHILADELPHIA —The Philadelphia Police Department’s Mounted Police Unit was joined at its headquarters by U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), the ASPCA (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) and The Humane Society of the United States to garner public support for federal legislation to stop the inhumane killing of American horses for human consumption.

In addition to being terrifying and painful for the animals, slaughtering American horses poses a potential risk to human health. In this country, horses are raised for use in show, sport, work and recreation and are regularly administered drugs that are expressly prohibited by current federal regulations for use in animals intended for human consumption. There is no known safe level for consumption of these drug residues in horse meat, and most horses have no medical record that documents the type and amount of drugs received.

The Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act would prevent the introduction of horse slaughter operations in the U.S., end the current export of American horses for slaughter abroad, and protect the public from consuming toxic horse meat. Last year, more than 160,000 American horses were sent to a cruel death by a foreign industry that produces potentially unsafe food for consumers. Reps. Meehan and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., along with Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., introduced the legislation into Congress last month.

Rep. Meehan said: "The pending approval of the first domestic horse slaughter plant underscores the urgency of Congressional action. This legislation has bipartisan, bicameral support. It's time for Congress to act to ban horse slaughter. The partnership between Last Chance Ranch and the Philadelphia Police Department is an example of one of the many alternatives to the inhumane slaughter of horses for human consumption, including adoption and donation. Horse slaughter is inhumane to horses, it's unsafe for humans and it must end."

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey issued the following statement: "The welfare of all animals is important to our department. Our Mounted Unit is an important component of our crime fighting strategy and another resource in building relationships with various communities. Therefore, preserving the lives of these animals is meaningful and beneficial for both human beings and horses."

Valerie Pringle, equine protection specialist for The HSUS, said: "Horses have served humanity in so many ways, including helping our law enforcement efforts. We owe these animals better than a cruel, terrifying death in a slaughter plant, and I thank Representative Meehan for his leadership in protecting America’s horses and consumers from this predatory industry."

Chris Heyde, deputy director of government and legal affairs for AWI, said: "We are all humbled to be standing in the presence of the magnificent horses that make up the Philadelphia Police Department's Mounted Police Unit. These horses—some of whom were rescued from slaughter—are hooves-on-the-ground proof that the overwhelming majority of horses going to slaughter are full of life and have value to provide the community. Surely we can provide them a second chance; we owe them that for all they have given us."

Carolyn Schnurr, federal legislative manager of ASPCA Government Relations, added: "The overwhelming majority of Americans are intensely opposed to the cruel practice of horse slaughter, and we thank the sponsors of the SAFE Act for their efforts to not only protect public health, but also safeguard our nation’s equines. This predatory industry is actively trying to establish horse slaughter plants in the U.S., and it is time for Congress to permanently ban domestic horse slaughter and the export of our horses to neighboring countries for slaughter."

The passage of the SAFE Act is a priority for the nation’s leading animal welfare organizations, as well as many veterinarians and equine groups across the country, including the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, Veterinarians for Equine Welfare and National Black Farmers Association. A January 2012 national poll commissioned by the ASPCA confirms that 80 percent of American voters oppose the slaughter of horses for human consumption.