The words “horse auction” may not mean much to you, but for thousands of American equines, they are a death sentence. At these weekly events, horses are auctioned off to buyers who can use them for any purpose, which means that kill buyers—those who make money selling horses for their meat—are lurking around every corner. Many owners who take their horses to auctions have no idea that they might meet this awful fate.
While investigating a recent rural horse auction, Stacy Segal, Director of Equine Initiatives at the ASPCA, spotted a young chestnut horse. He engaged her with playful nuzzles, and that’s when she noticed the unusual marking on his head: a white heart. When his number came up, Stacy was devastated to see that kill buyers were among those doing the bidding. She couldn’t bear to see him sent to death, and—thanks to some fast action and the assistance of a horse rescue organization—was able to intervene and help save Heart’s life.
Today, Heart is happy, safe and loved. His life was spared that day, but hundreds of other horses weren’t so fortunate. For them, the horse auction was a death sentence. But saving one horse at a time is not that solution—and that’s why we need you to get involved right now.
When you make a donation to the ASPCA today, you can support our life-saving efforts, including those focused on ending horse slaughter once and for all. Your gift can help us continue to fight for legislation that will prevent horse slaughter from returning to the U.S. and ban the export of our horses for slaughter abroad, and can also help us continue to provide grants and hands-on assistance to rescues and sanctuaries all around the country.
During today’s markup of the 2016 agriculture spending bill, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee approved the anti-horse slaughter amendment offered by Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) and co-sponsored by Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Chris Coons (D-DE). The Udall-Kirk Amendment would prevent the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from using taxpayer dollars to inspect horse slaughter facilities; without such inspections, the horse slaughter industry cannot resume in the United States.
“Horses are a symbol of the West, and they are an important part of our nation's history and our way of life today,” said Senator Udall. “Not only is the idea of horse slaughter for human consumption abhorrent to most Americans, but USDA is already stretched too thin and doesn't have the resources to properly oversee the industry. The practice is unnecessarily cruel and has a record of gruesome pollution and terrible conditions. New Mexicans write to me regularly to say that horse slaughter has no place in the United States. I agree and was pleased to offer this bipartisan amendment on their behalf."
“Taxpayer dollars should not be used to fund the inspection of facilities that contribute to the brutal slaughter of our horses,” added Senator Kirk. “Illinois banned the practice of horse slaughter in 2007, and this amendment ensures that these inhumane facilities are not opened again on U.S. soil.”
Horse slaughter is inherently cruel, environmentally and economically devastating to local communities and unsafe for foreign consumers. The ASPCA thanks the Senate Appropriations Committee for recognizing that it is irresponsible and wasteful to use taxpayer dollars to fund this brutal practice. The House Appropriations Committee vote, one week ago, was a tie and did not allow the language to be inserted into the larger legislation, so having the Senate take this action is particularly encouraging.
In addition to banning funds for horse slaughter inspections, the Committee also approved a provision to improve the animal welfare policy at U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC) and other federally operated agricultural research centers. Following a similar measure in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Committee’s report requires USDA to ensure that the agency’s research is adhering to the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), including the necessary inspection and reporting requirements.
The 2016 appropriations bill now moves to the Senate Floor. The ASPCA will work steadfastly to make sure this language is retained in the final version of the bill passed by Congress.
Guest blog by Nancy Perry, Senior Vice President of ASPCA Government Relations.
On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee approved an agriculture spending bill with some positive notes for animal welfare, although it failed to protect our nation’s horses.
By a single vote, the Committee failed to approve an amendment offered by Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) that would have maintained the status quo by barring the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from using taxpayer dollars to inspect horse slaughter facilities. Congress renewed this ban last year, prohibiting the cruel and unnecessary horse slaughter industry from operating anywhere in the country. Without further action to extend this ban beyond this September, Congress opens the door for a possible return of horse slaughter to the United States.
It’s disappointing that the House Appropriations Committee could allow such an irresponsible, wasteful use of taxpayer dollars to resume. The ASPCA is working with leaders in the House to include the ban on horse slaughter funding when the bill reaches the House Floor. The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to consider a similar amendment when it meets next week.
“A total lapse in management at every level” was the word from the Committee on another critical animal welfare matter. Referencing the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC)’s failures after a shocking New York Times exposé detailing egregious cruelties at the facility, the Committee took strong action to address the problems. The legislation approved this week provides funding for inspections of USMARC and other federally operated agricultural research centers and mandates improvements for animal welfare at these facilities. In fact, the legislation withholds $56.1 million dollars of the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service budget until the agency offers official assurances to Congress that it is adhering to the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and following necessary reporting requirements.
Additionally, the bill blocks funds for licensing of Class B animal dealers who sell “random source” dogs and cats, often stolen or lost household pets obtained from disreputable and difficult-to-trace sources, for use in research. This language, championed by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), was added as part of a non-controversial manager’s amendment to the bill.
Finally, the agriculture spending bill maintains current funding levels for enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act. These funds will go toward AWA inspections and enforcement of provisions for dogs in puppy mills, and will enable the USDA to crack down on the cruel practice of horse soring.
The Agriculture Appropriations bill may move to the full House for consideration in coming months. Find out how you can help make sure it includes protections for our nation’s animals: Join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade today.
Last year, the federal appropriations bill for 2015 renewed a ban on the use of tax dollars for inspections of horse slaughterhouses, keeping the vile horse slaughter industry from operating anywhere in America … for a time.
This September, that ban expires, putting horse slaughter facilities once again in a position to potentially reemerge in America, and putting the burden on Congress to reinstate its temporary halt.
But while renewing the ban every year stops slaughterhouses from opening on U.S. soil, it cannot prevent American horses—approximately 150,000 every year—from being legally trucked to slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada.
Even when horse slaughter plants were allowed in the U.S., tens of thousands of horses were still exported annually for slaughter, and several thousand were actually imported for slaughter.
During those long-distance trips, horses are treated as if they’re already dead, kept in crowded containers and denied adequate food, water, and rest. According to the USDA, 92 percent of these horses are in good physical condition and could go on to lead productive lives in loving homes.
Horse slaughter is also a threat to human health because horses are routinely given hundreds of drugs and other substances during their lives that have not been approved by the FDA for use in animals intended for human consumption.
So we’re asking you to tell your legislators—especially if your representative sits on the House Appropriations Committee—to continue the ban and prevent this cruel and environmentally devastating industry from establishing roots in America. In 2011, when this restriction was not renewed, the dormant U.S. horse slaughter industry wasted no time trying to set up slaughterhouses in several states.
But we shouldn’t have to hold our breath every year while the fate of our horses hangs in the balance. So urge your Congressperson to also support the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act of 2015 (H.R. 1942; S. 1214), which would permanently ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption in the U.S., as well as prohibit the export of horses to other countries for slaughter.
Horse rescues and sanctuaries are doing their part to spread awareness and save lives. In April, more than 100 equine welfare organizations from 33 states celebrated Help a Horse Day, including 53 organizations which participated in the ASPCA Help A Horse Day grant contest, our annual competition to recognize the most effective and creative tactics in helping at-risk horses.
The winning organizations, which were announced this week, employed a wide range of creative strategies, but all were dedicated to the same goal: protecting American horses.
This dedicated effort illustrates the fundamental position horses hold in American culture. But they also play a seminal role in ASPCA history. Nearly 150 years ago, ASPCA founder Henry Bergh stopped a cart driver from beating his horse, resulting in the first-ever successful arrest for horse mistreatment on April 26, 1866.
Bergh famously wrote: "Day after day I am in slaughterhouses … lifting a fallen horse to his feet, penetrating buildings where I inspect collars and saddles for raw flesh, then lecturing in public schools to children, and again to adult societies. Thus my whole life is spent."
The protection of horses has been a core part of the ASPCA mission ever since, including our support of equine welfare legislation, public advocacy, training, horse rescue, and targeted grants.
The work continues because it must. As the profit-driven horse slaughter industry tries again and again to reestablish its operations in America—spreading myths and misinformation to make the cruelty seem practical and even humane—we need to keep them in check.
Prohibiting slaughterhouse inspections is a start, but more comprehensive equine protection is a necessary finish. Our horses deserve it, and our humanity should demand it.
During the weekend of April 24-26, more than 100 equine rescue groups held events in 33 states in conjunction with the ASPCA “Help a Horse Day” Contest—a nationwide grant competition for equine rescues and sanctuaries to raise awareness about the work they do to save and care for at-risk horses.
Today, we are excited to announce the winners of the Help a Horse Day Contest, each of which will receive a grant in the amount of $5,000 or $10,000 to support their ongoing efforts to protect equines. The winning groups include:
$10,000 Grand Prize Winners:
All About Equine Animal Rescue – El Dorado Hills, CA
Horses of Tir Na Nog – San Diego, CA
The Pegasus Project – Ben Wheeler, TX
$5,000 Prize Winners:
Freedom Hill Horse Rescue – Owings, MD
Horse Haven of Tennessee – Knoxville, TN
Livestock and Equine Awareness Network (LEARN) – Meggett, SC
RVR Horse Rescue – Riverview, FL
Contestants were judged on the creativity of their events, as well as success engaging their local communities. This year’s winning events included a Ponypalooza event for families with games and prizes, which also featured members of the U.S. Air Force and local Boy Scout Troops engaging in a shelter construction project; a family carnival with pony rides and a “Muggin’ with the Mule” photo booth; the creation of a Help a Horse Posse and Sponsorship Program that allowed community members to sponsor horses; and Dancing for the Horses, which paired local celebrities with professional dancers to compete in honor of a rescued horse. One group even hosted an aviation festival in keeping with their theme of giving rescue horses their wings. Participating rescues also worked to recruit new volunteers, expand their support base, collect donated supplies and find homes for adoptable horses.
Thanks to all of this year’s participants for making a difference for equines nationwide!