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!
Guest blog by Brianne Goutal, a highly respected top international equestrian on the United States show jumping team. She represents Cloverleaf Farm, Remarkable Farm and her own stable, Brianne Goutal LLC. She is currently ranked 10th in the United States and 54thin the world and is the only rider to have won all four coveted equitation finals for junior riders, the crown being the ASPCA Maclay National Championship in 2006. Brianne is from New York City and has served as an ASPCA Equine Welfare Ambassador since 2008, speaking out against horse slaughter and other forms of equine abuse.
Like many Americans (and people worldwide) this weekend, I watched with my heart in my throat to see the outcome of this weekend’s famous annual horse race. We all witnessed an amazing day in history as American Pharoah became the first horse since 1978 to win the seemingly unattainable title of Triple Crown champion.
But as I watched, I was wrought with guilt knowing the horrors these horses may face once their careers are over. Every day hundreds of American horses are shipped in unimaginable conditions to slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada where they will be killed for human consumption. Over the course of this year alone, roughly 150,000 horses will face this terrifying experience.
It is nightmarish to think no horse is safe from ending up at a slaughterhouse. Not even American Pharoah is more than one bad sale away from this horrendous fate until horse slaughter is banned for good.
Rather than discuss the grisly details of this sad finality, I want to shine a light on a root cause of this problem: irresponsible breeding.
The racing industry, the western show industry and even my industry of show jumping—as well as many more—are guilty of irresponsible breeding practices. Breeding champions is a numbers game: the more you breed, the better your chances of breeding a star. As long as it remains legal to sell horses to slaughter, there are no real ramifications for irresponsible breeding.
Breeders can take responsibility for the horses they breed, starting now, without waiting for Congress to act. As an ASPCA Equine Welfare Ambassador, I call for an end to the slaughter of American horses for human consumption and ask all horse industries to adopt responsible breeding practices including:
Breeding horses purposefully and intentionally with specific good homes in mind.
Reclaiming a horse if he or she is at risk of abuse, neglect or slaughter.
Including a clause in every sales contract that gives you the first option to buy back the horse you are selling.
Pledging to never send a horse to auction where is no way to control who will buy him or her and for what purpose.
I want to applaud those breeders who already have publicly pledged to abide by these principles. I do not have a perfect solution, but I know these steps can make serious advances in prioritizing responsible breeding in the horse industry.
I urge everyone who cares for horses to think about this problem. Please join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade for updates on critical animal welfare legislation, including horse-slaughter-related legislation, and opportunities to lend your voice quickly and easily.
If you are a barn owner or run an equine business or organization, please sign the ASPCA Endorsement Form to let us know you support a ban on horse slaughter.
Whatever American Pharoah’s future may hold, I hope our awareness about equine welfare can take just one step closer to a goal of protecting the horses we rely on and who, in turn, rely on us. I truly believe that together we can find a solution. We are responsible for the horses we breed. Their fate depends on us. We are their voice.