Some foreign companies look at beloved American horses—wild mustangs on the range, show horses, race horses, even work horses— and see only two things: profit and food. They want to turn these majestic animals into frozen meat products for Europe and Asia, with no concerns about the unconscionable cost on life, health, the environment, or the integrity of our culture.
Fortunately, this industry was blocked from slaughtering horses in the U.S. when the president and Congress, echoing the voices of a clear majority of Americans, passed legislation late last week to prohibit the use of tax dollars to inspect U.S. horse slaughter facilities. This protection, included in a major bipartisan budget package, effectively reinstates a ban on domestic horse slaughter for the 2014 fiscal year.
Two aspects of that last line are worth calling out: “domestic” and “2014.” These are significant because the regulation does not prohibit the transport of U.S. horses for slaughter to other countries, and because it must be reapproved every year.
Congress failed to include the language in the 2012 budget, opening the door for a return of horse slaughter in the U.S. Applications to open horse slaughter facilities were filed with the USDA in New Mexico, Missouri and Iowa and these plants came perilously close to opening.
The international transport loophole is equally disturbing. In 2006, two foreign-owned facilities in Texas and one in Illinois killed more than 90,000 horses for human consumption in countries like France, Belgium and Japan. In 2007, all three slaughterhouses for horses in the U.S. were closed, and several states have implemented laws banning the selling, giving and possessing of horse meat intended for human consumption.
But protecting our horses coast to coast in a lasting way requires passage of the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act (S. 541/H.R. 1094), bipartisan legislation that would end the export of American horses for slaughter abroad, once and for all.
Americans are overwhelmingly on the side of the horses. In a national poll commissioned by the ASPCA, 80 percent of American voters expressed opposition to the slaughter of U.S. horses for human consumption.
Opposing horse slaughter on humanitarian grounds alone is a no-brainer. The majority of horses killed for human consumption are young, healthy animals who could go on to lead productive lives with loving owners. These equines suffer incredible abuse even before they arrive at the slaughterhouse. They’re often transported for more than 24 hours at a time, without food, water or rest, in dangerously overcrowded trailers. Horses slip and fall and are often seriously injured or killed in transit.
Some erroneously liken horse slaughter to euthanasia, but make no mistake: Methods used to slaughter horses rarely result in quick, painless deaths. Horses are difficult to stun and may often remain conscious during their butchering and dismemberment.
Others argue that slaughtering horses in America is an acceptable alternative to shipping horses overseas for slaughter. They may be surprised to learn that even when there were active horse slaughter facilities in the U.S., tens of thousands of American horses were still exported to other countries for slaughter.
Consuming horse meat is actually very dangerous. Unlike pigs or chickens, horses are not raised for food in this country. Over their lifetimes, they’re routinely given drugs and other substances—both legal and illegal—that can be toxic to humans if ingested. And few of these substances have been approved by the FDA for use in animals intended for human consumption.
A New York Times article revealed the hodgepodge of drugs regularly administered to American race horses, and resulting food safety threats. And the shocking discovery of horse meat in beef products in the U.K. and other European countries certainly underscores the potential threat to American health if this grisly practice returns to the U.S.
Last year, more than 160,000 American horses were sent to cruel deaths by foreign industries that produce unsafe food for consumers. We should no longer be party to such cruelty. Horse slaughter is simply inhumane, whether here or abroad, and a lasting end to this vile practice is the only just solution.
UPDATE—Thursday, Jan. 16, 7:30 P.M. Wonderful news! The U.S. Senate has just passed the FY2014 spending bill with the horse slaughter funding-limitation language intact. The president is expected to sign the bill by the end of the week. This means that no horse slaughter facilities will be permitted to open in the U.S. for the 2014 fiscal year. Congratulations and thanks are due to all our amazing animal advocates, who helped secure this victory.
The U.S. House of Representatives has just passed the federal government’s FY2014 spending bill, which contains language expressly prohibiting the use of tax dollars to inspect facilities that slaughter horses for human consumption. The massive funding bill is expected to pass the U.S. Senate and be signed into law by President Obama later this week, ushering ina ban on domestic horse slaughter nationwide.
“The message from Capitol Hill is loud and clear on this issue: Our horses deserve better and this abhorrent industry will not be tolerated,” says Nancy Perry, Senior Vice President of ASPCA Government Relations. “We thank the members of the House for recognizing that using taxpayer dollars to fund the inhumane horse slaughter industry is reckless and wasteful, and urge the Senate to quickly pass this bill.”
In response to overwhelming public opposition to horse slaughter, Congress enacted a similar spending prohibition each year for FY2006 through FY2011. However, it failed to include the prohibition language in the FY2012 budget, opening the door for this gruesome practice to return to U.S. soil.
While the proposed FY2014 spending bill will protect American communities from the devastating environmental and economic impacts of horse slaughter facilities, it will not prohibit the transport of U.S. horses for slaughter across the border to Canada and Mexico. Last year, more than 160,000 American horses were victims of this grisly, foreign industry that produces unsafe, drug-tainted meat.
We can end this horror by passing the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act (S. 541/H.R. 1094)—bipartisan legislation that would permanentlyend the current export of American horses for slaughter abroad, and protect the public from consuming toxic horse meat.
Join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade!
By joining the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade, you will receive important alerts from us when we need your help to fight for laws that will help animals.
“We are going to quickly and aggressively move to make horse carriages no longer a part of the landscape,” he said. “They are not humane, they are not appropriate for the year 2014. It's over. So, just watch us do it.”
As an organization that’s fought for humane treatment of horses since our founding in 1866, we share the mayor’s philosophy that no economic counter-argument stands up to the sheer ridiculousness of this antiquated tradition. New York simply has a higher standard.
So we’re doing our part by joining the mayor’s call, standing with partners like NYCLASS, and counteracting deep troughs of misinformation with expert veterinary and animal relocation expertise. We stand ready to tap into our network of rescue partners to secure potential homes for the horses— facilities and people willing and able to open their hearts and homes to these animals.
Are there legitimate concerns about lost jobs? Absolutely. We share those concerns and encourage new ideas to address them. But using fear over facts to sway this debate is as irresponsible as suggesting strained carriage horses can be compensated with “vacation time.”
This is a conversation the city needs to have. But it needs to be placed in a context of hard truth, not hyperbolic bias. New Yorkers deserve that. And so do the animals with whom we share the city.
We applaud efforts clearly in motion to take these horses off city streets, pushing both them and New York itself into a more civilized future that need not be feared.
As 2013 comes to a close, the ASPCA is celebrating meaningful changes in state animal welfare laws that will improve the lives of thousands of animals across the country. This year, the ASPCA worked with state legislators and other humane advocacy groups to score 87 victories for animals by enacting new laws or defeating hostile legislation, making 2013 one of the most successful years for our animal welfare policy work.
Here is a small sampling of new laws that the ASPCA and our Advocacy Brigade helped secure—as well as misguided bills we helped defeat—in 2013:
(1) Maryland passed a law to establish one of the strongest, most robustly-funded statewide spay/neuter programs in the country, and West Virginia enacted a comprehensive spay/neuter program as well. These new laws will help reduce pet homelessness and euthanasia of healthy animals.
(2) In Texas, cruel and unnecessary gas chambers can no longer be used to euthanize animals in shelters.
(3) Working with a coalition of animal welfare, environmental, and human rights organizations, the ASPCA helped ensure that none of the 11 ag-gag bills introduced in 2013 (in Arkansas, California, Indiana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont and Wyoming) were passed into law. Pushed by industrial agribusiness, these bills were blatant attempts to cover up illegal and unethical activities on factory farms. Defeating them was critical not only for the protection of animals and the whistleblowers exposing their mistreatment, but also for the safety of the public.
(4) Thanks to groundbreaking legislation passed in Colorado, law enforcement officers will receive training on canine behavior and alternative methods to the use of lethal force in order to reduce accidental dog shootings. A new law in New York State will increase criminal penalties for the intentional killing of police dogs and horses
(5) In California, legislation passed that will phase out lead ammunition for hunting throughout the state to protect wildlife, who are at risk of ingesting contaminated remains, as well as California’s diverse ecosystem.
(6) This was a phenomenal year for animals in Nevada, where seven animal protection bills passed, including legislation to ban horse tripping, enhance penalties for animal fighting and protect wild horses.
(7) In New Jersey, penalties for neglect have been strengthened with the passage of “Patrick’s Law,” named after a dog who was starved nearly to death and thrown down a garbage chute.
(8) Illinois enacted new laws protecting chained dogs, stray farm animals, puppy mill puppies and animals who fall victim to animal fighting.
(9) Animals in Alabama and Ohio are safer from abuse thanks to new laws that strengthen cruelty penalties.
(10) ASPCA-backed legislation passed in Connecticut established a task force to study the origin of dogs and cats in pet shops that will, ideally, pave the way for groundbreaking legislation in 2014 to prevent pet stores from selling puppy mill puppies.
Many state legislatures will reconvene in January, and the ASPCA looks forward to expanding protections for even more for animals in all 50 states.
To find out about animal advocacy events in your area and how you can be more involved in the fight to protect animals, visit the ASPCA Advocacy Center.
Join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade!
By joining the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade, you will receive important alerts from us when we need your help to fight for laws against animal cruelty.
We’re pleased to report that 47 of the horses have been placed with adopters, foster families or rescue groups to be made available for adoption. An additional four horses will be transported to 808 Equine Rescue in Calhan, Colorado, on December 21. Spokane County Regional Animal Protective Services (SCRAPS), an ASPCA Partner Community agency, will soon transport the remaining horses to a boarding facility.
When we first arrived in Spokane one month ago, the horses were severely emaciated and dehydrated from having had no access to water or acceptable food. They were discovered living on an abandoned property, and were seized as part of a cruelty investigation. We’ve been on the ground assisting SCRAPS by helping to shelter and care for the horses, as well as working to find them new homes. We’ll continue to support the agency remotely with boarding costs and placement for the remaining horses.