Guest blog by Nancy Perry, Senior Vice President of Government Relations
Yesterday was the National Day of the Horse, designated by the U.S. Senate in 2004 as a day for “people of the United States to be mindful of the contribution of horses to the economy, history and character of the United States.” This led me to take stock of how our nation is doing when it comes to equine protection. While there have been advances in horse protection, much work remains to be done.
A 2012 national poll found that 80% of American voters oppose horse slaughter. Even though the last domestic horse slaughter plants have closed, the slaughter of American horses has continued in Canada and Mexico. Attempts made this year to resume horse slaughter in the U.S. were thwarted by massive public opposition. Legislation to ban these practices awaits action in Congress.
This spring, media attention focused on the plight of racehorses. A New York Times investigation detailed the tragedies befalling these equine athletes as a result of widespread drugging. Congress quickly introduced legislation to address this root cause of catastrophic injuries, and we continue to press for its passage.
We worked to draft a new piece of legislation to clamp down on “soring”—the practice of inflicting pain in horses’ legs and hooves so severe that they move with an unnaturally high-stepping gait. This new bill was introduced in Congress this year to amend the Horse Protection Act and end soring once and for all.
While New York City continues to allow the shameful and dangerous practice of driving carriage horses on congested city streets, the ASPCA has backed a pilot program to replace those vulnerable animals with vintage, electric cars. This project is gaining momentum but has not yet replaced the antiquated urban horse-drawn carriage. We continue seeking ways to implement alternatives to the suffering of these noble creatures.
Though Congress recognized wild horses as living symbols of the American West in 1971, competition for public land use has threatened the welfare of our last mustangs. In 2004, a backroom deal led to the amendment of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act permitting the sale of these iconic animals for the first time. This exception allowed over 1,700 mustangs to be sold to notorious pro-slaughter buyer Tom Davis (a devastating discovery made earlier this year). Many fear those horses were sent to slaughter, despite the Bureau of Land Management’s policy against such an action. In response to this incident, the agency just announced reforms to prevent such tragedies in the future—but it may be too little, too late. The ASPCA calls for an end to the sales program and a return to the preservation focus of the Act.
In 2004, when the U.S. Senate recognized December 13 as the National Day of the Horse, it called America to action, stating “horses are a vital part of the collective experience of the United States and deserve protection and compassion.” We at the ASPCA pledge to remain committed to this challenge and will ensure you know when and how you can join us in fighting for our beloved horses.
When the M. Wells Dinette, which recently opened inside MoMA (The Museum of Modern Art) PS1 in Queens, announced plans to add horse meat to its menu, New Yorkers did not take it lying down. In fact, animal lovers all over the nation joined the ASPCA in speaking out against the idea—and we’re thrilled to share the news that the restaurant’s owners have graciously agreed to keep horse meat off the menu…permanently.
“We are thrilled that the outpouring of concern and outrage coupled with startling health concerns about the toxicity of horse meat won the day, and the M. Wells Dinette decided to step away from this idea,” says Nancy Perry, Senior Vice President of ASPCA Government Relations.
A national poll conducted earlier this year showed that 80% of American voters oppose the slaughter of U.S. horses for human consumption—and that sentiment was certainly borne out over the past week in New York City, where the M. Wells story ignited a firestorm of media coverage as well as hundreds of letters and phone calls directly to MoMA’s offices.
The ASPCA urges all Americans to contact their federal legislators in support of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, which would prohibit the sale and transport of horses for slaughter in the United States, as well as across the border to Canada and Mexico. Passage of this critical legislation would end the current export and slaughter of approximately 100,000 American horses each year.
Congratulations, New Jersey—you’ve just become the latest state to ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption!
Just shy of his final deadline, Governor Chris Christie signed into law A.2023/S.1976, which is an amazing piece of legislation: Not only does it prevent a horse slaughter plant from opening in the Garden State, it also prohibits the use of state roads to transport live horses intended for slaughter elsewhere!
New Jersey’s highways are a major East Coast artery up to Canada (and Canadian slaughterhouses). Now that horse slaughterers can’t use them, their lives just became more difficult—and we have to admit, we’re pretty happy about that.
Until we succeed in passing a federal law banning both U.S. horse slaughter and the transport of slaughter-bound horses across our borders, it is vital that individual states continue to stand against this horrific practice by passing their own bans. So thank you, New Jersey animal advocates, for fighting until the end to make sure this bill became law! Please take a moment to thank Governor Christie for approving the bill.
Back in June, the New Jersey Legislature overwhelmingly passed a bill to prohibit the slaughter, transport, and sale of horses for human consumption within the state. Unfortunately, Governor Chris Christie has not yet signed the bill into law, and it’s not clear that he intends to.
With the clock ticking, several prominent New Jersey horse owners, equestrians and animal advocates, including Jessica Springsteen—daughter of Bruce—have sent a letter to Governor Chris Christie urging him to approve the horse slaughter ban. Christie is famously a huge Bruce Springsteen fan: Will a direct plea from The Boss’s daughter move him to finally act?
Americans don’t eat horse meat (it is shipped overseas), and 80% of American voters are opposed to the slaughter of U.S. horses for human consumption. What are you waiting for, Governor Christie?
See our latest press release to read a portion of the letter to the governor and learn more about New Jersey’s pending horse slaughter ban. And if you live in New Jersey, we urge you to send your own letter to the governor—visit the ASPCA Advocacy Center to get started!
California, Texas, Illinois, Mississippi and Oklahoma have already banned horse slaughter and/or the sale of horse meat for human consumption, and we’re hoping New Jersey will be next. A bill banning the slaughter of horses for human consumption, as well as related activities such as selling and transporting horse meat and live horses for slaughter, overwhelmingly passed the New Jersey Legislature in June.
There are currently no slaughterhouses processing horse meat for human consumption in the U.S.—the last ones shut down in 2007. However, the foreign-owned companies that used to profit from selling the meat of American horses overseas are trying hard to get this industry back up and running.
Because the resumption of horse slaughter would be a giant step backward for animals, the ASPCA, along with the entire animal welfare community, has spent years lobbying Congress to ban horse slaughter and the transport of horses for slaughter nationwide. Until we succeed, it is vital that individual states continue to stand against this horrific practice by passing their own bans.