Great news! President Obama’s newly released FY 2015 budget proposal once again includes a request for Congress to block spending by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to inspect U.S. horse slaughter plants. If adopted, this prohibition would effectively ban horse slaughter on U.S. soil through September 2015 because only USDA-inspected meat can be sold for human consumption.
The President’s request reflects the will of the Congress, whose FY 2014 spending bill, passed in January, included the same language. (The inspection-defund language was initially introduced in the House and Senate by Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) and Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) as an amendment to the FY 2014 Agriculture appropriations bill.) However, the FY 2014 spending bill expires this September, which is why it’s critical to get the measure extended via the FY 2015 budget.
“We are grateful to the White House and USDA for their continued leadership in ensuring that American horses are not slaughtered on our own soil for foreign demand, especially in light of the recent news from Europe about the horrors of discovering horse meat mixed with frozen lasagna and other meat products,” says Nancy Perry, Senior Vice President of ASPCA Government Relations. “Wasting tax dollars on the cruelty of horse slaughter makes no sense, and we urge Congress to once again adopt this provision.”
Help us ensure that Capitol Hill hears the message to protect our horses, both here and abroad! The pro-slaughter industry will lobby intensely against this newest effort to prohibit federal dollars from being spent on horse slaughter, and our goal is to stop all American horses from experiencing the horrors of slaughter wherever it occurs, so we must continue to press for passage of the SAFE Act to ban horse slaughter permanently.
If horses could speak, there are at least 16 who would thank ASPCA responder Bryan Hayes for his patience and compassion.
Bryan was one of nearly a dozen responders with the ASPCA’s Field Investigations and Response (FIR) team assisting Spokane County Regional Animal Protective Services (SCRAPS) in Washington State with the sheltering and daily care of 63 horses seized during an animal cruelty investigation. Discovered on an abandoned property in November 2013, many of the horses were severely emaciated and dehydrated, with no access to water.
When Bryan arrived at the Spokane County fairgrounds, temperatures hovered between 13 and 18 degrees. The majority of the horses had been placed in outdoor paddocks; others were in nearby stalls. Eleven, in critical condition, were taken to a local veterinarian for immediate medical attention. There were 16 yearling colts who refused to be touched.
“They were flighty and would run from you,” Bryan says. “Our task was to get halters on those horses and inventory them—give them numbers and take their photos.”
That’s where Bryan’s expertise came in.
He and other ASPCA staff and responders worked with one horse at a time. After each horse was in its own paddock, Bryan used a broom as an extension of his arm to slowly pet each horse.
“They would stand for that,” he says. “Then I would replace the broom with my hand. All the horses seemed to calm down.”
In addition to haltering many of the Spokane herd, Bryan trimmed hooves, some that were splitting, including those of an emaciated mare who had to be sedated. Because so many horses were close to starvation, Bryan speculates more would have died were it not for the intervention of SCRAPS and the ASPCA.
The majority (47) horses were placed with adopters, foster families or rescue groups, and boarding facilities, and the ASPCA continues to provide support for boarding costs and re-homing the last remaining horses.
Local authorities issued a warrant for the arrest of property owner Janice Hickerson on charges of animal cruelty. Her whereabouts remain unknown.
Bryan, a farrier by trade, also handled logistics at the temporary shelter in Florida where more than 200 dogs seized in a multi-state dog fighting raid in August 2013 are being housed and cared for by ASPCA responders. Over the past three years, Bryan has also assisted the ASPCA as a consultant in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, among other natural disasters and animal cruelty cases.
Bryan has experience working with various types of animals, but horses have always been part of his life. Bryan cared for his first pony for more than 20 years, and is now the guardian of two dogs and a 9-year-old American saddlebred named Captain.
The ASPCA is grateful for all of Bryan’s assistance in many of our crucial rescue efforts. To learn more about the ASPCA’s work to end equine cruelty, visit our Fight Cruelty section.
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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.
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“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.