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.
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.
Guest blog by Daisy Freund, Senior Manager of the ASPCA’s Farm Animal Welfare Campaign
A constitutional amendment guaranteeing the “right to farm” was passed in Missouri last week by the narrowest of margins. Amendment 1 squeaked by with a 0.2% lead; a mere 2,528 votes out of almost one million cast. While the amendment may have seemed harmless to many voters, those who opposed it, including the ASPCA, worry that it could shield a disturbingly broad range of agricultural industries and practices. Those benefiting from the amendment include factory farms and the state’s notorious puppy mill industry, considered by some to be a form of agriculture. It was incredibly heartening to see so many Missouri voters reject this deceptive measure in the face of such powerful and well-funded proponents of Amendment 1.The coalition formed in opposition– farmers, advocacy groups, businesses – is impressive and will continue to grow.
Many Missouri family farmers were wary of this amendment, for good reason. One farmer in Boone County explained why her commitment to running a sustainable, welfare-minded farm was also her reason for opposing a “right to farm.” In many cases, her farming methods conflict with nearby industrial farms’ practices, such as when her neighbors recently sprayed chemicals that drifted onto her chemical-free fields. In her words, “the rights of all farmers cannot be simultaneously guaranteed.”
The ASPCA appreciates this country’s hardworking, responsible farmers who use more humane practices, but irresponsible farming impacts lives—both animal and human. As Americans become increasingly interested in where their food is coming from, they’re learning that industrial-scale farms often achieve “efficiency” and cheaper products at the expense of animal welfare, food safety, worker safety and the environment. Society is demanding better.
But Big Ag is busy inventing ways to skirt the rules, creating “ag-ceptions.” In an effort to avoid the scandals that stem from undercover investigations, states with big farming industries are introducing ag-gag legislation that aim to criminalize on-farm whistleblowing. The movement to block these bills has been very successful, thanks to a strong coalition of civil liberties, animal welfare, labor, farming and environmental protection groups who believe in more transparency in the food system—not less. Just four states have passed ag-gag laws in the last three years, despite nearly half of all states introducing bills.
It’s exciting that Americans are demanding accountability on issues like animal welfare and food safety, but disappointing that much of the food industry stubbornly refuses to listen. “Right to farm” laws are another attempt to discourage scrutiny, but we deserve to take a close look at the agricultural industry when their decisions directly impact consumer safety, animal welfare, and our environment. The ASPCA will continue to stand up for animals—in Missouri and across the country—because there are no ag-ceptions to the rule that animals should live free from abuse and suffering.