Animal Welfare Groups Commend Members of Congress for Reintroducing Legislation to End Horse Slaughter

The Save America’s Forgotten Equines (SAFE) Act would expand the Dog and Cat Meat Prohibition Act passed in the 2018 Farm Bill to include equines, permanently protecting American horses from slaughter
May 18, 2023

WASHINGTON, DC (May 18, 2023) – As equine enthusiasts celebrate Adopt a Horse Month this May, a bipartisan group of federal lawmakers has reintroduced the Save America’s Forgotten Equines (SAFE) Act – federal legislation that would permanently protect American horses from commercial slaughter. This legislation would expand the Dog and Cat Meat Prohibition Act – which passed as part of the 2018 Farm Bill – to include equines, prohibit the commercial slaughter of horses in the U.S., and end their export for that purpose abroad. 

Sponsored in the House of Representatives by U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), the SAFE Act is supported by leading animal welfare groups, including the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®), the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), the Humane Society of the United States, the Humane Society Legislative Fund, and Return to Freedom Wild Horse Conservation. The SAFE Act has also received strong support from industry groups, including The Jockey Club, the U.S. Trotting Association, the Stronach Group, the Breeders’ Cup, the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, The Jockeys’ Guild, the New York Racing Association, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, and the Maryland Horse Council. Last year, these organizations partnered with animal welfare groups to form the “Final Stretch Alliance to End Horse Slaughter,” a collaborative effort urging federal lawmakers to pass a permanent ban on slaughter.

“The slaughter of horses for human consumption is a barbaric practice that has no place in America,” Rep. Buchanan said. “As co-chairman of the Animal Protection Caucus, I look forward to continuing to lead the effort with Congresswoman Schakowsky to protect these majestic creatures.”

Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky said, "Horses have a special place in our nation's history and in many Americans' hearts. They embody the spirit of America, and it is time to end the brutal and dangerous practice of slaughtering these creatures for human consumption. I have championed this issue for many years, and I am so proud to partner with Congressman Vern Buchanan to reintroduce the SAFE Act once again. Our bipartisan bill would amend the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 to prohibit the slaughter of equines for human consumption. Horses are not raised for human consumption. As a proud animal lover, we owe it to our horse companions to protect their welfare."

“More than 80 percent of Americans oppose horse slaughter for human consumption, and despite robust partnerships between the equine industry and animal welfare groups to support rehoming horses, a legal loophole still allows tens of thousands of American horses to be shipped to other countries for slaughter each year,” said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of Government Relations for the ASPCA. “We are working resolutely to solve equine welfare issues on the ground, but the threat of horse slaughter contributes significant harm to industry, horse owners, and adoption organizations, and we cannot fully succeed while the slaughter pipeline remains open. By including the SAFE Act in the 2023 Farm Bill, Congress can start a new chapter for America’s equines and finally end the cruel, unnecessary practice of horse slaughter.”

“The horse slaughter industry has claimed the lives of millions of American horses over the last few decades, producing unsafe food, likely tainted with residues of dangerous drugs, for foreign consumers. These equines suffer incredible abuse even before they arrive at the slaughterhouse, often transported for long distances without food, water or rest, in overcrowded trailers where the animals are often seriously injured or even killed in transit,” said Susan Millward, executive director and CEO of the Animal Welfare Institute. “The overwhelming majority of Americans are vociferously opposed to butchering horses for human consumption, so we are grateful to Reps. Buchanan and Schakowsky for leading the SAFE Act to spare horses from this brutal fate.”

“Even one horse sent to slaughter is too many. We have been fighting horse slaughter for years not only because it disregards the special connection that humans share with horses, but also because there is simply no way to kill horses humanely in a slaughterhouse,” said Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. “Congress must pass the SAFE Act so no horse from the U.S. is ever subjected to a grueling trip that only ends with a terrifying and inhumane death.”

“The pipeline to slaughter is an open grave for the horses it carries off, not just a terrible cruelty but a national heartache. It’s time to saddle up and end their journey to hell. No animal more deserving of our kindness has ever suffered such a rotten fate,” said Sara Amundson, president, Humane Society Legislative Fund. “Horse slaughter for human consumption is a ruinous policy not merely for its callous indifference to a faithful species but for its blight upon our national character. We hope that legislators in both parties will lend their support to Representatives Buchanan and Schakowsky in their efforts to pass the Save America’s Forgotten Equines (SAFE) Act, and vote this appalling practice out of existence.”

"We are grateful to Reps. Buchanan and Schakowsky for their continued, unwavering leadership," said Neda DeMayo, president of Return to Freedom. "Polls show that the vast majority of Americans find it abhorrent that any horse, wild or domestic, suffers the road to slaughter. Congress must not allow itself to be undermined by a self-serving few on a measure with overwhelming support."

Research shows that 2.3 million Americans have the interest and resources to adopt a horse, demonstrating that there are more than enough homes for the approximately 20,000 American horses who were exported for slaughter last year. America’s equine adoption community is working swiftly to match the horses in their care with foster and adoptive families, increasing the number of adoptions every year. This means that every horse who might have been sent to slaughter could have a home waiting, if given the opportunity to find it. As long as the financial incentive for slaughter exists, it will continue to hamper the lifesaving efforts of rescue and welfare groups to provide humane care to equines. 

The horse slaughter industry not only exploits horses who must endure grueling journeys to slaughter plants and an inhumane death, it also harms the broader equine community, including horse owners, riders, and rescues, who fear that their horses will end up in the slaughter pipeline despite their best efforts to keep them safe. Kill buyers – those who buy horses to ship to slaughter in Canada and Mexico – attend auctions and often outbid rescue groups trying to help vulnerable equines. Kill buyers have also been known to pose as good homes in response to ads from horse owners who can no longer care for their animals. Many owners are so fearful that they may even keep their horses beyond the point that they can afford basic care to prevent their animals from being sold to slaughter, causing further suffering. There is no reason to continue this abhorrent practice that 83 percent of Americans oppose. 
The SAFE Act received strong bipartisan support last Congress, with more than half of the U.S. House of Representatives signing on as cosponsors and the full House voting in favor of an amendment to ban horse slaughter. Members of the public are encouraged to contact their U.S. representatives to urge them to cosponsor the SAFE Act and secure its swift passage to protect horses, their caregivers, and consumers.