July 21, 2017

Senate Votes, House Votes, Horse Slaughter, Wild Horses: What Does It All Mean?

The ayes have it! That was the Chairman’s call yesterday morning in the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee after it passed the Udall-Graham-Coons-Feinstein-Reed-Collins-Shaheen Amendment to prevent horse slaughter plants from reopening on U.S. soil. 

This amendment to the fiscal year 2018 Agriculture Appropriations bill is the Senate’s response to the House Appropriations Committee’s narrow, disappointing failure to pass a similar provision last week (in a 25-27 final count). It also means we have a fighting chance to retain the horse slaughter prohibition in the final law when it passes.

The House and Senate each work on a different version of the annual Appropriations bill. Once both House and Senate have passed their respective bills, they merge them together and decide which provisions to keep and which to toss. The key to our ultimate success for horses is to ask both chambers, particularly leadership, to retain this important prohibition.

For more than a decade, Congress has rejected the idea that the government should spend our tax money subsidizing horse slaughter. Outcry from voters, animal welfare advocates, equine rescues, horse industry groups, veterinarians, farmers and therapy organizations has been extremely compelling for most legislators. 

Polling at the federal and state levels has repeatedly and resoundingly demonstrated that Americans view horses as companions, not food. As work and therapy animals, athletes and friends to young riders, horses have served us well. Allowing them to be served to diners overseas is not acceptable.

While this amendment cannot completely prevent all horse slaughter, we have seen encouraging statistics this year showing a dramatic 44% decline in the number of American horses taken over our borders for slaughter. We are on the right track, and once we are sure horse slaughter plants are not allowed to operate on our soil we will direct our energy to passing the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act (H.R. 113). This bill would permanently prevent horse slaughter in this country as well as halt the transport of our horses to Mexico and Canada for this gruesome purpose.

The future of our nation’s wild horses was also considered this week—by the same House committee that opened the door for slaughter last week. Not surprisingly, the committee approved an amendment to allow the killing of thousands of healthy wild mustangs. 

The U.S. has protected wild horses and burros from wholesale massacre for decades, but the Trump budget proposal seeks to allow the government to take the lives of thousands of horses held captive in holding pens. Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) offered this amendment to remove protections against killing any wild horse, and it passed over the strong objections of many members of the committee. We must speak out against lethal measures like this, and we must prevent the Senate from voting the same way. 

Congress takes the month of August off. With this recess looming, we encourage advocates who want to ensure we win these fights to engage their federal legislators back at home in their districts and states. If you want to help wild and domestic horses, please join the ASPCA’s Horse Action Team and we’ll arm you with the information you need.