Alisa Manzelli, Global Animal
For the first time since 2006, the U.S. is ready to begin the inhumane practice of slaughtering and exporting horses for human consumption. But the discovery of horse meat in beef products in several European countries over the past few months has led to a worldwide outcry by those against the killing of horses for meat, prompting lawmakers to take action.
Last week, amid the widening horse meat scandal and the USDA’s announcement of a new horse slaughter facility in New Mexico, the nation’s leading animal welfare groups gathered with members of Congress on Capitol Hill to introduce the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, a new bill that would once again put an end to horse slaughter in the U.S.
Senators Mary Landrieu and Lindsey Graham alongside Representatives Patrick Meehan and Jan Schakowsky proposed federal legislation backed by the ASPCA, HSUS, and Animal Welfare Institute that would reinstate the ban on horse slaughter in the U.S., prohibit the export of American horses for slaughter, as well as protect the public from consuming horse meat.
“When they closed the plants, that put more of a hardship on our horses than the people who wanted to stop the slaughter can imagine,” said John Schoneberg, a Nebraska horse breeder, before the horse slaughter ban was lifted in October 2011.
In 2012 alone, roughly 160,000 American horses were shipped to plants in Canada and Mexico, where they were butchered to feed demand in France and Japan.
Horse slaughter supporters maintain the plants would “revive the horse industry” and “build a better future for horses,” but those opposed firmly believe that horse slaughter is a cruel and inhumane practice.
The HSUS said in a statement: “Horse slaughter is inherently inhumane. The methods used to kill horses rarely result in quick, painless deaths, as horses often endure repeated stuns or blows and sometimes remain conscious during their slaughter and dismemberment.”
“Horses sent to slaughter are often subject to appalling, brutal treatment,” Schakowsky said. “We must fight those practices. The Safeguard American Food Exports Act of 2013 will ensure that these majestic animals are treated with the respect they deserve.”
While horses are subject to physical torture and neglect, animal activists say that horse slaughter could be a threat to humans, too, as several domestic horses receive routine treatment with drugs that could be toxic.
“This is a bill whose time has come,” Meehan said at a news conference. “Until a ban is in place, every horse is just one bad sale away from being sent to slaughter.”