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Key Senate committee says 'neigh' to reopening U.S. horse slaughter plants

 | Published on 7/21/2017

July 20, 2017



Today, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee – whose members constitute nearly a third of the entire chamber – voted with nary a controversy in favor of an amendment to bar any horse slaughter plants from opening in the United States. Sens. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., led the bipartisan effort, with fellow committee members Sens. Christopher Coons, D-Del., Susan Collins, R-Maine, Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., cosponsoring the amendment in a great display of strength for the anti-slaughter stance.

This vote comes just a week after a closely divided House committee voted in favor of horse slaughter. The House and Senate committees are now in disagreement, and key lawmakers will have to settle this item among others in dispute.

But we’ll have a leg up in those negotiations because today’s vote in the Senate was an emphatic statement against horse slaughter for human consumption. Given the overwhelming support we have among Republicans and Democrats, and the intensity of opposition to horse slaughter among so many Senators, it puts us in a stronger position to prevail.

As U.S. Senator Tom Udall stated, “Most Americans find the idea of slaughtering horses for human consumption repulsive, and there is no reason the federal government should contribute to it in any way. This amendment is a strong step forward, and I will keep fighting to prohibit horse slaughter in the United States.”

The idea of slaughtering horses for human consumption will never gain traction here in the United States. Americans have an abiding appreciation for horses, honor their presence as pets and companions in our lives, and owe them a debt for their service. Those values will triumph over the selfish notion advanced by a relative handful of people who size them up, cut them up, and offer them up by the pound for a diminishing base of foreign consumers.

What’s more, what kind of businessperson would invest in an enterprise with this sort of regulatory overhang on it? If the worst happened and Congress gave a one-year nod to open horse slaughter plants, why would any savvy businessperson invest major capital in an enterprise that could be nixed in a flash. The vote in the House Committee was the first time the pro-slaughter people have prevailed in any Congressional setting in a long time, and I think it was a fluke. Remember, there is major support for a broader anti-slaughter bill – the SAFE Act – to ban any horse slaughter for human consumption in the United States and the export of live American horses to Canada or Mexico for that purpose.

A businessperson investing in horse slaughter is like someone opening a dog meat restaurant or a cockfighting arena. The mere presence of it would stir the public to act and cause lawmakers and advocates to work to shut down such an operation with speed and authority.

We don’t round up dogs and cats for slaughter, and it should be unthinkable to do that to a species that helped us settle the nation. Our humane position is grounded on the notion that people who breed and own horses should act responsibly and provide lifetime care or transfer horses to someone who can. It’s a remarkable betrayal for people to enjoy and benefit from the physical and behavioral attributes of horses and then sell them off to a kill buyer when they’re done with them.

No one disputes that there are some homeless horses. But unlike the horse slaughter crowd that treats homelessness as an economic opportunity rather than a moral responsibility, we’re doing something about it. With the other members of the Homes for Horses Coalition, The HSUS works to actively promote the welfare and protection of horses and other equines. We provide care and homes to horses in need, advance the highest operating standards for equine rescue and retirement homes, and promote responsible horse ownership. We provide training for equine rescues through our Forever Foundation program, to provide rescued horses with skills that will help them find new homes. To help reduce overbreeding, we formed the Responsible Horse Breeders Council, comprised of horse breeders who work to decrease the number of surplus horses in the United States. More than 1,200 breeders have signed our Responsible Horse Breeder’s Pledge to help protect horses from neglect, starvation, and slaughter, by reducing the number of surplus horses in the United States.

The U.S. Senate sided with animal welfare, fiscal responsibility, and common sense today – and we applaud this decision. It’s a reminder that on the fights we engage, we must work as hard as we can and also put trust in good people to do the right thing.