The killing of American horses for food has forever been unpalatable to the vast majority of citizens of the United States, and that’s one of the reasons that Humane Society Legislative Fund and the Humane Society of the United States have made the fight to halt this practice a priority over the last decade. Horse slaughter is more than just offensive to our collective sensibilities, however. It’s a cruel betrayal of horses, one that produces terrible suffering and misery for them, and it’s the subject of an important legislative debate unfolding in the U.S. Congress this session.
Today, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, H.R. 961, to permanently ban domestic horse slaughter in the United States as well as the transport of horses abroad for slaughter, along with a number of other bills focused on safety and transparency in the production and use of food and drugs in the United States.
Each year tens of thousands of American horses are hauled to Canada or Mexico, where they are butchered for their meat that’s then shipped overseas. The suffering begins the moment these horses enter the slaughter pipeline. After being acquired by kill buyers, who often misrepresent their intentions bidding against horse rescuers at auctions, they are loaded into cramped livestock trailers with other horses and spend many hours without food and water. These frightened animals often panic and fight in close quarters, injuring themselves and each other in transport and sometimes dying en route. And at the slaughter plant, horses rarely experience quick, painless deaths.
In addition to our humanitarian objections, we have long maintained that horse meat is unsafe for human consumption. Unlike animals raised for food, the vast majority of horses sent to slaughter will have ingested, or been treated or injected with, multiple chemical substances known to be dangerous to humans, untested on humans, or specifically prohibited for use in domestic animals destined for the human food supply.
For too long, horse slaughter has provided a quick fix outlet for individuals and industries seeking to discard healthy, sound horses deemed to no longer have value. But we can’t let horse owners, breeders, trainers, and other stakeholders off so easy. They have—we all have—a deep responsibility to horses, and these magnificent animals deserve much better.
In an era of divisive politics and culture wars, there is something oddly reassuring about the horse slaughter issue precisely because so many different stakeholders agree with the central premise here. Horses do deserve better, and our view is shared by the Homes for Horses Coalition, The Jockey Club, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), the ASPCA, the Animal Welfare Institute, Return to Freedom, the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association (HSVMA), and many other organizations.
Not only do all our organizations support the SAFE Act, introduced by Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Vern Buchanan (R-Fl.), but this legislation also has the cosponsorship of over half the House of Representatives at present, and growing support in the Senate, where it has been introduced by Sens. Menendez (D-N.J.) and Graham (R-S.C.). When this lifesaving measure passes, as it surely will one day, it’ll be because of that broad, bipartisan base that stands behind it. But it’ll also be because of the stalwart backing that you and other supporters of our work have demonstrated for the fundamental principles of kindness, compassion and decency, timeless values that are the heart of our humane enterprise.
Please take a moment to contact your federal legislators and urge them to cosponsor the SAFE Act if they haven’t yet, and do all they can to get it passed!