American Horse Slaughter Protection Act moves to Senate

source-image
Oct 01, 2006

WASHINGTON—The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, overwhelmingly passed by the House of Representatives on Sept. 7, now moves to the Senate—meaning it will be 2007 before that body acts on it.

The House voted to approve the bill, H.R. 503, by a vote of 263 to 146. The legislation amends the Horse Protection Act to protect horses from slaughter for human consumption, including their sale and transportation for that purpose. The American Horse Slaughter Protection Act is designed to stop the slaughter of nearly 100,000 American horses annually in three foreign-owned slaughter plants in the United States (two in Texas, one in Illinois). The horse meat is shipped overseas—primarily to France, Italy, Belgium and Japan—where it is considered a delicacy.

The legislation does not prohibit the rendering of horses into commercial products such as glue or gelatin, or prevent private individuals from raising horses for meat for their personal use.

Introduced by Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., a veterinarian who is up for re-election, and with 22 Senate co-sponsors, the bill goes to the Senate as S. 1915. At presstime, Jack Finn, Ensign's communications director, told DVM Newsmagazine that with adjournment imminent to prepare for the upcoming elections, the Senate won't get around to acting on its version of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act until next year.

"There's no way to predict the outcome of the Senate's vote on this legislation or when that vote will happen," Finn says. "The outcome may well depend on the results of the elections."

According to the Society for Animal Protective Legislation, the measure was passed by the House despite opponents' numerous "poison pill" amendments and intense lobbying by opponents, led by Charles Stenholm, a former Texas democratic House member. In the debate leading up to the vote, bill sponsors Rep. John Sweeney, R-N.Y, Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C., Rep. Edward Whitfield, R-Ky., and Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.V., argued for passage by showing graphic images of horses being transported to slaughterhouses.

Opponents of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, which include the American Veterinary Medical Association, argue that its passage could set a precedent for the banning of other meats for reasons other than science, safety or public health, and that removing processing as a management option actually poses a greater risk to horse welfare. They say the legislation fails to take into consideration problems of costs for care, the unintended mistreatment of horses and other animals in non-regulated rescue facilities, and environmental concerns that can arise with the disposing of carcasses.

They also point out that during House hearings on H.R. 503, Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns told House Agriculture Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., that the United States Department of Agriculture opposes the bill and its amendments.

"In short, we believe that there is a significant probability that the enactment of this bill could result in a reduction in the humane treatment of horses," Johanns told Goodlatte.