Senate’s inaction rallies equine advocates to lobby against passage of infrastructure package if taken up by the House
Washington, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate passed a trillion-dollar infrastructure bill without any provision to ban the export of live horses to Canada and Mexico for slaughter for human consumption, putting in jeopardy the anti-slaughter provision comfortably adopted more than a month ago in the House by a voice vote. The Senate assembled anew its Infrastructure bill, taking the House bill and number, H.R. 3684, the INVEST Act, but little else. The Senate effectively stripped an amendment led by U.S. Reps. Troy Carter, D-La., Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., John Katko, R-N.Y., Dina Titus, D-Nev., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. and conceived by Animal Wellness Action to H.R. 3684 that would have banned the transport of equines across state and federal lines for the purposes of slaughter for human consumption.
U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, D-N.J., made an attempt to keep the anti-slaughter transport language in play by filing his own amendment #2296, but that effort gained no momentum, with few Senators treating the anti-slaughter provision in a serious-minded way, even though the House took the issue up and the subject has been the subject of action and discussion during the formulation of the annual Senate Agriculture spending bill.
“We are disappointed the Senate continues to treat the ongoing slaughter of tens of thousands of horses as anything but an urgent matter,” said Marty Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action, who was recently honored by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, II for his work to protect horses. “Here was an opportunity to solve a major animal welfare problem that the American public overwhelmingly supports and that’s been circulating in the Senate for a quarter century. House Members should vote against the Senate-passed infrastructure bill or amend the measure to restore the anti-slaughter language.”
“We’ve watched tens of thousands of horses endure a horrible passage to Canada and Mexico every year and then get slaughtered at foreign abattoirs for a small segment of consumers in Asia and Europe,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of the Center for a Humane Economy. “Americans want to see this ruthless and predatory industry stop gathering up and victimizing American horses and burros. Failing to take up this issue was a terrible missed opportunity for the Senate.”
The measure was been endorsed by more than 229 animal and equine protection and advocacy groups, organizations, rescues, and businesses in the U.S., including The Jockey Club; The Breeders’ Cup; New York Racing Association, which operates The Belmont Stakes; Pimlico Racetrack, which operates The Preakness Stakes; the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance; the National Thoroughbred Welfare Organization; U.S. Harness Racing Alumni Association; Claiborne Farm; Stone Farm, where three Kentucky Derby winners were raised; Crawford Farms; West Point Thoroughbreds; Nick Zito; Pin Oak Stud; the Texas State Horse Council; Winterstone Pictures; the Horses for Life Foundation; the Animal Wellness Foundation; and Center for a Humane Economy, to name a few.
The House-passed provision was also led by Reps. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., and Vern Buchanan, the lead authors of the Save America’s Forgotten Equines (SAFE) Act (the stand-alone anti-horse slaughter bill); Reps. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., and Andy Barr, R-Ky., (co-chairs of the Congressional Horse Caucus); and Reps. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., Donald Payne, D-N.J., Guy Reschenthaler, R-Pa., and Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y.
Horses and other equines are revered and cherished in the United States, and 80 percent of Americans oppose their slaughter for human consumption. As public awareness has grown of the inherent cruelty involved in the horse slaughter industry, calls for a federal response have grown louder, especially as the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has been implicated in a suspect adoption plan that is allowing “adopters” to rake in profits by selling unprecedented numbers of federal-protected wild horses and burros to slaughter.
Transport of horses for slaughter is unsafe and has caused multiple serious accidents on American highways. The list is long of serious accidents on American highways involving trucks loaded with horses bound for slaughter. Most of these involve horrific injuries to and deaths of horses on the trucks. As recently as October 2020, 14 horses were killed and 11 badly injured when a truck driving the animals to slaughter flipped on a highway in Franklin County, Missouri. Similar accidents have happened over the years, and in most, motorists had to avoid the accident and, in some cases, encountered terrified and injured horses running loose in the lanes of traffic. Similarly, in 2017, a truck belonging to the infamous kill buyers who own one of the nation’s largest horse slaughter holding facilities in Bastrop, Louisiana, was involved in a terrible crash that led to the deaths of 19 horses.
While horse slaughter does not currently occur on U.S. soil due to a de facto ban achieved through the congressional appropriations process, tens of thousands of domestic and wild horses are shipped to Mexico and Canada each year to be slaughtered for human consumption in those countries, Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world.
Stand-alone legislation that would permanently ban both the transportation of slaughter-bound horses and slaughter itself – the SAFE Act — was recently introduced, but despite the passage of a similar bill fifteen years ago, and the majority of House Members cosponsoring the measure in the 116th Congress, enactment of the legislation continues to be an uphill battle due to industrial agriculture interests and pro-slaughter Members of Congress.