(March 26, 2009, Washington, DC)—The American Horse Defense Fund (AHDF), the nation’s largest and most active equine welfare organization, thanks U.S. Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and John Ensign, R-Nev., for introducing legislation today that would prevent American horses from ending their lives in Mexican and Canadian horse slaughter plants and would also prohibit the slaughter of American horses in the United States. The AHDF considers this legislation critical to end the cruel acts and treatment of these wonderful animals. The bill is appropriately called The Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act.
Co-sponsors of this legislation include Senators Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Robert Byrd, D- W.Va., Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., Thomas Carper, D-Del., Susan Collins, R-Maine, Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., Ted Kennedy, D- Mass., John Kerry, D-Mass., Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Carl Levin, D-Mich., Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., John McCain, R-Ariz., and Robert Menendez, D-N.J.
“This bill would finally recognize horse slaughter for what it is…heartless cruelty. It would finally give American horses the dignity that they deserve and the respect they have gained for having helped develop this country and their continued contributions to society and remove them from the menu for good,” said Shelley Sawhook, The AHDF's president and CEO. “The majority of Americans polled have stated that they support this type of legislation. Opponents of this legislation are in the minority and it is time that the cruelty ends.”
In 2007 the last foreign owned horse slaughter plants closed. The plants were shuttered due to rising public sentiment against their treatment of the animals and state legislative initiatives. The federal courts have upheld the state laws forcing their closure. While Congress acted to close the plants by withdrawing necessary funding for the inspection of the meat derived from the horses, it failed to act to stop the export of live horses to Canada and Mexico for slaughter, which is still occurring. In 2008 and 2009 the exports of horses to Mexico and Canada exceed the number of exports and horses slaughtered in the United States to date in 2007.
"America's horses are being beaten and dragged across the border into Mexico and Canada so that they can be inhumanely slaughtered for food. I will continue to fight in Congress to end this brutal practice and ensure that American horses will no longer be savagely slaughtered for human consumption," Sen. Landrieu said.
"The time to put an end to the practice of slaughtering horses in America is long overdue,” Sen. Ensign said. “Horses have an important role in the history of our country, particularly the West, and they deserve our protection. As a senator and a veterinarian, I am committed to doing what I can for these magnificent animals." Sen. Ensign is the only veterinarian serving in the U.S. Senate.
In January 2009, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., and Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., introduced the House version of the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act, H.R. 503. In the past, congressional actions on horse slaughter have shown strong, bipartisan support. In the 109th Congress, legislation to stop horse slaughter passed the Senate by a more than two-to-one margin and passed the House numerous times by a margin of more than 100 votes.
There is no humane way to slaughter horses for food and the slaughter of horses is a particularly cruel. Various investigations into the horse slaughter industry have shown just how cruel it can be. Reports by groups such as Animal Angels, the HSUS and even the USDA have documented the cruelty and abuse. A FOIA presented to the USDA on behalf of Animal Angels shows that USDA inspectors have known about the cruelty for years, but with little or no enforcement authority the USDA was unable to or failed to act to protect the equine victims. An HSUS video shows the horrors at a Juarez Mexico slaughter plant where thousands of horses were, and still are, stabbed with short knives, leaving them paralyzed and unable to breathe. Horses may still be conscious when they are hoisted up by a chain and when their throats are slit. Documentation uncovered by AHDF shows that according to USDA records horses in U.S. plants were also conscious during the slaughter “process”. There is no humane reason for horse slaughter to exist and it is time that it end and the American horse to finally be treated humanely.
The AHDF is joined by over 500 organizations, which includes groups such as the Humane Society of the United States, Veterinarians for Equine Welfare, the ASPCA, in support of a ban on the slaughter of horses for human consumption.
Contact Shelley Sawhook president@AHDF.org 866-956-AHDF