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Thursday, May 09, 2013

Horse Slaughter Not a Risk Worth Taking

I’ve pointed out many times on this blog that the horse slaughter industry in the U.S. is cruel and predatory, gathering and killing horses in particularly gruesome ways. It’s a sad fate for so many American horses—iconic companion animals not raised for human consumption but often ending up on foreign dinner plates. The entire horse slaughter pipeline, from auction to transport to the cruel slaughter process, is terrifying and inherently inhumane for horses. Slaughter-bound horses are crammed tightly into trailers, hauled long distances without food, water or rest, and are subjected to injury and even death due to inadequate conditions before many of them can even make it to slaughter.

HorseUnfortunately, the recent news of the grisly deaths of 30 horses bound for slaughter on Interstate 81 in Lisle, New York, isn’t surprising and underscores our grave concerns with this terrible industry. The horses, apparently purchased by kill-buyer Bruce Rotz at an auction in Pennsylvania, were on their way to a Canadian slaughter plant when they were burned alive in a trailer on the side of an interstate. This accident and others involving horses being transported to slaughter not only take a toll on animals but also put an unnecessary strain on law enforcement and emergency response teams that are already strapped for resources—not to mention putting public health and safety at risk.

Virtually all horses who end up in the slaughter pipeline begin their lives as American pets or sport horses who are taught from an early age to trust human beings. Over the course of their lives, a variety of legal and illegal drugs are constantly administered to these animals. Americans do not eat horses and do not raise them for food, unlike other animals raised for slaughter who are maintained within a regulated industry. Many of the substances given or applied to horses carry the explicit warning that they are not to be used in food producing animals, yet the horse slaughter industry continues to peddle the toxic product to consumers. The recent horsemeat scandal in the European Union is a preview of what could happen in this country should the USDA approve any of the applications currently in the pipeline that would give the green light to horse slaughter plants returning to American soil, operating near cattle slaughter plants and leading to concerns over comingling.

A national poll conducted in 2012 revealed that 80 percent of Americans favor a ban on horse slaughter for human consumption and recognize that we have a responsibility to protect these sensitive creatures who have assisted mankind in so many ways for centuries. The Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, (S. 541/H.R. 1094) will prohibit the slaughter of horses for human consumption in the U.S. and end their export for slaughter abroad. This bill will protect our nation’s horses from the violent and predatory horse slaughter industry by guaranteeing that our horses are not butchered on domestic or foreign soil.

Tomorrow, Congressman Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., will join representatives from animal welfare organizations at the headquarters of the Philadelphia Police Department's Mounted Unit to call on Congress to pass this critical legislation. Meehan is part of a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers from both the U.S. House and Senate who last month introduced the SAFE Act. The Philadelphia Police Department's Mounted Unit has partnered with Last Chance Ranch to rescue horses from potential slaughter. Horses threatened by slaughter are adopted by the Mounted Unit and receive training and veterinary care during their service with the police department.

Long-distance transport of horses to slaughter—whether in the U.S. or over our borders—is not a risk worth taking, given that it’s a fundamentally disreputable industry. In memory of the slaughter-bound horses who burned to death, as well as the thousands of other horses sent to slaughter every day, please contact your two U.S. senators and your U.S. representative at (202) 224-3121 and urge them to support the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act. Then, take action by sending an email to your legislators to reiterate your support for this bill.

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