Key Committee to Decide on Footing the Bill for Horse Slaughter

11/14/2011 09:34 am ET | Updated Jan 14, 2012
  • Michael Markarian Chief Program & Policy Officer, The Humane Society of the United States

The House and Senate have passed different versions of the agriculture spending bill for 2012, and a conference committee of key lawmakers is now working to iron out the differences and pass a final bill in the coming days. One key issue to be decided is whether Congress will potentially add millions of tax dollars in new spending to allow foreign-owned horse slaughter plants to re-open on American soil.

Every year since 2005, the agriculture appropriations bill has included a provision de-funding U.S. Department of Agriculture inspections at horse slaughter plants, which ensured the permanent closure of the last remaining equine abattoirs in Illinois and Texas and has prevented other cruel horse slaughter plants from opening around the country. This year, the bill passed by the House retained that language -- thanks to a successful amendment offered by Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va. -- but the Senate version did not.

If the conference committee adopts the Senate position and repeals this important de-funding prohibition, it could cost U.S. taxpayers about $5 million annually to subsidize government inspections of foreign-owned horse slaughter plants. Adding millions of dollars to the federal budget to inspect foreign-owned horse slaughter plants would be a step backwards for America's iconic horses and a waste of tax dollars.

Lobbyists for the horse slaughter industry are scurrying around Capitol Hill making a case for this expenditure, and they would have us believe that they are helping horses by killing them. They're not. Most American horse lovers and owners shudder at the thought of any horse of theirs ending up on a foreign dinner plate.

Horses gathered up by "killer buyers" don't fare well. They suffer through long-distance transport and then a harrowing slaughter process, now in either Canada or Mexico. HSUS investigators have documented cruel treatment time and again.

The problem of American horses being slaughtered in Canada and Mexico is not solved by re-opening equine abattoirs on American soil. When a handful of slaughter plants did operate in the U.S., horses still traveled great distances in trucks designed for cattle, and the transport and slaughter processes involved were inherently inhumane. There's no reason to believe that slaughter plants would spring up in every community to make the transport distances shorter, or that horses would evolve into a species that no longer has a flight response, which makes the stunning and slaughter process very difficult and hazardous to the animals.

We've got a policy vehicle, the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (S. 1176/H.R. 2966), to put a stop to this mistreatment of animals. Americans don't eat horses, and they don't want them inhumanely killed, shrink-wrapped, and sent to Japan or Belgium for a high-priced appetizer. It's time to stop the export of American horses for slaughter -- not add money to the cash-strapped federal budget to open more slaughter plants.

Please take action here and see if your U.S. Senator or representative is a member of the agriculture appropriations conference committee. Tell them that you support the House position on de-funding horse slaughter plants, and that taxpayers should not pay millions of dollars as a new subsidy for the cruel horse slaughter industry.