Struggle to Spare Horses

By on June 5, 2007 with 0 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

If you are one of our many online advocates who have taken action on horse slaughter, you will receive an email from me sometime today providing the latest news about our battle to stop the slaughter of horses for human consumption. (If you have not joined our online community, please do sign up to receive our electronic alerts, so you can make an impact through the collective action of hundreds of thousands of humane-minded HSUS supporters.) 

Animal advocates at HSUS anti-horse slaughter rally on Capitol Hill
© The HSUS
Hundreds gathered at a Sept. 5 rally on
Capitol Hill to protect America’s horses.

Today’s email update calls on our supporters to contact your two U.S. Senators and your U.S. Representative to urge them to support the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, S. 311 and H.R. 503. (You can reach any lawmaker by calling the Congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121.)

I am forever grateful for the dedication and trust of our supporters on this issue. We have issued countless alerts, as various amendments and bills on the topic have come up for consideration and pitched debate in Congress and in state legislatures. We have also provided a raft of updates on our work in the federal and in state courts, where we have had a series of do-or-die rulings that cause us to rejoice or leave us crestfallen.

With the torrent of communications, I half expected some of you to tell me that you’ve heard enough, and you are thoroughly frustrated that the issue has not been settled once and for all. But I have hardly heard a complaint from any of you; instead, so many individuals have dutifully answered the call and responded by dispatching thousands of communiques to lawmakers, and pleaded with them to support policies to spare the horses from inhumane treatment.

Your calls and letters and outreach are making an enormous difference. 

But meaningful change does not happen without struggle, and the horse slaughter industry and its allies in the agribusiness sector have worked hard and spent millions of dollars to stymie our efforts. It’s plain to me that they are fighting a losing battle against us. We have the power, partly because we have the American public on our side.

Sorrel horse involved in Missouri trailer crash
© The HSUS
This gelding’s fate changed when the trailer
carrying him to slaughter overturned in
Missouri, killing 16 horses.

I must confess that it’s felt like it’s been two steps forward and one step back for us on horse slaughter. And while I wish we never had a single setback in our efforts to stop the operations of this barbaric industry, we are making undeniable progress. Two steps forward and one step back results in a step forward. That means we are marching ahead to victory. And moving forward is the right direction for us.

Just 15 years ago, there were more than a half dozen horse slaughter plants in the United States and they were killing more than 350,000 horses a year. In the last decade, several plants have been shuttered. Just three plants have been operating in recent years—two in Texas and one in Illinois—still killing more than 100,000 horses a year. 

Earlier this year, we helped shut down both plants in Texas, after the federal courts upheld the constitutionality of a long-forgotten state law that banned horse slaughter. In this year’s state legislative session in Austin, the slaughter plants made a run at overturning the state’s slaughter ban. But we were able to hold them off, and it looks like these plants have no reasonable prospect of opening up any time soon. The Texas legislature meets every other year, and it won’t convene until 2009.

In Illinois, too, we had a great state legislative session. The highlight for me was the passage of a bill to ban horse slaughter, even with the Belgian-owned plant in DeKalb fighting hard to block it. The margins were commanding in both legislative chambers.

The DeKalb plant shut down after Governor Rod Blagojevich signed the legislation on May 24. But the owners of the slaughter plant sued and, as much to our chagrin, they drew a judge sympathetic to their cause. The judge has since placed a stay on implementation of the new law and the plant has resumed its deadly operations. We are fighting in the courts to lift that stay, but it may take some time.

While the Texas and Illinois state laws against slaughter are tremendously important, ultimately the most telling field of battle is in Congress. S. 311 and H.R. 503 will not only stop slaughter in any state that wants to open a plant, but the legislation would halt the export of live horses for slaughter—shutting down the terrible long-distance transport of horses to Canada and Mexico, where slaughter plants still operate. 

Make no mistake. We are in a battle. 

I must ask you to please stick with us as we press the fight. If we can shut down this industry and save these horses from this terrible fate, it will justify all of your labors—the phone calling, networking, emailing and letter-writing. Your efforts, so valuable to us, have the power to shield these creatures from so much pain and torment. Horses have the same spark of life that you and I have, and we are their only hope for survival. We cannot fail them.

Let me ask again. We need you to sign up for our email alerts and make your voice heard. If you already are part of our online community, please we need you to to stick with us. Then spread the word to your friends and family.


Subscribe to the Blog

Enter your email address below to receive updates each time we publish new content.

Share a Comment

The HSUS encourages open discussion, and we invite you to share your opinion on our issues. By participating on this page, you are agreeing to our commenting policy.
Please enter your name and email address below before commenting. Your email address will not be published.