Breaking News: Omnibus Bill Bars U.S.-Based Horse Slaughter, Tosses Out Language to Remove Federal Protections for Wolves and Elephants

By on December 16, 2015 with 27 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

The $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill, released early this morning and set for final action in the House and Senate later this week, turned out extraordinarily well for animal protection advocates. The negotiations were led by Senate leaders Mitch McConnell, R-KY, and Harry Reid, D-NV, and House leaders Paul Ryan, R-WI, and Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, along with the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate appropriations committees.

Negotiators did the right thing and included language to forbid anyone from setting up a horse slaughter plant on American soil. We don’t round up dogs and cats, butcher them, and ship them to foreign markets, and it should be unthinkable to do that with a species that helped us settle the nation. We’ve secured this language in nine of the last 11 year-end agriculture spending bills, but the measure was in jeopardy this year, with a key House committee blocking it in a tie vote 24 – 24 during consideration of the FY2016 agriculture bill. Yet in final negotiations on the omnibus measure, with a huge lift from Representative Pelosi and Senator Reid, we held on to the funding ban, preventing any new slaughter plants from breaking ground or any repurposing of some existing facility. As many as 104 House members, led by Reps. Sam Farr, D-CA, Frank Guinta, R-NH, and Vern Buchanan, R-FL, wrote to lead negotiators to keep the anti-horse-slaughter language in the bill, while 13 Representatives, led by Reps. Adrian Smith, R-NE, and Markwayne Mullin, R-OK, led the pro-slaughter forces. Senators Robert Menendez, D-NJ, and Lindsey Graham, R-SC, led the lobbying efforts against horse slaughter on the Senate side.

And lawmakers had the good sense to keep their paws off wolves. These animals occupy just a fraction of their original range, and the ancestors of the domesticated dog should continue to be protected from zealots who want to kill them in a head-hunting pursuit. This was a fierce battle, with Senators Ron Johnson, R-WI, and John Barasso, R-WY, along with Representatives Reid Ribble, R-WI, and John Kline, R-MN, introducing free-standing bills for delisting wolves. We fought off this provision also, retaining protections for the time being and potentially forestalling the slaughter of up to 1,000 wolves in 2016. We prevented that slaughter in 2015 by winning landmark federal court cases at the end of 2014 to restore federal protections for wolves. We got a major boost in the battle against Congressional delisting from 70 scientists who wrote to Congress saying they favored continued wolf protection. Congressional leaders also played a key role in this fight: Senators Cory Booker, D-NJ, and Barbara Boxer, D-CA, penned a letter with 23 other Senators indicating they opposed any anti-Endangered Species Act riders in the final spending package, including one delisting wolves. Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-AZ, led a letter with 91 other House members expressing the same sentiment. Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-MA, also took a stand for wolves this summer when she offered an amendment to the House Interior Appropriations bill stripping the bad wolf delisting rider. These lawmakers drew a line in the sand on the issue, and it made a huge difference in final negotiations.

The omnibus provides strong funding levels for Animal Welfare Act and Horse Protection Act enforcement, anti-wildlife trafficking efforts, and the development of alternatives to animal testing through a key program at the National Institutes of Health. It also incorporates by reference helpful committee report language calling on the NIH to review its ethical policies and processes for nonhuman primate research and calling on USDA to issue its long-delayed proposed rule to establish more humane standards of care for orcas and other captive marine mammals.

To review, the omnibus bill:

  • Prohibits the use of funds to allow horse slaughter plants to open in the United States and reiterates federal standards against sending any wild horses to slaughter in this or any other country.
  • Retains Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves, and rejects congressional attempts to delist the species in the Great Lakes region and in Wyoming.
  • Contains strong language criticizing the USDA for abuses of farm animals at a federal agricultural research facility.  The New York Times brought to light terrible abuses of animals at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, and The HSUS followed up by advocating for changes at USMARC and at 50 other federal research facilities. Language in the omnibus seeks to prevent a recurrence by requiring tougher animal welfare standards.
  • Allows the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to crack down on the domestic trade in ivory to protect elephants from poaching. There was a rider in the House Interior spending bill to block the Fish and Wildlife Service from rulemaking on the issue, but this provision was jettisoned in the final bill, clearing the way for a rulemaking by the Obama Administration.  That rule is expected to come out as early as February.
  • Denies funds for USDA’s licensing or relicensing of Class B animal dealers who sell “random source” dogs and cats for use in research, often obtained from animal shelters, flea markets, or “free to a good home” ads (and sometimes from pet theft), following a successful amendment by Rep. Roybal-Allard, D-CA, to the House committee bill.

We are grateful to so many of our advocates who weighed in with lawmakers. And we are especially grateful to our champions on Capitol Hill, to the White House, and to Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and Rep. Nita Lowey of New York, the two top Democrats on the appropriations committees, who were key in the fight to protect animals in this bill. More work remains, but this is a major moment for our cause.

Animal Research and Testing, Equine, Farm Animals, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. Maki says:

    What a great news!!!! Made my day!

  2. Vicki O'Neill says:

    So grateful for all our great leaders in Congress and in the Senate who valiantly helped support the bill to protect our precious diminishing wildliife and abused animals. Thanks to all the organization’s and their supporters as well who spoke for the animals who couldn’t speak for themselves.

    Even though we have a long way to go and a constant battle to be fought we can breathe a little easier knowing there are finally some victories. Never stop fighting…never give up hope.

    • Natalie says:

      Maybe you should watch some footage on what happens to those poor animals during transport. Closing slaughter houses is the worst thing that could have happened to horses.
      Shame on you US.

      • Lynn O. says:

        Anyone thinking horse slaughter in the U.S. is acceptable should look up “horse slaughter, Kaufman, Texas” to read about this town’s experience with a horse slaughter plant. It was a nightmare and the residents found their own health and welfare at risk. The issue isn’t “slaughter here is better than slaughter in Mexico or Canada”. The issue is that horses should not be slaughtered at all. The missing piece in this puzzle is the SAFE Act and everyone should be calling their representatives to support it. The act would prohibit the transportation of horses to slaughter.

      • Ashayla Whyte says:

        Natalie, I do agree that the road to hell these horses travel is a “shame” on the American people, but the same shame falls squarely on the shoulders of those who would allow the slaughter of any horse anywhere. There is no aspect of slaughter that is anything but inhumane torture, from the drop off at auction, or the call to the kill buyer, the trip to the feedlot and the ultimate destination, the slaughter house itself.

  3. Diana says:

    A huge thank you to members of BOTH parties who took a stand for both domestic and wild animals

  4. Peter Souza says:

    Yet, Wolves not being Fully Protected under FEDERAL Endangered Species Protection, They Continue to Be Slaughtered in Idaho and Montana. Idaho has slaughtered thousands since obama delisted Wolves in 2011. there are only about 300 Wolves left in Idaho, or less

  5. Peter Souza says:

    What concerns me, is they will get Wolves fown to like 100, or 50 in a state, then list them, then when Wolves start to recover, they will delist again and resume the hunts and trapping. WE NEED WOLVES FEDERALLY PROTECTED!!!

  6. Lisa Frizzell says:

    Stop the killing of these beautiful horse’s

  7. Dorothy Rodgers says:

    It’s like the best Christmas gift. Thanks Wayne and HSUS for all your hard work for the animals!

  8. Susan Trout says:

    While I’m happy that wolves have been spared from being de-listed, completely, I’m not at all happy that our congress refuses to address, head-on, the issue about horse slaughter. Horses will simply continue to be shipped across borders into Mexico and Canada. Enduring horrifically cruel journeys on trucks where the injured and sick often cannot stand and fall to the floor where they’re trampled and injured further, I am appalled that our government people are such cowards! Mexico has NO standards and regulations requiring HUMANE slaughter. Workers simply stab them in the head until they fall, partially paralyzed, and then they simply dismember them–A L I V E ! Our Department of Agriculture refuses to address the horrible suffering and torture food animals endure in factory farms. Instead meat industry officials work with legislators to get them to pass “ag-gag” laws that prosecute people who risk their lives to capture these gruesome scenes on factory farms all over our nation. Farm owners and operators express shock and dismay when the news breaks but it’s not an unusual occurrence. It’s happening almost on a weekly basis. My God! What’s wrong with our congressional people who supposedly represent our views and expectations that allow animals to be brutalized as they far too frequently are? It has to stop and punishment must be harsh and quick for the workers and the farms must be suspended until they put into effect standards and regulations that seek to prohibit these sadistic people from working for them. What civilized country continues to defend the practice of “grinding” up alive” male chicks? Putting a bandaid on the outrageous animal abuses at research facilities doesn’t come near to solving the abuse problem.

    I sincerely wonder what’s wrong with the American people that they can continue to eat huge amounts of meat and not give a damn about the pain and suffering every animal endures for their taste for flesh! We aren’t civilized; we’re borderline neanderthal!

    I’ve supported HSUS in the past but until you can get our government to take serious action agains farm animal abuse, I will put my money elsewhere. How many more gut-wrenching videos must the American public watch before they demand action? These creatures sacrifice their very lives for us; the least we can do is insure they live a decent, albeit, brief life and experience a humane and quick death. I’m frequently ashamed to be human!

    • David Bernazani says:

      Susan Trout:
      “I’ve supported HSUS in the past but until you can get our government to take serious action agains farm animal abuse, I will put my money elsewhere.”
      I don’t know where you will find another organization that does evens fraction of what the HSUS does in the way of getting animal-protection laws passed. If you can find one, by all means give them your support, but I seriously doubt you can. Please let me know if you do.

    • Natalie says:

      Thank you for having the courage to post this. What you describe is EXACTLY what is happening in Mexico. What ignorant fools cheer the closing of slaughter houses in this country and the, poor horses being save now, is beyond me.

  9. Bonnie Heimbigner says:

    I’m truly happy to hear there will be no horses slaughtered on American soil BUT I thought it was also against the law to transport American horses across country lines (Mexico & Canada) to be slaughtered. It really sickens me to think ANYONE in America would do such a thing – horses are part of our heritage from day one in this country. HOW INSANELY CRUEL TO SEND THESE BEAUTIFUL ANIMALS TO ANOTHER COUNTRY JUST SO THEY CAN BE SLAUGHTERED THERE ! ! ! Slaughtering a horse is much more cruel & intense than even slaughtering cattle because of the high-strung nature of horses. The thought of inhumanely slaughtering ANY animal turns my stomach. PLEASE…….can’t we also stop the transport of these beautiful horses to other countries for slaughter??? I’ve been reading so many articles that the US ships at least 150,000 horses to Canada & Mexico on a regular basis. Believe me, if I had all the resources, land, money etc, I’d put at least 99% & hopefully 100% of it into saving all animals. But, I don’t have the money since retiring but at least I can pray to my Lord Jesus to take care of the many things I can’t do. ALSO, Mr. Wayne Pacelle, I’ve collected every article and notice about the FBI starting an animal cruelty division that will definitely prosecute & punish (usually as a felony) anyone that mistreats ANY animal through cruelty & abuse. Are you on board with the FBI on this issue? I sure hope the FBI can help the HSUS and other animal protection groups & shelters put a stop to these senseless abuses. As I’ve said for years, most serial killers and “human” abusers start out with animals. THANK YOU MR. PACELLE FOR YOUR ACTIVE AND CARING ROLE IN SAVING ANIMALS.

    • Helga says:

      No the door has closed, of course we can’t stop transport to foreign countries. Where are those horses going to go? Just dissipate? This is the worst that could have happened, anybody who saw footage on shipping horses to slaughter long distance will never be the same. The Brian Grumble footage should have been mandatory watching for the clowns who voted on this bill.
      Slaughter houses in this country should have been increased, thus preventing long transport and should be tightly regulated as to humane extermination. But no, that would actually cost money.

      • Ashayla Whyte says:

        Helga, have you also watched, not only the horrible haul to the feedlot, but also the life on the feedlot, and further the actual blow by blow “slaughter” of a horse, seen them strung up by the back leg still moving, breathing only to be skinned and or dismembered alive. Do you know that this happened in U.S. slaughter houses? I was led to believe it was only Mexico, and being Canadian I was horrified to learn that oh no, it is Canada and it is the U. S. Opening more slaughter facilities won’t ensure the horses don’t suffer, but what it will do is open an avenue for more immoral, greedy people to breed indiscriminately. The door to profit has to be closed! But it is not enough by any means to defund slaughter facilities but export to slaughter has to be banned as well.

  10. Kelly Bast says:

    Excellent article! Is there way to find out who the 13 Representatives are who led the pro Horse Slaughter votes? Also, is the spending bill voted on per each item? Or as a whole package?

    Thank you for your time.

  11. Vicki O'Neill says:

    We have to keep pushing for this bill.
    Looks like the final decision and signing by the president is the end of this week. If Harry Reed and Pelosi help to pass this bill I will have to rethink how I feel about them which so far hasn’t been good.
    If over 70 Scientists have written to Congress and believe the wolves should be should be protected …that speaks for itself.
    This is a never ending battle. We need strict law enforcement for those that abuse animals. ..including the BLM.

  12. Gabriele Drozdowski says:

    Thank you so much! I appreciate your recent addition of adding wildlife to your issues. Great work helping stop the slaughter of wolves (for now).

  13. Christine says:

    Excellent news!!!! Long rough battle but this is progress! Thanks to all who have fought the good fight! ♡♡♡♡♡

  14. Liz says:

    I am glad there will be no slaughter of horses in the USA and the wild horses are now protected from slaughter here and abroad but the shipment of our domesticated horses out of country to slaughter is still a horrific thing. Horses in the USA are pets plain and simple. It would have been better in the long run to open the plants back up in the states than put the poor horses through what they are going through now down the slaughter pipeline. At least here there could have been better regulations.
    I am against horse slaughter but I understand why those that are pro-slaughter are coming from. It is big money easily made and takes care of unwanted horses from over population with too many irresponsible breeders.

  15. Jan Pyckevet says:

    Thanks Wayne for this major achievement for our Wild Horses , Burros , Wolves , … I am looking forward to the final decision and Mister President Obama signing on all items of the bill , end of this week . Speaking as a horseman from cross the Atlantic … * These Wild Horses are our legacy too , we do want them to be safe and free , roaming in harmony with nature , us , and all future generations * Thanks so much for your support , Merry Christmas

  16. Helga says:

    We don’t slaughter horses here anymore, oh goody. Instead we ship them to Mexico under such horrendous conditions that a good number never survive the trip. I can’t even imagine a poor horse being confused and scared, handled with brutality, getting shipped to a place were a worst fate awaits them. Being slaughtered is not the worst for those who poor creatures, the people that get them to the final end, which will be a relieve, are the worst. I hope everybody who voted for this bill has sleepless nights.

  17. R G May says:


  18. M G Moore says:

    Guess you all aren’t ranchers who’ve gotten their herds attacked by the wolves, or are a victim of the wolves taking off with your pet, or dam near being attacked yourselves.
    They are coming down from the hills to prey.

  19. Barbara G. says:

    This is to the people on this blog that wants horse slaughter back in the US. You need to look this up on google, its out there showing the horrific cruelty done to the horses in US slaughter plants for years and years. Its just as cruel in the Canadian and Mexico plants as it was here. The photos of dead horses found in the US trucks the horrific injuries. What is blocking the Safe Act is the US Senate these people have been the very ones that refused to allow any horse slaughter bill to be brought to the floor for a vote for years. And Harry Reid is one of the Senators along with several Senators from TX. Right now there is enough cosponsors in the House to pass the Safe Act IF THE SENATE WOULD COOPERATE WHICH THEY WILL NOT! They all get large donations from ranchers, the racing industry, most horse breeders the instant the they here about anyone trying to pass a anti-slaughter bill the lobbyists are out trying to talk the politicians into not supporting it. Because the breeders of Quarter horses and others over breed so they need some where to dump their culls which includes brood mares if they don’t breed every year or become to old. They dump truck loads of these mares at auctions or simply call the killer buyer which is the meat man that delivers the the horses to the slaughter plant. All of this cruelty was going on in the US for decades. At no time did any of them ever attempt to find homes for these mares as far as I could find out.

  20. Mercedes Monch says:

    Please check on this: horse slaughter, Kaufman, Texas
    should be close is in USA soil, Horses one of the most intelligent animals,
    they are pets!

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