Breaking News: Key Committee Acts to Sustain Horse Slaughter Ban in the U.S.; Senators Also Decide Not to Subvert Organics Rule

By on May 19, 2016 with 30 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

Today the Senate Appropriations Committee adopted an amendment, advanced by Senators Tom Udall, D-NM,  Mark Kirk, R-Ill., Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.,  Lindsey Graham, R-SC., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Christopher Coons, D-Del., to bar any horse slaughter plants from opening in the United States. This Senate action mirrors the House action on its version of the agriculture spending bill. It’s a great outcome, and it sets us on a trajectory to sustain a crucial provision we secured at the end of last year to prevent any of these slaughter plants from opening in the near future.

The HSUS and our allies succeeded in shuttering the last three American horse slaughter plants in 2007, with a key state legislative action in Illinois and a series of critical federal court rulings. But it’s been an ongoing battle to keep new plants from opening, and we’ve used a variety of strategies, including more litigation and congressional action, to ensure our hold on it.

Today’s Senate vote was uneventful in the Appropriations Committee because lawmakers there recognized we have a strong majority that opposes the appalling practice of killing horses for export to foreign meat markets. The House vote, which occurred last month, was touch-and-go, with Representatives Sam Farr, D-Calif., and Charles Dent, R-Penn., securing their amendment by the narrowest of margins – on a 25 to 23 vote.

We don’t round up dogs and cats for slaughter, and it should be unthinkable to do that to a species that helped us settle the nation. Our position is grounded on the notion that people who own horses should act responsibly and provide lifetime care or transfer horses to someone who can.

Kill buyers and other key players in the horse slaughter industry trot out the notion that they are somehow “helping” horses by routing them to slaughter, but there is nothing noble about their enterprise. Horses are dragged and whipped into trucks and endure long journeys without food, water, or rest. Many die or sustain injuries during transport, including broken legs and punctured eyes. The idea of providing veterinary care to an animal about to be slaughtered is unthinkable to these profiteers.

In a second significant and favorable outcome, the Senate Appropriations Committee took no adverse action to stall a USDA effort to strengthen animal welfare standards for “organic” foods.  The rule covers a whole array of housing, husbandry, and management topics, including the prohibition of certain painful practices, like tail docking of pigs and cattle, and debeaking of birds. A new section covering animal handling and transport to slaughter is also proposed for addition. Importantly, the rule sets minimum indoor and outdoor space requirements for egg-laying chickens, and requires that producers provide a sufficient number of exits and outdoor enrichment to entice birds to go outside on a daily basis. It also specifies that covered porches and similar structures do not qualify as outdoor space. While existing organic poultry operations have five years to come into compliance with outdoor access requirements for birds, the minimums for indoor space and all other welfare standards in the proposed rule will come into effect one year after  the rule becomes final. Opponents of the rule change sought to include language to slow or block it, but Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., led a charge to ensure no harmful language was included.

The Obama Administration’s move demonstrates the changing social consensus on animals among consumers who are increasingly concerned about farm animal welfare. A 2015 Consumer Reports survey found that over 70 percent of Americans believe there should be meaningful minimum-size living space requirements for farm animals raised under the organic label, and that the animals should have access to the outdoors. Yet, current regulations do not guarantee these basic protections for organically-raised animals. The Senate was right not to interrupt this rule-making process.

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Equine, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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  1. Donna says:

    Instead, horses are being sent on trucks, for hours, and sometimes days, without food, water or exercise, to Canada and Mexico. This is without oversight by any U.S. agency. And many of the horses are trampled in the shipment process. How is this better?

    • Linda Staffulani says:

      We need to pass the safe act HR1942 / S.1214 . So start calling your reps . To cosponsored it .

      • Jim Hart says:

        Better yet, go in person. It is more powerful than everything else put together. You can actually call them out on it.

    • Jan Hruby says:

      You are so right about this issue. It is so easy for kill buyers to have them shipped to Mexico and Canada after they have been languishing in holding pens for months or worse, years.

    • Donnajayne Brown says:

      Rhete is research thst proves rhat thete ate thousands of people who are more than willing to take in a horse or two as rescued as opposed to seeing/condoning the egregious practice of horses being sold to slaughter….not to mention the horses that are shipped across borders to Mexico & Canada where there are ZERO standards of legislation to ensure horses are treated humanely…the ENTIRE “BUSINESS” of horse slaughter is abhorrent, brutal, dispicable and completely unacceptable!

    • Judith Stabler says:

      Maybe these people ought to visit one of these slaughter plants to get a real insight what happens to these animals from start to finish !

    • Robin W says:

      Do you believe that opening the slaughter houses back up in the US would stop the Mexican market? No it would double demand the slaughter and theft of our horses. It would also encourage more breeding in the US and encourage the breeding of horses for meat.

    • Jennifer says:

      The US doesn’t regulate anything for horses now. Look at the horrific conditions at auctions and broker/feedlot programs. Additionally, many slaughter transporters have racked up fines that aren’t even collected. We can’t even get our s#it together for the horses now and you think adding slaughter to the equation will help? The only answer now is to get the SAFE Act passed.

  2. Letty says:

    “Today’s Senate vote was uneventful in the Appropriations Committee because lawmakers there recognized we have a strong majority that opposes the appalling practice of killing horses for export to foreign meat markets” —Really???? We, as a nation export live horses to be killed for foreign meat markets. Until S.1214 is passed, live horses will be exported for foreign meat markets — FDA toxins and all.

  3. Letty says:

    There is NOT a strong majority, in fact not even a majority, in the Appropriations Committee, at least if we are measuring it by cosponsors.

  4. Marilyn Wilson says:


  5. Loretta Tiefen says:

    We need to take another step and make sure our horses are not rounded up and sent to Mexico. We as a nation spend plenty of tax payer dollars on programs not necessary – you should allocate some to putting hay out for them so they are not starving as a humanitarian effort as well.
    Thank you.

    • Linda Staffulani says:

      We need to pass the safe act HR1942 / S.1214 . So start calling your reps . To cosponsored it .

  6. Leslie says:

    This may be good but without prohibiting shipment to Canada and Mexico for slaughter it does not help the horses in fact makes it worse for the long trip. What’s up with the SAFE Act? Can you please address the issue of shipping outside the US for slaughter?

  7. Karen Taylor says:

    It really would be nice to see the open farms again and know that the animals are being treated like they should be. Thank you for blocking the slaughter plants here in US and hopefully we can stop the slaughter of horse, mules, ponies, and donkeys from being sent across our borders to be slaughtered there. Please help pass the Safe Act and no more sending of our equine friends elsewhere.

  8. Natalie Koch says:

    I live on the border in El Paso, Texas. The horses are shipped to Mexico for slaughter. They are suffering more, with no protection at all once they cross the border, and barbaric slaughter methods. If they can’t pass inspection or become too lame, sick, or weak to move across the border, they are abandoned in holding pens where they usually die from dehydration.

    It does no good to stop US slaughter plants from opening if the horses are allowed to be exported for slaughter. I am a horse lover/owner, and I would have to say this actually hurts the horses and is less humane than slaughtering them in the US.

    • Linda Staffulani says:

      We have to pass SAFE Act. We need to know who the 23 who vote no on this. To vote them out the door. They are holding this up.

    • Robin W says:

      Since it appears our Congress is unable to pass the SAFE act due to lobbyist from the ranching, meat and auction groups we should try to encourage border state legislators to pass anti slaughter transport laws. If a state has a no horse slaughter rule and is enforcing it then you would think a no horse slaughter transport amendment or law would be a no brainer. I’m extremely sadden by our government local and federal.

    • ashley says:

      100% You are not alone in your thoughts, I’ve rescued a few that if there were plants(strictly regulated) in the US, they wouldn’t have ended up in the horrendous condition they did… and by regulating it, we can make it more expensive to slaughter than to buy, make it hard to get, yes some will try to cash in but look at the big picture, if someone is a known kill buyer breeder boycott then. Don’t sell, don’t buy from them. We can regulate how the horses are killed by having plants in the US, make it humane. Yes no killing is humane, but it is a necessary evil to be able to take something life without suffering. They die on the trailers…. Okay, you can’t end it completely we’re the US we don’t control the other countries but we can make that trip shorter and mandate shelter, food, water, and vet care for all
      Mandate age, quality of life and body scores. Make it better for them.

  9. Erica says:

    So we are back to horrific shipping to Mexico and/or Canada! You going to stop that as well?

    • Linda Staffulani says:

      We will if everyone call your rep. To cosponsored safe act HR1942 / S.1214 . .it has to get pass. So work hard on it.

  10. Kathi Ring says:

    Kill-Buyers are the lowest of the low…I have dealt with several. Our family runs a registered equine rescue, and the last buyer I dealt with took great joy in out-maneuvering us by lying and shipping the beautiful and critically-endangered Old World Morgans we were attempting to help. He picked them up for dimes on the dollar at an auction….and we would have done anything to save them. A supporter of our rescue was a friend of one of their employees. She was told “They went to a bad place, and they will never find them”. Needless to say, they are no longer friends. Please get the SAFE Act passed!!!

  11. Claudette Babineau says:

    Thank you

  12. Nancy coonridge says:

    I have friends who’s friends just turn their old/lame horses put in the desert to die. They can’t sell them and the can’t afford a backhoe to bury them

  13. Linda Staffulani says:

    We need to pass SAFE Act. And find out who voted no on this.

  14. mariann says:

    HSUS where do things stand with getting the SAFE ACT passed? Until our horses are protected from brutal Mexico and Canada slaughter plants they will continue to go thru horrendous suffering!

  15. Debbie says:

    “We don’t round up dogs and cats for slaughter, and it should be unthinkable to do that to a species that helped us settle the nation.” Cows and oxen also helped settle this nation yet we eat them…not saying am for eating horse meant (no way) but this statement should not be the reason why!

  16. Katherine Hampton says:

    A big THANK YOU to all involved in this very, very important bill!!!!❤️ Wild Horses and Burros are part of this countries history!!! They were so important to our ancestors!!! Now maybe they can be safe and live their lives in freedom with their herds!!!!
    God Bless You All!!!!!???

  17. Alex says:

    The Safe Act would still allow slaughter though, just not for human consumption. They sometimes use the meat for zoo’s. Is there an even more effective Act out there?

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