By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson
The last horse slaughter plants in the United States closed years ago, and Congress has consistently voted to prohibit funding for horse slaughter inspections within U.S borders. Unfortunately, this does not prevent the inhumane transport of American equines to other countries. Each year, tens of thousands of our horses and burros are transported under terrible conditions to Canada and Mexico, where they meet a cruel end because there is no federal law stopping such transport across our borders.
The Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, H.R 961, introduced today by Reps. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., and Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., would change all that. Their measure proposes to end the transport of American horses, burros and other equines abroad to be slaughtered for human consumption, and it would also ensure that horse slaughter plants on U.S. soil remain shuttered.
Horse slaughter is fundamentally cruel, from the way the animals are transported to the methods used to kill them. The horses and burros are shipped in overcrowded trucks for many hours, even days, without food, water or rest. The animals are extremely stressed and they are frequently injured, or even killed, in transit.
Once at the slaughterhouse, they are shot with a captive bolt gun or rifle in an attempt to stun them before slaughter. Because of their skittishness and “fight or flight” response, it often takes repeated blows to render the horses unconscious and some are still awake during slaughter.
The suffering of the animals, while enough of a reason to stop this industry, is not the only problem. Horse meat is not safe for human consumption because American horses are not raised for food and are routinely given hundreds of drugs throughout their lives that can be toxic to humans. Some of these drugs are prohibited by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in animals intended for human consumption.
We thank Reps. Schakowsky and Buchanan for championing the SAFE Act, and urge other members of Congress to act promptly to ensure the bill is swiftly passed. We already know that this legislation enjoys wide support in the U.S. House of Representatives: the SAFE Act, H.R. 113, introduced in the last Congress with the same language as the bill introduced today, received broad bipartisan cosponsorship by 219 Representatives – a majority of the chamber.
Please call your Representatives and tell them to cosponsor the SAFE Act, H.R. 961. American equines are iconic animals and beloved companions, and protecting them from the horrors of transport, starvation and slaughter is a responsibility we all share.
Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund