The time for Congress to act on horse soring, horse slaughter bills is now

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

By on May 23, 2022 with 19 Comments

Update 6/23/22: The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection voted today to advance two important horse protection bills, the SAFE and PAST Act. The Subcommittee voted in favor 22-0 for both bills and we look forward to further advancement to the Full Committee.

This week, members of Congress will turn their attention to forms of cruelty to horses that many Americans might think ended long ago. And we think it’s time they set aside any differences to do something decisive to help horses.

Tennessee walking horses are forced to perform a high-stepping gait known as the “Big Lick” by bad actors who treat the horses’ legs with caustic chemicals, chains and intensely painful techniques in a practice known as “soring.” Though Congress aimed to end soring in 1970 with enactment of the Horse Protection Act, weak enforcement, loopholes and pressure from the walking horse industry have allowed the practice to continue.

And while horses no longer face slaughter domestically—the American public overwhelmingly rejects the idea of slaughtering horses to eat them—tens of thousands of U.S. horses are still sold at auction each year, then slaughtered abroad for food.

Ending these cruelties stands at the heart of our equine protection agenda, and they are the subject of two bills, the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, H.R. 5441 and the Save America’s Forgotten Equines (SAFE) Act, H.R. 3355 which will get a Congressional subcommittee hearing this week.

Their focus on equine welfare is not the only thing these measures have in common. They stand out for attracting over 200 House co-sponsors in the 117th Congress. With 257 and 216 co-sponsors, respectively, and solid bipartisan backing, the PAST and SAFE Acts deserve to go to the floor of the House of Representatives soon for a full vote.

The PAST Act directly targets soring in the Tennessee walking horse industry; it would amend the Horse Protection Act to eliminate industry self-policing, ban soring devices and strengthen penalties. Our investigation of illegal conduct by one industry figure rocked the field in 2013, when a trainer who had won the highest awards at horse shows that featured sored horses was prosecuted on state and federal charges and permanently banned from industry events. That case exposed weaknesses in the 1970 HPA and led to the initial introduction of the PAST Act.

In addition to building support for PAST over the years, we have pursued a regulatory route to reform. We provided input to the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Agriculture for its 2010 audit of the agency’s enforcement of the HPA. The audit was harshly critical of the program’s reliance on an industry-run inspections regime for detecting soring at horse shows, sales and exhibitions, recommending its abolition. USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service agreed and committed to developing a new program uncompromised by conflicts of interest.

In 2017, USDA announced a final rule to bring responsibility for enforcement and licensing, training and oversight of inspectors back to APHIS. The rule also proposed to end the use of soring devices on horse breeds known to be subjected to soring. We led a campaign that produced 100,000 public comments in support.

Unfortunately, the rule’s implementation was stymied by a change of administration and a freeze on new regulations. We continue to press for a strong Horse Protection Act rule, but right now, we need your help in building support for the PAST Act and getting it passed into law during the 117th Congress. Please contact your federal legislators today and help us spread the word on the need for action now.

As for horse slaughter, we’ve successfully driven it out of the United States and prevented its return. But we have not yet won our fight to stop the export trade that has outsourced slaughter to neighboring nations and perpetuated a pipeline of misery and suffering for horses purchased by kill buyers and shipped to their deaths. Some 83% of Americans support a permanent ban on horse slaughter and termination of horse exports to foreign slaughterhouses. That’s what the SAFE Act proposes, and we’re asking you to help us boost support for it.

Incredibly, despite the weight of the evidence that soring and horse slaughter are ready for history’s dustbin, they have their defenders in the House and Senate. During the remaining months of the current Congress, we’re going to do all that we can to spotlight the moral challenge the two practices present. It’s a straightforward argument, and we’ll take on any party who wants to squander their time defending the indefensible. With the support of countless Americans of all persuasions, we’ve made the case against these cruelties. Let’s join forces to end them in this session of Congress.

Equine, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

Subscribe to the Blog

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


Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Theresa Morris says:

    Stop the horrible practice of horse soaring!

  2. Diana Lewis says:

    This purposeful abuse is unacceptable, unnatural and unethical!

    • Barb Anderson says:

      AMEN and know this all of you that love horses and wildlife; this was caused by Trump; he got two dollars for every head he sent to Mexico as they eat horse there; so if he gets back in we will have more fights and lose more horses, wolves, bears and our protected habitats that he tried to sell or also for development

  3. Alan Alejandro Maldonado Ortiz says:

    No es posible que estos animalitos tengan que sufrir de este modo esto no lo podemos permitir tienen que acabar ya también sienten por favor ya no mas violencia

  4. Susan says:

    I wrote to Senator Schumer a few months ago about the bill against Soring STUCK IN THE SENATE forever. NO RESPONSE!!

    • Barb Anderson says:

      They seldom, if ever see even a snail mail letter we send; my thought is…if we get a chance to replace any of them….do it…that is a very tall goal but surely one that is needed…

  5. cindy zelmer says:

    come on congress, since you are the only ones that can stop this, how can you sit back and watch this go on and on, do you not have a heart for animals, please think about this and stop this for these innocent creatures. Do you not have a heart for animals? Well then do something to stop this!!!

  6. Suzette Saint-Ours says:

    I don’t understand? Why WOULDN’T anyone vote for this? What reason is given?

  7. Vanessa says:

    I am baffled that 83% of the American population supports a ban on horse soring but the laws cannot be made. Who are the elected officials listening to? Certainly not their constituents.

  8. Kim Johnson says:

    The civilization of this world has been built by man and horse. This is how we honor our partnership? No more abusive practices and horrifying deaths. Let’s elevate humanity.

  9. Dottie leighton says:

    Please pass the age act to stop the cruel and inhumane slaughtering of our beautiful precious horses.they deserve to be loved and cared for not killed for meat consumption. We just adore horses please help the animals who give us so much joy and faithfulness.sincerely Dottie leighton

    • Barb Anderson says:

      You bet…off key a little…how about this free for all war on our bears and wolves…trophy hunting!
      You may disagree with me, that is your perogative; however, think of this: Trump forced African lawmakers to let his son shoot an endangered animal while he was in office…something like 5 were left before; then Biden did the same with 6 trophy hunters for elephants that left six calves without a mom.
      To me…this should never be allowed across the ponds no matter whom or what.

  10. Dottie leighton says:

    Please save our horses and stop the slaughtering of our horses in United States.they do now need all our support to pass the safe act please help end this brutally. Dottie leighton

  11. Diana Lewis says:

    Why is this heinous ‘showmanship’ allowed to continue? We have the voice to stop it!

  12. Kathleen says:

    The slaughtering of horses for food is absolutely horrific!

    Soring to me is even more horrific because the horses are ALIVE and have to go thru this torturous practice just to be “ judged” in shows!

    You all who practice this should be ashamed of yourselves😔

  13. Rita says:

    What happened with the Safe Act for horses?
    Did it pass?

  14. Karen Ann Drennen says:

    Can you address the status of the SAFE act HR3355 which is against horse slaughter and transportation of horses overseas for slaughter? Have not heard anything regarding this as it was passed in the house 2021 and now would like to hear where it stands as of 2022.
    Would also like an update on the PAST Act Prevent all soring Tactics.
    Have heard support for PAST Act but not the SAFE act by the American Veterinary Medical Association which is stopping the SAFE Act from passing. If true there needs to be a thorough comprehensive plan of what to do with all the horses that are unwanted by the owners due to financial reasons or due to horses being lame or needing euthanized. Farmers and ranchers have this concern and it needs addressed. Humane euthanization and disposal that is affordable (for sick horses. . .not slaughter ); as well as rescues, sanctuaries and adoptable homes for the horses needs to be provided and planned so all these concerns can be addressed so the SAFE act can be passed.

  15. Megan says:

    There ARE many kill pens still located in the US (just look up kill pens on Facebook alone and you’ll find many online auctions for them) unfortunately its not high up on their list of priorities and not effecting them personally so they dont have time for it meanwhile many innocent horses are being killed due to the morbid and heartless people in this world. Considering the government owns ALOT of land throughout the US they should put it to good use and turn some of it into horse sanctuaries.. It would eliminate kill pens and give many a 2nd chance. Instead they would rather destroy the land build unnecessary buildings, housing, etc. I think they kinda need to step back and reevaluate the situation

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.