A Horse Is a Horse… But Not for a Meal
by

In America, horses are our loyal companions in work and sport. They are iconic symbols of our history, our spirit and our freedom. From their backs, we fought wars and expanded westward. At no time in our country’s heritage have horses ever been considered a meal. 

Yet each year, more than 100,000 American horses — working horses, racing horses and even children’s ponies — are cruelly slaughtered so their meat can be sent overseas to Asia and Europe for human consumption. It’s a wasteful, unnecessary and inhumane practice that not only raises serious concerns about our treatment of animals, but also our values as a country.

From the auction to the slaughterhouse, the slaughter pipeline brings pain and suffering to horses. As naturally skittish animals, horses suffer severe injuries during long-distance transport and are difficult to effectively render unconscious in a single attempt at the slaughterhouse. When horse slaughter plants operated on U.S. soil, the U.S. Department of Agriculture documented ghastly injuries and cruelty. This occurred at the expense of the tax payer. We wasted millions each year on federal inspections at foreign-owned plants that exported their product overseas and could not ensure humane treatment of these sensitive animals.

The horse slaughter industry continues to operate across our borders in Canada and Mexico, and still seeks opportunities to return to U.S. soil. It is time to put an end to it. The industry is a predatory enterprise and doesn’t “euthanize” old, sick horses — but precisely the opposite. At auctions all around the country, middlemen for the industry, known as kill buyers, snatch up young and healthy horses that will bring the best price per pound, often bidding against horse rescues and legitimate owners, and robbing these horses of a second chance at life.

Allowing our horses to be slaughtered is not only cruel, but it throws away any notions about personal responsibility and good stewardship of public dollars.

Owning a horse is a personal choice that comes with great responsibility – the responsibility to provide humane care, and when needed, a humane end. Fortunately, the majority of horse owners accept this responsibility and would never send their horse to slaughter. But for those who chose to overbreed or disregard their responsibilities, slaughter provides an easy way out. Horse slaughter encourages unscrupulous horse owners to shirk their responsibilities and dump their horses at auctions to be sent to slaughter — and be rewarded with a few bucks for doing so. In a word, it has significantly worsened the problem of horse overbreeding and exacerbates neglect and abandonment.

Meanwhile, hardworking American taxpayers will be the ones forced to foot the bill to bail out those irresponsible individuals. At a time when Congress should be focused on reducing the debt and using our tax dollars responsibly, we certainly shouldn’t be borrowing more money from China to fund USDA inspections required to open horse slaughter plants here or further enable this cruelty.

And without a doubt, the ones to profit from all this — and those driving the resumption of horse slaughter in our country — are foreign corporations. All for a product that Americans don’t want to eat. Not to mention that the horsemeat is potentially toxic to humans since horses are not raised for food in America and are given a wide variety of drugs than can be harmful to human health.

The vast majority of Americans disapprove of slaughtering horses for food — 80 percent, according to a recent national survey. We don’t slaughter dogs and cats to ship their meat to other countries, and we’ll never accept the idea of slaughtering our horses so they can end up on a foreign dinner plate.

Support for ending the cruel and wasteful slaughter of America’s horses spans the political spectrum; it’s not a partisan issue — this is a quintessentially American issue. It’s about our values, our heritage, and what we tolerate as a society. Truly, this is a common sense issue we can all support, and now it is time for Congress to act.

Fortunately, for the past two fiscal years, Congress has prevented the wasteful use of tax dollars for USDA horse slaughter inspections, effectively preventing plants from opening here. They should continue to do so next year, and take the next step to pass the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act (H.R. 1942/S. 1214). This legislation will ensure that horse slaughter plants can never reopen in the U.S. and stop the current export of horses to Canada and Mexico for slaughter. It is time to put an end to the needless, wasteful slaughter of this American icon.

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