Sept. 7 was a landmark day for America's horses. In perhaps the biggest legislative move of the decade to protect animals, the House of Representatives voted in favor of H.R. 503, the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (AHSPA), to end the slaughter of horses for human consumption and the domestic and international transport of live horses or horseflesh for the same purpose. Just before the vote, opponents from the horse slaughter industry, with the lead of former Representative Charlie Stenholm (D-TX), tried to introduce numerous "poison pill" amendments and lobbied Members of Congress aggressively on the issue.
Two of these bad amendments were rejected before the 263 to 146 vote for the AHSPA. Thanks to tremendous grassroots pressure and effective floor debates by bill sponsors Representative John Sweeney (R-NY), Representative John Spratt (D-SC), Representative Ed Whitfield (R-KY) and Representative Nick Rahall (D-WV), the House was able to see past the rhetoric presented by those looking to make a quick profit at the expense of the welfare of thousands of horses. More than 92,000 US horses last year endured this horrific cruelty in transport and slaughter at the three foreign-owned plants.
While the brutal facts about horse slaughter won over the House of Representatives, the bill must now go to the Senate and the battle will not be easy. The time remaining in this session of Congress is running out, and legislators such as Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT), whose infamous rider removed protections for wild horses in late 2004, will do all they can to prevent the AHSPA's passage. Pressure for passage of the legislation must be intensified.
Compassionate celebrities and public figures such as actress Bo Derek and Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens have spearheaded the bill on behalf of the horses by speaking out and meeting with Members of Congress. "We must open peoples" eyes about this appalling practice that is so often hidden from the public," Bo said while lobbying Capitol Hill with SAPL. "As exhibited by the over 500 equine associations, rescue groups and leaders, banning the practice of horse slaughter is the only way to ensure our beloved horses will receive the protection they deserve."