Animal Welfare Groups Commend Federal Lawmakers for Reintroducing Bill to Ban Horse Slaughter

Photo by Ron Eskins
Photo by Ron Eskins

Washington, DC—Federal lawmakers reintroduced legislation today to permanently ban horse slaughter in the United States and end the current export of American horses for slaughter abroad. Sponsored by U.S. Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.), the Save America’s Forgotten Equines (SAFE) Act is supported by leading animal welfare groups, including the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®), the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF), and Return to Freedom Wild Horse Conservation (RTF).

“Each year, a huge number of American horses are shipped to foreign slaughterhouses to be butchered under shockingly inhumane conditions,” said Cathy Liss, president of the Animal Welfare Institute. “Some are former racehorses who have been recently dosed with drugs considered unsafe for human consumption. The SAFE Act would ensure that both horses and people are protected. We are grateful to Congresswoman Schakowsky and Congressman Buchanan for their dedication to ending the slaughter of horses for human consumption.”

“For centuries, horses have embodied the spirit of American freedom and pride. They are our companions, work partners, entertainers, and athletes,” Schakowsky said. “With such a special place in our nation’s history it’s beyond time that we end the brutal practice of slaughtering these majestic creatures as food for humans. I am proud to reintroduce the SAFE Act with Congressman Buchanan and offer legislation that will finally close a loophole to end the slaughter of American horses for human consumption, both domestically and abroad.”

“The slaughter of horses for human consumption is a barbaric practice that has no place in America,” Buchanan said. “I look forward to continuing to lead the effort with Congresswoman Schakowsky to ban domestic horse slaughter and end the export of horses abroad for the same purpose.”

In recent years, the number of American horses shipped to Canada and Mexico to be slaughtered for human consumption in foreign countries has dropped, making this an opportune time for Congress to close this legal loophole that causes so much suffering. Last year, more than 37,000 horses were exported for slaughter, and research published in 2017 found that 2.3 million Americans have the interest and resources to adopt a horse. America’s horse rescue community is working swiftly to match the horses in their care with foster and adoptive families, increasing the number of adoptions every year. This means that every horse who might have been sent to slaughter could have a home waiting — if given the opportunity to find it.

“The ASPCA is working resolutely to solve equine welfare issues on the ground, but we cannot fully succeed while the slaughter pipeline remains open,” said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of government relations for the ASPCA. “An overwhelming majority of Americans oppose horse slaughter for human consumption and with May being Adopt a Horse Month, there is no better time than now to support at-risk horses by prohibiting this unnecessary and cruel practice. We are grateful to Representatives Schakowsky and Buchanan for their steadfast commitment to protecting our horses and we urge Congress to pass the SAFE Act to finally end this abhorrent practice.”

The horse slaughter industry not only exploits horses, who endure grueling journeys to slaughter plants and an inhumane death. It also harms the broader equine community, including horse owners, riders, and rescues, who fear that their horses will end up in the slaughter pipeline despite their best efforts to keep them safe. Kill buyers — those who buy horses to ship to slaughter in Canada and Mexico — attend auctions and often outbid rescue groups trying to help vulnerable equines. Kill buyers have also been known to pose as good homes in response to ads from horse owners who can no longer care for their animals. Many owners are so fearful that they may even keep their horses beyond the point they can afford. Horses have even been stolen out of their stalls or pastures and shipped to slaughter.

“Only nine years ago, 160,000 American horses were exported abroad for slaughter. Due to awareness of this inhumane and predatory industry, that number has dropped dramatically, just over 35,000 shipped to slaughter in 2020. But one horse is still too many,” said Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. “Fortunately, Reps. Jan Schakowsky and Vern Buchanan have committed to passing this crucial animal and consumer protection bill, which will end this grisly industry and protect these American icons from those who profit off their deaths.”

“That almost 370,000 American horses — including an unknown number who once roamed freely on our public lands — were shipped to their deaths in foreign slaughterhouses over the past five years is an unnecessary betrayal of the animals that helped us build our country and continue to serve humanity,” added Neda DeMayo, president of Return to Freedom Wild Horse Conservation. “RTF applauds Representatives Schakowsky and Buchanan for recognizing the public’s overwhelming opposition to horse slaughter and continuing this bipartisan fight for the good of America’s horses and for human health.”

The SAFE Act would also protect the public from dangerous American horse meat, which can be toxic to humans due to the common, unregulated administration of drugs given to horses. Horses are not raised for food and are routinely given hundreds of drugs and chemical treatments throughout their lives that are banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in food items because of their toxicity to humans if consumed. Products as seemingly harmless as fly repellent, pain medications, and wormers — all considered important for good horse care — contain banned, toxic ingredients that are dangerous to humans.

We encourage the public to contact their U.S. representatives to urge them to cosponsor the SAFE Act, and secure its swift passage, to protect horses, their caregivers, and consumers.

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About AWI
The Animal Welfare Institute (www.awionline.org) is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere — in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates and other important animal protection news.

About the ASPCA®
Founded in 1866, the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) was the first animal welfare organization to be established in North America and today serves as the nation’s leading voice for vulnerable and victimized animals. As a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation with more than two million supporters nationwide, the ASPCA is committed to preventing cruelty to dogs, cats, equines, and farm animals throughout the United States. The ASPCA assists animals in need through on-the-ground disaster and cruelty interventions, behavioral rehabilitation, animal placement, legal and legislative advocacy, and the advancement of the sheltering and veterinary community through research, training, and resources. For more information, visit www.ASPCA.org, and follow the ASPCA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

About the HSUS
Founded in 1954, the Humane Society of the United States fights the big fights to end suffering for all animals. Together with millions of supporters, we take on puppy mills, factory farms, trophy hunts, animal testing, and other cruel industries. With our affiliates, we rescue and care for tens of thousands of animals every year through our animal rescue team’s work and other hands-on animal care services. We fight all forms of animal cruelty to achieve the vision behind our name: A humane society.

About the HSLF
The Humane Society Legislative Fund is a social welfare organization incorporated under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code and formed in 2004 as a separate lobbying affiliate of the Humane Society of the United States. The HSLF works to pass animal protection laws at the state and federal level, to educate the public about animal protection issues, and to support humane candidates for office. Visit us on all our channels: on the web at hslf.org, on our blog at hslf.org/blog, on Facebook at facebook.com/humanelegislation and on Twitter at twitter.com/HSLegFund.

About RTF
Return to Freedom Wild Horse Conservation (RTF) is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to wild horse preservation through sanctuary, education, conservation, and advocacy since 1998. It also operates the American Wild Horse Sanctuary at four California locations, caring for 500 wild horses and 51 burros. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates about wild horses and burros on the range and at our sanctuary.

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