Animal Welfare Institute Testifies Before Congress in Favor of New Bill Containing Criminal Penalties for Horse Slaughter

Washington, DC—"Every five minutes an American horse is slaughtered to fill the demand of high-end European and Asian diners," Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) federal policy advisor Liz Ross said today, testifying before the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security in support of a new bill to end the cruel transport and slaughter of America's horses.

The Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2008, H.R. 6598, carries criminal penalties for the purchase, sale, delivery or export of horsemeat intended for human consumption including fines and prison time. Introduced on July 24, 2008 by House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) and Representative Dan Burton (R-IN), the bill would amend Title 18 of the US Code, providing US government officials and law enforcement officials with the tools necessary to ensure that American horses are protected from the brutal trade for their meat.

The bill has already garnered tremendous bipartisan support. "This issue has been vetted in Congress on multiple occasions and every time any measure to prohibit or restrict horse slaughter comes up for a vote the tally is overwhelming in favor of ending this form of animal cruelty," Ross stated in her testimony.

"I am proud to be a co-sponsor of H.R. 6598," said lead co-sponsor Representative Burton. "We must treat these magnificent animals with the respect and dignity they deserve."

Not only is there legislative precedence for taking the Judiciary route to address the issue of horse slaughter via an earlier incarnation of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act that allowed for penalties to be assessed under Title 18 but horse slaughter, in every respect, is a form of animal cruelty and ought to be recognized and treated as such, Ross explained.

"We thank Representatives Conyers and Burton, who have afforded the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2008 a fair opportunity to proceed, as well as Chairman Bobby Scott for his co-sponsorship and commitment to moving this important bill," said Chris Heyde, deputy director of government and legal affairs for AWI. "Now that H.R. 6598 has moved from subcommittee, we hope the Speaker and the Senate will provide similarly swift consideration for a policy that is supported by the vast majority of Americans."

Testifying before the Subcommittee in favor of H.R. 6598 were, in addition to Liz Ross; Dr. John Boyd, President of the National Black Farmers Association; Wayne Pacelle President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States and Dr. Nick Dodman of co-founder of Veterinarians for Equine Welfare. The full text of their statements is available as a PDF by clicking on their names above.

Issue background:

Each year, more than 100,000 horses are purchased at auction by killer-buyers for export to Canada and Mexico, where they are brutally slaughtered for human consumption. In some cases, the killing method involves activities such as knife stabbing.

In the last Congress, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan bill banning horse slaughter for human consumption by a vote of 263 to 146. The bill was not taken up by the Senate before the end of the congressional session.

A 2006 national poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies found that almost 70 percent of Americans already support a federal ban on horse slaughter.