The horror of horse slaughter may figure prominently in the debate over president Joe Biden’s signature legislation to rebuild our American infrastructure, H.R. 3684, which the House takes up this week.
When the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee took up the INVEST Act two weeks ago, Animal Wellness Action worked with Reps. Troy Carter, D-La., Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., and John Katko, R-N.Y. on an amendment to end the mass transport and barbaric butchering of tens of thousands of American horses transported to Canada and Mexico to be slaughtered for human consumption. Congress has long barred U.S.-based horse slaughtering operations but did not stop the shipment of horses to slaughter plants operating from the border areas of our North American neighbors, who in turn ship the meat to high-end diners as far away as Japan.
Rep. Carter heard from some critics who wanted to tweak the language, but secured a commitment from Transportation committee chairman Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, to advance an even better amendment when the bill comes to the floor. That moment has arrived.
The measure now has tremendous momentum and bipartisan support, with six Democrats and six Republicans co-authoring it. Those supporters include Carter, Fitzpatrick, and Katko, along with a cast of other powerful lawmakers. They include Reps. Dina Titus, D-Nev., Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., two tireless horse protection advocates who wanted to make sure the amendment covered all equines and was tied to Cohen’s Horse Transportation Safety Act already included in the base bill; Reps. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., and Vern Buchanan, the lead authors of the stand-alone anti-horse slaughter bill; Reps. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., and Andy Barr, R-Ky., co-chairs of the Congressional Horse Caucus; and Reps. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., Donald Payne, D-N.J. and Guy Reschenthaler, R-Pa.
Assuming the Rules Committee allows the amendment to be in order, it stands a very strong chance of passing with overwhelming support, given its all-star cast of supporters. More than 225 equine and animal groups, businesses, and rescues are saddled up and support the amendment. The Horses for Life Foundation, U.S. Harness Racing Alumni Association, PETA, SPCA International, the Wild Beauty Foundation, Winterstone Pictures, Four Corners Equine Rescue, The Jockey Club, Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, Texas State Horse Council, and breeders of champion horses like Stone Farm, where three Kentucky Derby winners were raised, as well as Crawford Farms, a top champion harness horse breeding operation in New York, are among the boosters who saddled up in support of the measure.
This is the best chance, since inception of the campaign to ban the slaughter of American horses a quarter century ago, to see action on the issue. I am proud that Animal Wellness Action led the strategic action to initiate this legislative action, seizing the opportunity to hitch the anti-slaughter language to a key piece of national legislation with a strong chance to be enacted this year to advance this goal. We are grateful for each and everyone who supports the measure and applaud them for stepping up.
Horses are revered and cherished in the United States, and 80 percent of Americans oppose the slaughter of horses for human consumption. As public awareness has grown of the inherent cruelty involved in the horse slaughter industry, calls for a federal response have grown louder, especially as the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has been implicated in a suspect adoption plan that is allowing “adopters” to rake in profits by selling captured wild horses and burros to slaughter.
Transport of horses for slaughter is unsafe and has caused multiple serious accidents on American highways. The list is long of serious accidents on American highways involving trucks loaded with horses bound for slaughter. Most of these involve horrific injuries to and deaths of horses on the trucks. As recently as October 2020, 14 horses were killed and 11 badly injured when a truck driving the animals to slaughter flipped on a highway in Franklin County, Missouri. Similar accidents have happened over the years, and in most, motorists had to avoid the accident and, in some cases, encountered terrified and injured horses running loose in the lanes of traffic. Similarly, in 2017, a truck belonging to the infamous kill buyers who own one of the nation’s largest horse slaughter holding facilities in Bastrop, Louisiana – right in Rep. Carter’s backyard – was involved in a terrible crash that led to the deaths of 19 horses.
Until the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act was enacted at the end of 2020, there had been no national legislation passed in half a century to benefit horses. The last measures were the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 and the Horse Protection Act of 1970. That’s a long and unacceptable drought. We must bring urgency to the fight to stop the mass butchering of healthy American horses, and this amendment stands a great shot at hitching a ride to enactment on the INVEST Act.
It’s within our reach if we keep working together during the next few days before the INVEST Act comes to a vote, but we need your help to do it. Join us in shepherding the anti-slaughter amendment to passage by clicking here and taking action today. The iconic American equines whose backs this country was built upon deserve the best we have to offer in plying every channel to get the job done.
Marty Irby is the executive director at Animal Wellness Action in Washington, D.C., who was named as one of The Hill’s Top Lobbyists for 2019 and 2020, and was recently honored by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, II for his work to protect horses. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @MartyIrby.