U.S. Temporarily Bans Horse Slaughtering for Meat

There is so much happening in the field of animal law and animal rights are slowly evolving to catch up with society’s sentiments. In the latest developments horses, majestic, loyal, friendly, and intelligent domesticated animals, are being granted with legal protections in situations in which they were sent to slaughter in the U.S. For instance, two weeks ago the Federal Government passed a new omnibus spending bill which indirectly prevents horses from being slaughtered for meat.

On July 20, 2017 Senators Tom Udall (Democrat-New Mexico) and Lindsey Graham (Republican-South Carolina) passed the Udall-Graham amendment which eliminated funding for USDA facilities.  The language in the spending bill was adopted in the omnibus spending bill which prescribes that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) can no longer allocate funding for inspecting horse slaughter facilities and without inspectors/inspections, horse slaughter plants can no longer operate. These facilities will remain closed as they have for more than a decade.

In July 2018, the House Appropriations Committee approved an agriculture spending bill that would have lifted the ban that has been in place since 2006. Thankfully, the U.S. Government ratified a shift in policy towards new laws that protect horses. Although the United States was never a large market for horse meat, sadly several other countries including Mexico, Japan, France, and Belgium have a demand for horse meat. The United States based slaughterhouses were serving the export market to these countries before the initial 2006 ban came in effect.

Although this is promising news for animal rights, banning horse slaughter for meat production is a temporary solution since the law merely prevents government spending for inspectors. This practice could possibly be permitted in future U.S. spending bills. As such, a concerned constituent can take action and contact their congressmen/congresswomen and U.S. senators in to push for legislation that explicitly bans the slaughtering of horses. There is exciting news in that there are people in congress already trying to protect horses and proponents of animal rights.

For instance, the Safeguard American Food Export Act (SAFE Act) sponsored by Representative Vern Buchanan (Republican-Florida) is attempting to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. 331) to prohibit the knowing sale of equine parts for human consumption along with amending section 409 and 512 of the Act to deem equine parts unsafe for human consumption.  The proposed bill balances animal rights by stating horses are companion animals and not intended for consumption and human rights by concluding that horses are frequently treated with drugs that are unfit for human consumption.             

The United States is certainly moving in the right direction when it comes to banning slaughtering horses for their meat. It is imperative that this ban is written permanently into law to prevent future loopholes or spending bills from being created. It is now time for Canada to hop on board and ban the slaughtering of horses. Canadian laws have been slow to address the ethical treatment of horses.  Currently, Canadian laws only regulate the sale of horse meat that contains phenylbutazone, a painkiller and anti-inflammatory, commonly used as treatment for horses. 

Sadly, horse meat production is a significant industry in Canada with two federally approved processing centers located in Quebec and two more located in Alberta.  According to the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Red Meat and Livestock Information “Supply Sheets By Species,” approximately 53,833 horses were slaughtered for meat production in 2016.  The 2016 figure is down almost 50% from 2008 values when 113,318 horses were slaughtered for their meat. 

Since 2008 there has only been one year between 2010 and 2011 where horse meat production has actually increased.  This trend indicates that horse meat is becoming less of a desirable product and the time is right for Canadian lawmakers to implement meaningful laws that protect horses from slaughter.  In fact, as of the writing of this blog post a change.org petition called “Canada, stop exporting live horses for slaughter” initiated by Lawrence MacAulay has over 100,000 signatures.  If you are interested in signing this petition the link can be found here: https://www.change.org/p/lawrence-macaulay-canada-stop-exporting-live-horses-for-slaughter or you can go to my face book page: Suzana Gartner, animal lawyer and advocate, and sign it. Please also share this petition so we can work together to outlaw these cruel and inhumane laws.

Humans domesticated horses thousands of years ago and they have loyally served humankind. Throughout history, man has depended on horses for transportation, protection, sport, amusement, and companionship. Horses are companion animals and deserve to be granted stronger legal protections. It is time to stand up for this species and speak against the cruel and inhumane treatment of horse slaughter for meat so this practice can be permanently ended and viewed as an aberration of the past.                 

Do you have any questions about animal laws or animal rights? Do you have an animal law topic you’d like to see me cover? Contact me and I would be more than happy to answer!