Despite strong support from the public and lawmakers, opponents stymied a House bill at the end of the 117th Congress, which ended last month.
The lack of movement in the House of Representatives contributed to the U.S. Senate failing to move a similar bill.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state, a small number of Native American tribes and business groups like the American Veterinary Medical Association lobbied against the SAFE Act, which would have permanently banned horse slaughter in the United States as well as the export of horses for slaughter.
While their political leaders spoke neither for the majority of the country’s more than 12,000 veterinarians or 574 tribal nations, opponents managed to effectively run out the clock before the bill could advance.
RTF is willing to pursue solutions that could assist tribal nations having difficulty managing horses on their land. However, we remain steadfast in opposing any exception to a federal ban that could create a new foreign slaughter pipeline through tribal lands.
McMorris Rodgers has since been elevated to chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, to which the bill was previously assigned, presenting a greater hurdle for this modest yet impactful legislation.
New bills will now need to be introduced in the House and Senate. RTF is working with sponsors of anti-slaughter legislation, including Reps. Jan Schakowsky, D-IL, and Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-FL, to decide on an approach for this Congress.
Support for a slaughter ban is ample, both inside and outside of the Capitol.
The SAFE Act was halted despite backing from 225 bipartisan House cosponsors and overwhelming support from voters. Repeated surveys have found more than 80 percent of Americans oppose horse slaughter.
Support for a ban also included the unprecedented Final Stretch Coalition, which includes not only RTF and the nation’s largest animal welfare groups but horse industry organizations like The Jockey Club, the Breeders’ Cup, Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association and the New York Racing Association.
McMorris Rodgers and other opponents dredged up old, easily refuted arguments against a ban – including that there is no way that the United States can absorb the thousands of horses shipped to Mexico and Canada for slaughter each year.
In fact, since the last horse slaughterhouse in the United States closed in 2007, the number of American horses exported for slaughter peaked at 166,572 in 2012. That number has since plummeted because of broader public knowledge of the issue, increased attention to equine aftercare and retirement and the growing number of quality rescues and sanctuaries.
From January to November of 2022,18,456 American horses were exported for slaughter. While each such death is a needless tragedy, that total still represents a 13.6% decrease from the same period in 2021.
Those figures include an unknown number of wild horses and burros born on the range. They are not tracked by the government after adoption or sale.
When new horse slaughter ban bills are introduced, RTF will alert you about how you can take action in support of this important legislation.