Sens. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey, Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, on Wednesday re-introduced a Senate version of the SAFE Act, which would ban horse slaughter within the United States and the transportation of American horses to slaughter abroad.
Specifically, the bill, S. 1706 (pdf), would amend the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to deem horses and other members of the equidae family an unsafe food additive. The bill would also ban the knowing sale or transport of equines or equine parts in interstate or foreign commerce for purposes of human consumption.
On Jan. 3, Reps. Vern Buchanan, R-Florida, Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois, Ed Royce, R-California, Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-New Mexico and Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon introduced a House version of the SAFE Act (HR 113). It has since amassed 148 bipartisan co-sponsors.
The SAFE Act aims to protect horses and humans alike. Because Americans do not raise horses for meat, they are often given any of more than 375 common animal medications banned for consumption by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — including some that can be lethal if ingested by humans.
The last horse slaughter plant in the United States closed in 2007. American horses continue to be trucked to their deaths in Mexico and Canada, however, including an average of 127,000 horses annually from 2008-15, according the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Once beyond our borders and the USDA regulations, horses can face brutal and terrifying deaths in antiquated facilities.
More than 92 percent of these horses are in “good” condition, according to the USDA.
The ultimate goal of legislative efforts to ban horse slaughter is passage of the SAFE Act. In its absence, advocates have made an annual push since 2005 for a so-called “defund amendment” to Agriculture appropriations bills, which prevented the U.S. Department of Agriculture from hiring horsemeat inspectors.
This summer is proving to be especially precarious for America’s horses, both domestic and wild:
- On July 12, the House Appropriations Committee voted 27-25 to reject the defund amendment to the fiscal year 2018 Agriculture amendment. Eight days later, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a similar defund amendment on a voice vote.
- On July 19, the House Appropriations Committee passed, on a voice vote, an amendment to the fiscal year 2018 Interior appropriations bill that would allow the Bureau of Land Management to kill healthy unadopted wild horses. The full Senate Appropriations Committee has not yet taken action on the Interior bill.
Please note: Passage of the SAFE Act would be a step forward, protecting wild horses from being sold to slaughter. However, it would not prevent Congress from allowing the Bureau of Land Management from killing healthy unadopted wild horses and burros.