Horse advocates were cheering this week as first the Senate and then the House on Thursday passed the FY2014 government budget bill which contained an amendment, thanks to Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), that removes funding for equine slaughter inspections. Advocates in the thick of the fight also commended Victoria McCullough, horsewoman and head of Chesapeake Petroleum, Vice President Joseph Biden, and Florida State Senator Joseph Abruzzo, according to the national Pet Rescue Examiner, Cheryl Hanna.
"This gives them a stay of execution within the borders of the USA, which takes us back to where we were in 2007," said Victor McMullen, Sr. who operates Southern Winds Equine Rescue just east of Mulvane, KS. "But it doesn't stop transportation to slaughter in Canada or Mexico, nor does it stop the slaughter of horses for animal feed--zoos, dogs, etc. That includes people such as Bill Gates in Burden, Ks. who is authorized to do this per Kansas State licenses."
Yes, not far south of Wichita, Ks horses are being slaughtered and sold for use in animal feeds. While this will not stop with the S.A.F.E. Act (S. 541 and H. R. 1094) which deems horse meat unfit for human consumption, it will end the transport of horses across the boarder to slaughter.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration currently bans the presence of 379 common equine drugs in animals slaughtered for human consumption. However, there is no procedure in place to ensure that American horses, sold to slaughterhouses and killed for human consumption, are free of these FDA-banned substances.
It is for this reason that the European Union has considered not accepting U.S. horse meat and why some Canadian horse slaughter plants do not take U.S. Thoroughbreds (the third largest group of horses going to slaughter across U.S. borders), frequently treated with phenylbutazone or bute. Our horses are working horses and companions and most do not have a complete record of what they have received in their lifetime, as required by the EU. A sale auctioneer doesn't ask for this kind of information and a kill buyer doesn't care as was evidenced when thousands of abandoned horses at the U.S. and Mexico border were identified last year as being horses rejected at the slaughter plant for various reasons, including being too thin, and left to die of starvation.
"With the threat of slaughter returning to the U.S., significant effort has been directed towards blocking plant openings," said Karen Everhart, executive director of Rainbow Meadows Equine Rescue & Retirement in Sedan, KS. "Now we can turn our attention to the S.A.F.E. Act so that no horse is at risk of being transported for slaughter. Within our area there has been a significant increase of thefts and disappearances. I have suspected a connection between the possible return of slaughter in Missouri."
Though Gates and other kill buyers operating in Kansas are still buying horses to transport to slaughter, the S.A.F.E. Act would end this practice as a legal operation. The ASPCA has a site from which you can find your representative and senators to write to them and urge that this legislation be passed.
For those who wonder, what will happen to the 1% of the total equine population in the U.S. that has been going to slaughter since 2007, between 130,000 and 150,000 each year, there will still be some that wind up processed for animal food. But not having slaughter as an option will force the horse industry to look at its practices and reduce the number of horses produced each year, to seek humane retirement options and assistance for members when a horse must be put down (some of the larger rescues already do this to help an owner with the cost of humane euthanasia), and to work cooperatively with rescues for retraining and retirement of the horses that served their owners, whether as a broodmare or as a show ring winner.
After all, these organizations, including the American Horse Council and the American Quarter Horse Association (the number one breed going to slaughter), along with the American Veterinary Medical Association, have been spending millions of dollars to lobby for horse slaughter in the U.S. the past several years, so it would seem they have the funds to work towards a solution and work cooperatively with rescue organizations across the country.