Rep. Pat Meehan took his campaign to end horse slaughter in the U.S. to Philadelphia on Friday, just three days after 30 slaughter-bound horses from Pennsylvania perished in a massive tractor-trailer fire on a New York highway.
Meehan, joined by representatives of the nation's largest animal protection groups and the Philadelphia Police Department’s Mounted Police Unit, called for passage of his federal legislation to end the inhumane killing of U.S. horses for human consumption.
His plea comes with the pending opening of a slaughter plant in New Mexico, six years after the last U.S. plant closed following the removal of funding for inspectors. But Congress reinstated the funding last year and pro-slaughter forces moved to get plants running again. Some 160,000 American horses are shipped to slaughter in Mexico and Canada each year.
“The pending approval of the first domestic horse slaughter plant underscores the urgency of Congressional action," said Meehan. "This legislation has bipartisan, bicameral support. It's time for Congress to act to ban horse slaughter."
Animal welfare advocates maintain there is no humane method of slaughter and that it poses a potential risk to human health because horses are raised for use in show, sport, work and recreation and are regularly administered drugs that are prohibited in feed animals.
The Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act would prevent the introduction of horse slaughter operations in the U.S., end the current export of American horses for slaughter abroad, and protect the public from consuming toxic horse meat. Reps. Meehan, a Republican whose district is in suburban Philadelphia and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., along with Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., introduced the legislation last month.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said the welfare of all animals is important to his agency. “Our Mounted Unit is an important component of our crime fighting strategy and another resource in building relationships with various communities. Therefore, preserving the lives of these animals is meaningful and beneficial for both human beings and horses.”
“We are all humbled to be standing in the presence of the magnificent horses that make up the Philadelphia Police Department’s Mounted Police Unit," said Chris Heyde, deputy director of government and legal affairs for the Animal Welfare Institute. "These horses—some of whom were rescued from slaughter—are hooves-on-the-ground proof that the overwhelming majority of horses going to slaughter are full of life and have value to provide the community. Surely we can provide them a second chance; we owe them that for all they have given us.”
A January 2012 national poll commissioned by the ASPCA found that 80 percent of American voters oppose the slaughter of horses for human consumption.
“The overwhelming majority of Americans are intensely opposed to the cruel practice of horse slaughter, and we thank the sponsors of the SAFE Act for their efforts to not only protect public health, but also safeguard our nation’s equines, said Carolyn Schnurr, federal legislative manager of ASPCA Government Relations, "This predatory industry is actively trying to establish horse slaughter plants in the U.S., and it is time for Congress to permanently ban domestic horse slaughter and the export of our horses to neighboring countries for slaughter.”
On Tuesday a tractor trailer carrying 30 horses bought by Shippensburg-based "kill buyer" Bruce Rotz in Pennsylvania went up in flames on I-81 near Syracuse. A witness called the inferno "a scene from a horror movie."
The horses were crammed in a trailer built to haul 10 to 15 horses. Without food or bedding, halters or adequate exits, an expert says, the slaughter bound horses were being transported legally - not humanely - for the 10-hour trip to the slaughterhouse in Quebec.
As Equine Protection Network founder Christine Berry explained on her Facebook page it was impossible to transport horses properly to slaughter because it's too expensive.
The comment is often made, "if it can be done humanely" in regards to transporting horses to slaughter. It is impossible to transport horses according to recommended and accepted horse industry standards within the profit margin for slaughter, so despite New York's admirable efforts to pass legislation to ensure horses are transported safely, as long as horses are worth more dead than alive, greedy and uncaring individuals such as Rotz will continue to transport horses in overcrowded trailers resulting in horrific crashes.
Berry, who a decade ago led the fight in Pennsylvania to ban the transport of horses on double-deck trailers designed for cattle and pigs, said New York should ban the transport of horses for slaughter and when horses are very old or too sick or injured to live comfortably, horse owners should humanely euthanize them.
When the U.S. Congress follows suit horse slaughter will be consigned to history in the United States, she said.
Just yesterday NPR featured the work of a young Japanese photographer who traced a horse's life from birth to slaughter in stark black and white images. See the gallery here.