With signs suggesting that the federal government will give the green light to the opening of the nation's first horse slaughter plant since 2007, U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan (R., PA) is heading to Philadelphia to urge fellow lawmakers to pass his bill banning the killing of horses for human consumption.
Meehan is expected to join representatives from animal welfare organizations Friday afternoon at the headquarters of the newly-revived Philadelphia Police Department's Mounted Unit
The slaughter plant, slated to open in Roswell, New Mexico pending approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The owners of plant, Valley Meat Products, have sued the USDA, saying the agency is dragging its heels on permits.
This is the company, by the way, that employed a man who shot a horse while on camera as a warning to animal rights activists. The man, Tim Sappington, was fired but was not charged with animal cruelty. (Graphic video posted here on Huffington Post.)
Meehan led a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers from both the House and the Senate last month to introduce H.R. 1094, the SAFE Act, which bans horse slaughter for human consumption and prohibits the transportation of horses for purposes of consumption. Currently thousands of U.S. horses are shipped to plants in Mexico and Canada every month to be slaughtered for meat sold in Japan and Europe.
Congress pulled funding for inspectors at horse slaughter plants in 2006, effectively ending the practice but restored that funding in the 2011. Now President Obama has moved to de-fund the positions again in the current budget but it is not yet clear what Congress will do.
Representatives from national animal welfare organizations, including the ASPCA, the Animal Welfare Institute, and the Humane Society of the United States, will be in attendance.
The Philadelphia Police Department's Mounted Unit has partnered with Last Chance Ranch to rescue horses from potential slaughter. Horses threatened by slaughter are adopted by the mounted unit and receive training and veterinary care during their service with the police department, Meehan said in a press release.
(And, we hope, the guarantee of a safe retirement.)
A 2012 national poll confirms that 80 percent of American voters oppose the slaughter of horses for human consumption.
The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association also is among the groups opposing the bill citing food safety concerns.
“Horses—and particularly racehorses—are walking pharmacies,” says Nicholas Dodman, a member of the group's leadership council. “Eating them is about as healthful as eating food contaminated with DDT.”
This move toward a resumption of domestic horse slaughter comes in the wake of the tainted meat scandal unfolding in the European Union with the discovery of horse meat mislabeled as beef in prepared food products.