Opinion

OPINION: Saving Horses From Slaughter Plants Also Saves Your Tax Dollars

DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP/Getty Images

Marty Irby Executive Director, Animal Wellness Action

America was built on the backs of horses, and in September, there was a milestone achieved in our effort to acknowledge the role that horses have played in our culture and stop the egregious abuse of these magnificent animals.

A bill to ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption — known as The Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, H.R. 113, led by U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan, Jan Schakowsky, Ed Royce, and Michelle Lujan Grisham — garnered its 218th cosponsor in the House. That signals that a majority of the chamber supports the legislation.

While this policy reform has always attracted significant support, it’s the first time in a decade that more than half the House has been on record in support of ending horse slaughter in America.

The last time was twelve years ago this month when a similar measure led by former U.S. Reps. John Sweeny and Ed Whitfield passed the House with tremendous support, including Vice President Mike Pence, a representative from Indiana at the time. The Senate never took the measure up for a vote.

But in this time of political divisions, here’s a bill both parties can get behind, and we urge House and Senate leaders to schedule votes on the issue. The bill would surely pass, and leaders should allow the will of lawmakers and the American public to be expressed by allowing a vote on the issue.

Sens. Lindsey Graham and Robert Menendez have introduced the SAFE Act, S. 1706, in the Upper Chamber. The Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by my home state Sen. Richard Shelby, included language in their Agriculture Appropriations package that would maintain a temporary ban on horse slaughter that’s also been in play for the past decade. The measure defunds horse slaughter inspections in the U.S., making it impossible to slaughter horses here.

Unfortunately, the House Agriculture Appropriations package would reinstate horse slaughter in its current form. It’s an annual battle that can be put aside if the Congress settles the matter once and for all and enacts the SAFE Act.

Many people don’t realize that the slaughter of American equines for human consumption claims so many equine lives every year –tens of thousands of animals, most of them perfectly healthy. We don’t eat horse meat in America, and poll after poll has shown that more than 80 percent of Americans oppose horse slaughter. It’s a cruel and terrifying end for the horses that become victims of this enterprise, and it’s an end this symbol of our country does not deserve.

Horses are transported long distances to slaughter plants without food, water, or rest and become seriously injured or die during the journey. As flight animals, more so than cattle or pigs, horses are especially skittish and much more likely to become injured or stressed during the transport and slaughter process.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture documented serious cruelty violations in plants previously operated in the United States prior to closure in 2007. Millions of our tax dollars were being wasted to “oversee” operations involving horses with broken bones and terrifying eye injuries in foreign-owned facilities.

At a time when Congress should be focused on fiscal responsibility in following true conservatism, our tax dollars should not be spent to fund a new program to slaughter horses and prop up an egregious foreign-driven enterprise.

As a life-long conservative, fourth generation horseman, and eight-time world champion equine competitor, I believe the horses and the American people deserve better than to be forced to fund the demise of these icons just to end up on foreign dinner plates.

This is an issue that is heavily supported by both Republicans and Democrats, and it’s a win-win for horses and taxpayers alike. Speaker Paul Ryan, Leader Kevin McCarthy and the rest of the House Leadership should follow Sen. Shelby’s lead in maintaining the ban on horse slaughter by keeping the defund language in the final appropriations package.

Marty Irby is the executive director at Animal Wellness Action in Washington, D.C.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.