Vickery Eckhoff, June 6, 2013, Forbes
Whether or not to slaughter horses for human consumption has been a frequent topic of debate ever since Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri and two colleagues with close ties to the beef industry surreptitiously altered a 2012 omnibus spending bill banning the practice.
That maneuver, which Senator Blunt also employed to add the “Monsanto Protection” language to a more recent spending bill, opened the door for horse slaughter inspections to resume in the U.S. after a long absence. Without federal funding for inspectors, slaughter houses cannot operate.
With the end of New York’s legislative session in sight, lawmakers from across New York are working to ban horses from being slaughtered for human consumption, calling the practice exceptionally cruel and a threat to human health.
On June 4, they came together with hundreds of supporters for the third annual NY State Animal Advocacy Day at the legislative office building in Albany, NY. It was the second rally in support of the ban on slaughter—called “Safe Horse New York”—in two weeks.
That legislation would not only ban slaughtering horses, but transporting them to slaughter according to its sponsors, Democratic Assemblymember Deborah Glick (New York City) and Republican Senator Kathy Marchione (Saratoga County). The sale or purchase of horse meat would also be prohibited.
California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey and Texas ban horse slaughter while Iowa, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Oregon have all recently acted to open up slaughter facilities. Other states, besides New York, are also considering bans and a federal ban—Safeguard American Food Exports (or SAFE)—is gaining sponsors on Capitol Hill.
Eighty percent of Americans overwhelmingly oppose slaughtering horses according to polls conducted by Lake Research Partners for the ASPCA. A majority of horse owners are opposed, including many in the racing industry, as well as people polled in states seeking to open slaughter houses for horses. Public and Congressional opposition to horse slaughter cuts across party and gender lines.
“People understand the significance of horses, the service they provide,” stated Assemblymember Jim Tedisco, a co-sponsor of Glick’s bill who discussed horses’ contributions, not just to racing and building the U.S., including the Erie Canal, but as therapy animals for disabled children and adults as well as U.S. veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“People don’t realize the drugs the horses are taking are also getting into the food chain,” Tedisco noted.
Both the USDA and the Obama administration support defunding inspections of horse slaughter plants in future spending bills, citing food safety concerns magnified this year by an international scandal in which beef was substituted with cheaper horse meat, a fraudulent scheme that apparently had been going on for several years, ensnaring major brands including Nestle, Burger King, Tesco and IKEA meatballs.
1986 Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand and Exceller, a horse of the year, are among the tens of thousands of racehorses slaughtered each year after enriching their owners. Between 16-19% of U.S. horses slaughtered for their meat are former racehorses according to government figures, many of them within weeks and even days of losing their last race.
Broodmares in foal or with foals at their sides have been packed on to livestock trucks like the one that caught fire just outside of Binghamton, New York, on May 6 on its way to a Canadian slaughterhouse, burning alive 30 horses from the New Holland horse auction in Pennsylvania.
The New York State Farm Bureau has urged opposition to the Safe Horse New York legislation, citing concerns over personal property rights and the cost to euthanize and dispose of horses, which Senator Marchione says may be addressed through a check-off on New York state tax returns or possible tax credit.
The Farm Bureau—whose Deputy Director, Jeff Williams, did not return phone calls requesting an interview—also objects to the classification or horses as “companion animals” instead of “livestock” in the proposed New York slaughter ban. CONTINUED….
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