Washington, DC (January 14, 2014) – The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) commends the U.S. Congress for wisely reinstating the annual ban on the slaughtering of horses in its Fiscal Year 2014 Omnibus Appropriations Act released late last night. The language, identical to what had been in effect every year since 2006—but removed last year—prevents the U.S. Department of Agriculture from expending funds to place inspectors in horse slaughter facilitates; such inspectors are required by federal law for the plants to operate in interstate commerce. Having this language in effect for the fiscal year ensures no horse slaughter facilities can open in the United States as Congress works to pass the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, which would place a permanent ban on horse slaughter in this country and prevent our horses from being exported to Canada or Mexico for slaughter.
“For the first time since AWI began the national campaign to end horse slaughter in 2001, I feel this action by Congress signals the end of horse slaughter in the United States,” said Chris Heyde, deputy director of government and legal affairs for AWI. “As we were talking to members of Congress about this important language, it was clear that support for an end to horse slaughter is growing and defense of this brutal and predatory industry is diminishing. Everyone now wants a permanent solution to shutting this industry down, and that is why we are committed to getting the SAFE Act passed.”
The language defunding horse slaughter inspections this fiscal year was sponsored by Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) and the late Rep. Bill Young (R-FL) and overwhelmingly approved by a voice in the House Appropriations Committee in early 2014. Soon after, identical language was offered by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) during the Senate Appropriations Committee markup and also approved by a voice vote. Congress is expected to vote on passage of the Omnibus Appropriations bill in the next few days before a temporary spending measure is set to expire. President Obama has already said he will sign the measure once it arrives on his desk.
“The debate over the reopening of U.S.-based horse slaughter plants has been settled for the time being,” noted Heyde. “Now it is critical that everyone turn their attention to passage of the SAFE Act. Without the SAFE Act, sponsored by Reps. Patrick Meehan (R-PA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Jim Moran (D-VA) in the House and Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in the Senate, we could see the resumption of horse slaughter in the United States during the next fiscal year.”
The omnibus bill contains language that will end the possibility of proposed horse slaughter plants opening in New Mexico and Missouri. The last three plants were closed in 2007 under state laws, and Congress had defunded required inspections which made it impossible for them to open in other states until 2011.
In 2011, the GAO produced a report claiming that these closures had caused a dramatic increase in the rate of abuse and neglect. This report was used by members of a small conference subcommittee to justify stripping the defunding language that had been placed in the 2012 House Agriculture budget but not in the Senate version. The GAO report was later discovered by EWA to have been falsified.
The new defunding language contains not only defunding, but also a stipulation that funding not be restored until and unless the Food and Drug Administration makes a determination that meat from American horses can be made safe to enter the food supply. The FDA regulates which drugs are safe in meat animals as well as their withdrawal times. The FDA currently categorizes horses as companion (non-food) animals. Such a determination would most probably require a reduction in the drugs available to treat horses and an increase in the required tracking of such treatments as is currently done with meat animals.
Defunding language was passed by both the House and the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committees in 2013 with super majorities, but neither budget reached the floor for a full vote. Last week with key support from Vice President Biden and congressional leaders, the defunding language was put into the omnibus bill.
"Victoria McCullough was the one who made this happen." explains EWA President John Holland, "It was the fact that Victoria, an accomplished international equestrian and CEO of Chesapeake Petroleum, was spending her own fortune without regard for any personal gain that I believe gave her the credibility to accomplish this."
In a conversation with EWA, McCullough asked that her gratitude go out to the many friends of horses in government who helped her, including VP Biden, Frank Biden, State Senator Joseph Abruzzo, Sen. Tom Harkin (IA), Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz (FL), Rep. Tom Rooney (FL), Senator Mikulski (MD), Senator Mark Kirk (IL), Senator Dick Durbin (IL), Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Jessica Feingold-Lieberson and many others.
The success of this effort surprised many in Washington, since this budget has uncharacteristically little in the way of riders. Separate legislation will be needed to be passed to stop the export of US horses to Canada and Mexico for slaughter.
Submitted by the Equine Welfare Alliance