Animal activists may have to wait for any Congressional action on a bill aimed at criminalizing the transport of U.S. horses to slaughter for human consumption. The Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2008 was introduced July 24 in the House by House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., but former Rep. Charles Stenholm, now a WashingtonD.C. lobbyist who opposes the ban on horse slaughter, says the bill stands little chance of seeing action before Congress adjourns to hit the campaign trail in late September.
The bill, H.R. 6598, would make it a crime to possess, sell, or transport a horse with the intention of slaughtering it for human consumption either in the U.S. or beyond U.S. borders. The bill would attach criminal fines and possible imprisonment to acquiring horses for slaughter. Thursday the House held a hearing on the matter.
Stenholm, who represented the Livestock Marketing Association at the hearing, testified that the proposed law would worsen the fate of unwanted horses, a fate many in the horse industry believe has sharply worsened since animal activists pushed for state laws last year that resulted in the closure of the last three horse slaughter establishments in the United States.
His testimony pointed out that since U.S. plants closed, USDA estimates that U.S. exports of horses to Mexico have increased by 312% and exports to Canada increased by 41% (The figures for Mexico were 44,475 in 2007 compared to 10,783 in 2006; and respectively for Canada, 35,000 in 2007 compared to 24,866.) Stenholm noted there were "significant differences" in the humane processing regulations in Mexico compared to the U.S.
"Unlike cattle and other livestock, horses in this country have never been raised as a human food source," said John Conyers Jr., D-Mich. In introducing the bill, Conyers said horses are bought at auctions within the U.S. and then transported to foreign slaughterhouses for hours in packed and hot trailers without water, food or rest where they are then slaughtered in cruel and barbaric ways. The only way to prevent horses from suffering this fate, he said, is to stop the sale and transport of horses to these foreign slaughter houses before they leave the U.S.