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