Thank you for contacting me to share your views on S. 1176, theAmerican Horse Slaughter Prevention Act of 2011. I appreciate hearing from you.
Horses have been critical to human endeavors such as transportation, commerce, and recreation. Utilizing them in the same manner as consumable livestock has raised significant concerns among animal protection advocates. S. 1176 would prohibit the transportation of horses to Mexico to be slaughtered for human consumption. This legislation was introduced on June 9, 2011, and was referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
As you may know, since 2006 Congress has routinely attached a provision to annual appropriation bills that prohibits the U.S. De partment of Agriculture (USDA) from spending taxpayer dollars on ante-mortem inspection of horses under the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA). Supporters of this provision sought to shut down all domestic horse slaughter facilities if USDA inspectors weren’t allowed to certify compliance with the FMIA.
Unfortunately, this attempt to ban domestic horse slaughter has amounted to an animal welfare disaster. On June 22, 2011, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), an independent investigating branch of Congress, issued a report which found a 60% rise in state and local investigations for horse neglect, starvation, and abandonment since the inspection ban was instituted (“Horse Welfare: Action Needed to Address Unintended Consequences from Cessation of Domestic Slaughter” GAO-11-228). Several animal welfare groups, like the American Veterinarian Medical Association, have also concluded that American horse slaughter facilities are more humane and preferable to less regulated Mexican slaughter facilities or the starvation of abandoned horses. As a result, Congress recently restored funding for USDA meat inspectors under the Agriculture Appropriations bill, H.R. 2112, which was signed into law on November 18, 2011.
While I question the practice of slaughtering horses for human consumption, I’m also concerned with the evidence to date showing that an outright ban on horse slaughter has done far more to increase the suffering of unwanted horses. I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Senate to ensure that horses are treated humanely under appropriate animal welfare laws. Please be assured that I will keep your comments in mind should S. 1176 be considered by the full Senate.
Again, thank you for sharing your views with me. Please feel free to contact me on this or any other matter of concern.
United States Senator