The American Horse Council reports that federal legislation has been introduced that would make it a federal crime to transport horses for the purpose of slaughter. Rep. Tom Reynolds, a second-term Congressmen from western New York (Finger Lakes racetrack is in his district), introduced the legislation--H.R. 2622, called "Helping Out to Rescue and Save Equines Act," H.R. 2622--in July. It was first sent to the House Committee on Agriculture, then referred to the Subcommittee on Livestock and Horticulture.
The bill would make it unlawful for any person "to willingly and knowingly transport or cause to be transported between any place in a state and any place outside of such state (1) any horse (other than a downed horse) for the purpose of slaughtering the horse; or (2) any horse flesh processed or intended to be processed for human consumption."
Violators would be subject to fines of $5,000 per horse. Horses confiscated from shippers in violation of the statute would be donated to tax-exempt rescue facilities. The bill authorizes the U.S. secretary of agriculture to award federal funds to the rescue facilities.
The AHC estimated that approximately 1% of the U.S. horse population was sent to slaughterhouses in 2000. Legislation passed in 1996 with the support of the horse industry authorized the agriculture secretary to establish standards ensuring humane transport of horses to slaughter facilities via commercial transportation. Those guidelines have yet to be established, though AHC president Jay Hickey said they should be adopted "in the very near future and they should be strictly enforced."
Hickey cautioned in the AHC newsletter that a ban on transportation to slaughterhouses will not solve the problem of horses going unwanted by owners. "In fact," he said, "the concern is that a ban could actually increase the potential for abuse because thousands of horses will still be unwanted.
"This is a difficult issue," he said, "but decisions about equine welfare, and this issue in particular, cannot be made in a vacuum. They must be based on existing realities, scientific facts, and solid animal husbandry. I think that the horse industry feels that allowing emotional issues, cultural perspectives, or uninformed public opinion to shape a decision that could jeopardize overall equine welfare would not be in the best interest of horses in this country."