A bill to end horse slaughter for human consumption passed the U.S. House of Representatives Sept. 7 with a final vote of 263-146. Two amendments to alter the bill both failed to pass.
"It was a significant win," Kentucky Rep. Ed Whitfield said. "There was just an overwhelming feeling, at least on the House side, that something should be done about it."
Whitfield and New York Rep. John Sweeney were lead sponsors of the bill.
If the bill becomes law, the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act would shut down the three horse slaughter plants in the country. The plants in Forth Worth and Kaufman, Texas, and DeKalb, Ill., slaughtered more than 90,000 horses last year. The vast majority of the meat was sold overseas, where it is considered a delicacy.
"We are disappointed in the outcome of the vote," Kellye Fondy, manager of communications for the American Quarter Horse Association, said. "We really feel like emotion won over common sense. We have not changed our positions on the bill, and we will continue our efforts to deal with unwanted horses."
Proponents of the bill were happy that the bill passed the first critical step in becoming law.
"I am delighted, elated, and relieved," long-time horsewoman Madeleine Pickens said. "The wonderful thing is how many (votes) it passed with. It has taken years for Congressmen Whitfield and Sweeney to get this through, and I'm just so grateful for all that they have done for this bill."
Pickens has been in the horse industry since 1983 and, along with her late husband, Allen Paulson, campaigned the champion racehorse Cigar.
The bill, which had more than 200 co-sponsors in the House, has been a volatile issue due to the horse's place in American culture. One of the main concerns of those who oppose the bill is what will happen to horses previously headed for slaughter.
"We are disappointed because our concern is for humane treatment," Dr. Bonnie Beaver said, representing the American Veterinary Medical Association. "The legislation must still pass the Senate, and until that happens, we still are going to continue to try and get the message out that there are significant potential problems that need to be addressed before passing anything quite this drastic."
The bill now moves to the Senate, where Nevada Sen. John Ensign and Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu have reintroduced an identical measure.