| Washington, DC (January 15, 2009) – The Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act (H.R. 503), was reintroduced yesterday by House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) and Representative Dan Burton (R-IN). They first introduced the bill, which will ban horse slaughter, in the summer of 2008. It gained quick bipartisan support and passed out of the Judiciary Committee but did not move further as the legislative clock wound down. Committed to seeing the measure passed into law, Chairman Conyers has given the bill priority in his committee, as signaled by its reintroduction so early on the legislative calendar. With sixty-one original cosponsors, the bill already enjoys strong bipartisan support.|
Although the few remaining horse slaughter plants operating in the US were shut down in 2007 under state law, the absence of a federal law banning the practice means that American horses are still at risk of being slaughtered for human consumption. In fact, more than 100,000 horses were exported to Mexico and Canada in 2008 for slaughter; In Canada horses are often shot to death while in Mexico some plants still use the “puntilla” knife to stab the horse into a state of paralysis prior to being slaughtered while still fully conscious. The meat is then sold to high-end consumers in Europe and Asia.
“There are naysayers who claim we should reopen the US plants rather than seek to ban all horse slaughter. Clearly, they’ve already forgotten how awful the plants here were,” said Chris Heyde, deputy director of Government and Legal Affairs for the Animal Welfare Institute.
Documents recently released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal just how brutal conditions were at the US plants before they were shut down. Hundreds of graphic photographs taken by U.S. Department of Agriculture employees at one plant show live horses with missing legs, with eyeballs hanging out, with skin ripped from the body and the birth of foals at the plant. Other photos show horses dead on arrival, having succumbed to the miseries of transport.
“The suffering of hundreds of thousands of our horses rests solely on the shoulders of those blocking this bill. Were it not for their stalling tactics horse slaughter would have ceased years ago. Meanwhile an American horse is slaughtered every five minutes. We commend Chairman Conyers and Representative Burton for taking the lead once again to end this cruel practice through introduction of H.R. 503, the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act,” said Heyde.
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