Congress is considering a bill that would ban the export of horses for slaughter for meat. More than 100,000 horses are slaughtered each year to provide meat in countries where horse flesh is a delicacy.
For many of those who have fought against the slaughter business, they are looking to Congress for the final victory in their effort that has already shut down two U.S. slaughterhouses and may soon down the third and final U.S. slaughterhouse.
“These are our friends, our companions, and they have been a part of our history,” says Tony Leva, 62, a partner in a 7-year-old [horse] rescue operation. “To eat them is something we in America don’t want.”
Not everyone supports this ban though.
But the industry, as well as some breeders, racers, and owners, are fighting the legislation, backed by veterinarians and others who say the killing is humane.
More important, they believe — and slaughter opponents concede — there is no other way to handle the tens of thousands of horses that can no longer compete on tracks, pull Amish buggies or whose owners can no longer afford them.
More on the industry and the ban after the jump.
“Americans don’t even know that horses that are not raised for this purpose are bought by the killer buyers and sold to slaughter,” said Nancy Perry, vice president for government affairs with the Humane Society of the United States. “This is not an industry that we want to support in this country.”
Perry’s objections start with the transportation of animals to auctions and slaughter, packed into trailers and often traveling for hours without food or water.
The American Veterinary Medical Association, which represents 75,000 veterinarians, supports horse slaughter as a humane means of disposing of unwanted horses. That position has spawned a new Washington-based organization called Veterinarians for Equine Welfare, which disagrees.
Former Texas congressman Charles Stenholm is a lobbyist for a coalition of 200 organizations called the Horse Welfare Coalition, which includes the three U.S. slaughterhouses. Stenholm thinks the export ban will fail to pass.
“Some people believe no animal should ever be killed and, certainly, not eaten,” he said. “But a majority of horse owners disagree with this legislation. If you don’t want your horse slaughtered, then don’t sell it.”