Update on Wild Horse Rescue

Remember the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act? Passed last year, it bans the killing of horses for human food and the domestic and international transport of live horses or horseflesh for human consumption. A loophole inserted by Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT) stated that “excess” wild animals more than ten years of age or an animal that has been offered at least three times for adoption without success can be sold by the Bureau of Land Management. Horse advocates warned that people would take advantage of this loophole to buy horses and sell them to rendering plants to provide meat for upscale restaurants in Belgium, France, and Japan.

February, 2005: HR 503 was introduced by Congressman John Sweeney to prohibit the “purchase, sale, shipping or receiving of horses for slaughter for human consumption.” The bill was referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. No hearing yet. www.horsecouncil.org

April 25, 2005:  BLM temporarily suspended sales after 41 horses were killed. The agency requested help from Ford Motor Company to save 52 mustangs from slaughter. Ford bought all 52 and donated them to the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary outside Hot Springs, SD. 16 of these horses were waiting to be killed in the Cavel International Inc. packing plant in DeKalb, IL, and 36 horses from Nebraska were on their way to the plant. Kathleen Clarke, director of BLM, said, “We do not have any clear authority to buy private animals.”

May 19, 2005: BLM announced it was resuming the sale of wild horses and burros, but would put tougher stipulations in place to prevent sale for slaughter. Buyers must agree that they will not knowingly buy horses and send them to a slaughterhouse. However, the House has voted to block the law allowing the government to sell wild horses and burros, arguing that it’s too easy for animals to end up in slaughterhouses. The proposed law would stop BLM from using any of its funding to sell the free-roaming animals. www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7920971

June 8, 2005: The House approved an amendment to the US Department of Agriculture appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2006. It would cut off federal funds for USDA inspection of horses for slaughter. Congressman John Sweeney and other supporters hope that without the mandated inspection, people who buy horsemeat for food will be deterred and slaughter houses will be shut down. During the year the ban is in effect, supporters will work on new legislation to make the ban permanent. www.horsecouncil.org

November 13, 2005:After both the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved a ban on slaughterhouses killing horses and selling the meat overseas, President Bush signed the ban into law in early November. This new legislation, although operative for only one year, is welcome. But it doesn’t keep horses from being killed and rendered for use in other  products. Animal-rights advocates will continue to work to make this ban permanent and keep people from shipping animals to packing plants here or in Canada or Mexico.

The anti-slaughter campaign was energized over the indignation felt three years ago when Ferdinand, the 1986 Kentucky Derby winner, was slaughtered in Japan. Breeder John Hettinger, said, “I became disgusted with myself, I guess you could say, at having swept this to the back of my mind for as long as I have. Anyone who’s lived around horses all his life and owes much of the pleasure he’s had in life to the horse owes them more than that.” Surprising opponents to the anti-slaughter campaign are the American Quarter Horse Association, American Veterinary Medical Association, and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, who say that the slaughterhouse has its uses: there are not enough adoption and rescue programs to take care of horses in need. The Tennessean, November 13, 2005.

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