Horse Slaughter and Soring Debate Continue with Congressional Hearing on PAST and SAFE Acts

Animal Wellness Leaders Submit More than 330 Pages of Testimony and Supplements in Support of Legislation to End Horse Slaughter and Stamp Out Intentional Injuring of Tennessee Walking Horses in Competition

Today, the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce dove into debates about the treatment of horses in the United States. The Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Commerce and Protection, led by lifelong equine protection advocate Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., convened a hearing on the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, H.R. 5541, and the Save America’s Forgotten Equines (SAFE) Act, H.R. 3355. The hearing began at 12 p.m. ET, and both the live feed and replay can be found here.

The substance of both measures has been introduced in each Congress since 2012. PAST would amend the Horse Protection Act (HPA) of 1970 help end soring – the intentional infliction of pain to Tennessee Walking Horses’ front limbs in order to achieve the artificial high step known as the “Big Lick” that’s prized in small rural parts of Tennessee and Kentucky. SAFE would bring an end to the gruesome trade in horse meat and the slaughter of American equines shipped to Mexico and Canada – some 23,000 of them in 2021. Animal Wellness Action (AWA) leaders have long pressed for passage of both bills.

Animal Wellness Action executive director Marty Irby, who testified in person before the Committee in 2013 on the issue of soring, submitted written testimony today, including 332 pages of collateral material that provided a history of work on the PAST Act and the issue of soring over the past decade. Irby, along with AWA and the Center for a Humane Economy’s director of campaigns, Scott Beckstead, also submitted written testimony and materials supporting the SAFE Act as well.

“There has been no one who has worked harder or in a more creative manner to see the PAST Act or portions of it enacted through law or regulation than I, but every single attempt over the past decade has failed,” wrote Marty Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action in Washington, D.C., and a past president of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ & Exhibitors’ Association, in his testimony submitted to the committee today. “It’s time to think outside of the box.”

“These bills include the SAFE Act that I introduced with Rep. Buchanan. This legislation will protect horses from being slaughtered for human consumption,” said Chairwoman Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill during the hearing. “And we also have the opportunity to end the abusive practice of horse soring. This horrifying act involves the intentional injury of horses hooves and legs of performing walking horses.”

“We applaud Chairwoman Jan Schakowsky and Ranking Member Gus Bilirakis for highlighting the terrible practice of soring I have witnessed since childhood and call on the full committee to move the PAST and SAFE Acts swiftly to a markup,” Irby added.

Irby was honored in 2020 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for his work to end soring.

“It’s time to align our deep love and respect for our equines with federal law by passing the SAFE Act,” said Scott Beckstead, director of campaigns for the Center for a Humane Economy.

“My grandfather spoke often about compromise,” said Ben Tydings Smith, grandson of the late U.S. Senator Joseph D. Tydings, author of the HPA designed to stamp out soring. “He spoke often about compromise related to the HPA and how he reached across the aisle to the late U.S. Senator Howard Baker, R-Tenn., to pass the measure and secure the very first law to protect our iconic American equines — whose very backs this country was built upon. He knew the HPA wasn’t perfect. He knew the measure could have done more. But he also recognized that the perfect should never be the enemy of the good, and that supporting progress for horse protection was the right thing to do. The status quo was not acceptable to Joe Tydings.”

 Animal Wellness Action is a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)(4) organization with a mission of helping animals by promoting legal standards forbidding cruelty. We champion causes that alleviate the suffering of companion animals, farm animals, and wildlife. We advocate for policies to stop dogfighting and cockfighting and other forms of malicious cruelty and to confront factory farming and other systemic forms of animal exploitation. To prevent cruelty, we promote enacting good public policies and we work to enforce those policies. To enact good laws, we must elect good lawmakers, and that’s why we remind voters which candidates care about our issues and which ones don’t. We believe helping animals helps us all. 

Contact: Marty Irby • 202-821-5686 |