Critical votes on two horse protection bills and on a funding bill with key horse provisions made today a benchmark date in the long history of equine advocacy by the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund. The Subcommittee on Consumer Protection & Commerce of the House Energy & Commerce Committee voted on legislation to ban soring in the Tennessee walking horse industry and the slaughter of horses for human consumption. The two measures are at the heart of the organizations’ equine protection agenda. And the House Appropriations Committee approved important provisions sought for horses in the bill funding the U.S. Department of Agriculture for Fiscal Year 2023.
“Horse lovers and advocates have been seeking to hasten the day when we’d give horses a measure of justice on these issues,” said Keith Dane, senior director on equine protection for the HSUS. “It’s hard to imagine any greater betrayal of horses than slaughter and soring, and there could be no simpler solution than to ban them outright, no compromise.”
“If average Americans of any persuasion could vote on it, these cruelties would have long since disappeared. Neither one is worthy of a humane nation, and that should seal the deal with the 117th Congress, which we hope will pass these two measures immediately,” said Tracie Letterman, vice president of federal affairs at HSLF.
The subcommittee passed the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, H.R. 5441, as introduced, without any weakening amendments. The bill would amend the federal Horse Protection Act to eliminate industry-self policing, ban soring devices and strengthen penalties for soring, in which unscrupulous trainers use painful techniques to induce an artificially high-stepping gait in some show horses. The effectively-crafted PAST Act has the strong support of the HSUS and HSLF and other leading animal, veterinary and horse industry organizations, which have united to oppose weakening amendments negotiated with the horse soring faction that would have codified further cruelty and victimization of walking horses.
As for the slaughter of horses for human consumption, more than 80% of Americans reject the practice. But the export of horses to other countries for slaughter continues, and the foreign slaughter industry would welcome the opportunity to restart operations in the United States. Passage of the Save America’s Forgotten Equines (SAFE) Act, H.R. 3355, would produce a permanent ban on domestic slaughter of horses for food and prohibit their shipment abroad for that purpose.
Their focus on equine protection is not the only thing the two measures have in common. Both enjoy the strong support of a bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives. The SAFE Act currently has 218 sponsors, while the PAST Act has 258 and already won House approval by a vote of 333-96 in 2019. This represents an historic opportunity to pass humane legislation for which there is clear and substantial support.
The vote of the Fiscal Year 2023 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill in the House Committee on Appropriations could also prove decisive regarding horse slaughter. The bill contains a permanent defunding of inspections of domestic horse slaughter plants, which would prevent them from ever reopening on U.S. soil. Through the efforts of the HSUS, HSLF and allied organizations, there has been a de facto ban on funding for most of the past 17 years, but that requires an annual lobbying effort. A permanent prohibition on allocation of taxpayer dollars for inspections would signal the definitive end of horse slaughter for food on American soil. The bill also contains more than $4 million (a $1 million boost from last year) for USDA enforcement of the Horse Protection Act and provisions encouraging the agency to strengthen its enforcement against soring.
Founded in 1954, the Humane Society of the United States fights the big fights to end suffering for all animals. Together with millions of supporters, we take on puppy mills, factory farms, trophy hunts, animal testing and other cruel industries. With our affiliates, we rescue and care for tens of thousands of animals every year through our animal rescue team’s work and other hands-on animal care services. We fight all forms of animal cruelty to achieve the vision behind our name: A humane society.
Learn more about our work at humanesociety.org. Subscribe to Kitty Block’s blog, A Humane World. Follow the HSUS Media Relations department on Twitter. Read the award-winning All Animals magazine. Listen to the Humane Voices Podcast.
Humane Society Legislative Fund works to pass animal protection laws at the state and federal level, to educate the public about animal protection issues and support humane candidates for office. Formed in 2004, HSLF is incorporated under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code as a separate lobbying affiliate of the Humane Society of the United States.
Emily Ehrhorn: 202-779-1814