The head of the Humane Society of the United States has welcomed the passing of a federal bill that prevents the resumption of horse slaughter on US soil, saying lawmakers must now push on to stop the export of equines to Mexican and Canadian abattoirs.
The prospect of a fresh horse slaughter industry ended with President Barack Obama signing an omnibus spending bill last week that included language preventing the US Department of Agriculture from funding the mandatory plant inspections required for horse abattoirs to operate.
“While this was a hard-fought and important victory, it is incomplete,” Wayne Pacelle wrote in his blog, A Humane Nation.
“American horses are still going to slaughter, in Canada and Mexico, and that should trouble every horse advocate. Most of these horses are perfectly healthy, and not a single one of them was raised for human consumption.
“These horses travel a long, zigzagging route to get on the dinner plates of a relatively small number of consumers in Belgium, France, Italy, and Japan. Horsemeat isn’t a staple in any of these countries.”
Pacelle noted the call last week by the Humane Society International for the European Union to issue a moratorium on the import and sale of North American horse meat following the adoption of a strong and wide-ranging European Parliament report entitled, “The food crisis, fraud in the food chain and the control thereof”.
Pacelle said the European Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office had repeatedly expressed concern about American horses going over the border because of concerns about the validity of the vendor statements about the animals and the substances administered to them throughout their lives.
The report urged the EU to exclude meat and other animal products from countries that cannot guarantee they are compliant with EU food safety requirements.
“The horse-meat trade is a cruel one, and it is unsafe for consumers because these animals were not raised for food,” Pacelle said.
“During their lives on the racetrack, in the pleasure barn, or on a farm or somewhere else, they’ve typically been dosed with substances unfit for human consumption.
“And what of our values about animals? We wouldn’t gather up dogs from random sources and send them to slaughter because a small group of foreign consumers want to eat their meat. We wouldn’t start slaughtering retired laboratory chimps and other captive primates in the US because we could make a profit by selling to some bush-meat consumers.”
Pacelle described the notion that the US should be slaughtering American horses as either historically inconsistent, or simply ungrateful.
“Not only have we Americans almost exclusively steered clear of eating horses for food during our 200 or so year history, but we’ve cherished their role in helping us settle the nation, in carrying us into battle, entertaining us with the speed and their gait, delighting us as companions, and conducting work that added value to our economy and helped us earn a livelihood.
“How miserable now to treat them as a cheap commodity, valued principally as some ephemeral side dish for people living on other continents.”
Congress, he said, should build on its de-funding provision by backing legislation that would ban live exports of horses for human consumption.