Equine-Related Legislation

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(updated 9/30/03)

What's Congress up to?

Anti Slaughter Bill (H.R. 857)

(Source: IGHA/HorsePAC)

Recently, Rep. John E. Sweeney (R-NY) introduced a new bill, H.R. 857. This bill would seek to prevent the slaughter of horses in and from the United States for human consumption. H.R. 857 has been referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means where it awaits further action.

To view the entire language of the bill, go here.

Read an urgent plea of support for H.R. 857 from the Co-Founder of HorseAid here.

IGHA/HoresAid's analyses of this legislation:

In its current version, this is a very good bill. It has several built in safeguards to protect horses in peril of going to slaughter sources both in the U.S. and for live export.

Additionally, it offers some expenditure relief for individuals and organizations acting to enforce the bill. It has several provisions for monetary reimbursement in the case of horses that have to be seized because of abuse, poor condition, or to prevent them from going to illicit or USDA slaughter sources.

Currently, it faces some very stiff opposition from one of the largest horse lobby groups, The American Horse Council (AHC). The AHC is dead set against this bill being passed (they have stated that AHC's position is member driven).

Congress, has in the past, put a lot of stock in what the AHC's opinions are, as Congress (erroneously) believes the AHC is the "voice" of American horse owners and businesses.

In poll after poll, over the past 10 years, the results have always shown that the majority of American horse owners (and non owners alike) do not want horses to go to slaughter.

Anti horse slaughter legislation (banning the practice altogether) was successfully passed in both CA and TX by a huge majority vote. Further proof that voters and legislators from all walks of life oppose this barbaric and inhumane practice. Your ordinary horse owner is the voice of the American horse owner, not the agenda laden AHC.

The bill will also face some tough opposition and lobbying efforts by the horse breeding associations, the foreign slaughter house owners of U.S. based slaughter facilities, and even some animal rescue organizations.

Nevertheless, this bill stands a good chance of being brought before the floor for a successful house vote.

The key to getting this legislation passed in its present form, is to get involved by letting your voice be heard!

If you oppose the cruel practice of slaughtering horses, ask your House Representative to become a co-sponsor of H.R. 857. View a list of the current co-sponsors here (also Representatives that have withdrawn their support).

Organize letter writing campaigns to make your feelings known throughout your city, state, and to all the representatives that govern in your area. Make sure the Governor of your state, and your Congressional representatives know just how you feel about the killing of horses for foreign food consumption (a sample letter can be found here).

WORK TOGETHER! Decide at the onset that if H.R. 857 (and its Senate version) are passed, all horse lovers who worked on its behalf will get the credit for its passage into law.

Rescue groups or individuals positioning themselves to increase their personal stature (and ego) in legislation like this are the most often cited reason the legislation failed (ditto with some horse rescue efforts). Don't let it happen!

To be truly effective, every individual and group supporting this legislation must speak for the horses with a united and strong voice of singular purpose: To put an end forever to the slaughter of horses in America.

The I.G.H.A. and HorseAid strongly support this legislation as it is now written, and urge you to do the same.

The above analyses was written by the IGHA Horse Political Action Committee (IGHA/HorsePAC)


We are currently channeling our IGHA/HorsePAC resources toward two goals: passing federal legislation banning the slaughter of horses in America as well as their export from the U.S. to foreign horse slaughter sources, and reversing FDA approval of Premarin® based medications.

We will also be seeking a Congressional declaration proclaiming the PMU industry as "cruel and unnecessary", and ask that the manufacture and/or importation of all PMU based by-products and collateral resources be banned. "PMU collateral resources" shall include a ban on the importation of any PMU associated horse less than 15 months old into the U.S.

And now, a Little HorseAid vs. Congress Past History...

On February 7, 1996, the U.S. Senate passed the "Commercial Transportation of Horses for Slaughter Act of 1995" (originally S.1283 and H.R. 2433 -- the "Safe and Humane Commercial Transportation of Horses for Slaughter Act", introduced by Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-KY, and in the House by Rep. Bill Goodling, R-PA). The legislation was included in the Farm Bill, S.1541 as a rider after having failed to garner enough support on it own (largely because of HorseAid's very strong and effective opposition to it). On March 29, 1996, the U.S House of Representatives ALSO passed the Farm Bill, S.1541. It was then signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

The "Commercial Transportation of Horses for Slaughter Act" seeked to regulate the treatment of horses during transport to equine slaughter plants. This legislation applies only to horses being transported to slaughter facilities or to the holding areas of "intermediate handlers, such as facilities where slaughter horses are collected." The act required that the horses be rested 8 hours for every 24 hauled, and after exiting the vehicle that they will have access to food and water.

Vehicles used to transport these horses would be required to have adequate headroom, maintained in a sanitary condition, be "large enough" for the number of horses transported and allow for the position of horses by size. No stallions could be transported with mares and foals. Finally, in order to be transported, the horses had to be physically fit to travel as determined by a licensed veterinarian.

Although originally the bill seemed to be a very first (and basic) step in the right direction, as amended and then passed -- it is so open to vague interpretation in much of its language, that it is (and has become) impossible to enforce (not counting the fact that it is still without viable program funding, or any real enforcement arm).

Final language was amended (at the last minute) entirely deleting the words "safe and humane" from the bill; regulation was replaced with a set of "guidelines" (industry driven); recommendations will be performance based, not engineering based; and the final version took on industry studies as its main source of guidance (the wolves guarding the sheep again).

This act gives the USDA the authority to make provisions for a set of horse transport "guidelines". Provisions are however "subject to the availability of appropriations" (a conference committee made a $400,000 provision late in 1997 as a startup cost of the program. But the $400,000 was to be used only to develop regulations, not enforcement or programs, and the $400,000 was eventually diverted for use in water deprivation studies). No funds at all were appropriated for the fiscal years 1996 or 1997 -- largely because of a lack of available funds, and the USDA's own failure to initially request appropriations!

In meetings held in April and June of 1998 between the AHC (who called the meetings), USDA representatives, HSUS, and other horse industry representatives (including the auction and slaughter factions) to develop a "final model" for the Commercial Transportation of Horses to Slaughter Act, several issues were heatedly discussed but not decided on (the biggest disagreement was over the continued use of double decker trailers). The meetings did lead to the development of a list of loose recommendations for consideration by the USDA during its ongoing development of a regulation model.

Among the issues discussed by the participants at both meetings were: length of time horses should be allowed to travel before stopping for feed and water, and if they should be off-loaded for rest (and at what intervals) and how to determine what horses are physically fit to undergo the stresses of travel, and how to certify that they are.

While no clear-cut agreement was reached on all the issues raised (and the USDA has since decided to re-think the recommendations anyway), a few items were generally agreed upon at both meetings, however since they did not meet even the minimum recommendations suggested by HorseAid (and others) we have publicly come out against them.

In the interval between being signed into law by President Clinton, and having passed both the Senate and House, we requested the following language be added as amendments to the "Commercial Transportation of Horses for Slaughter Act of 1995".

We are still demanding that the following minimum standards be adopted into the new rules for the commercial transportation of horses for slaughter being considered by the USDA:

The Humane Society of the United States' (HSUS), Marc Paulhus (Director, Equine Protection -- who has since left HSUS) engaged us in a long (and mostly friendly) debate on why we should (at least conditionally) support the "Commercial Transportation of Horses for Slaughter Act of 1995", and more importantly, end our very effective opposition to it -- opposition that had stalled the original bill in the U.S. Senate (the bill was only passed after it was attached as a rider to the Farm Bill, S.1541).

We refused, countering with the fact that as the bill was written, it would not offer any assurance to us that horses bound for slaughter would be treated any more humanly than they currently were (which was totally unacceptable to us -- whether any horse can ever be transported to slaughter humanly, as the way horses are slaughtered is inhumane in itself, is another matter).

The HSUS decided to support the legislation "as is", even making a big deal about doing so; (and even proudly stated on their Web site, "Horses to Slaughter" -- "Horses await death at a slaughterhouse in Texas. Until recently horses bound for slaughter could be transported for hours without food, water, or rest. The HSUS was instrumental in the passage of a federal law to require more humane treatment of these animals") but they have since removed that page from their site. Looks like HSUS just developed a much needed case of hindsight. Thank you HSUS for finally seeing the light, now let's all work together to make a real difference for the horses.

We were also criticized by almost ALL the large national animal related organizations (as well as almost all the smaller ones) for our opposition to the proposed law as it was written -- we thought it was a bad law then -- we think it's a bad law now. The proof in the correctness of our original prediction is in what the law has done so far (in the almost eight years since it was signed into law) to reform the treatment and handling of slaughter bound horses: absolutely nothing!

Where was the AHC, AHPA, ALL the equine rescue groups, and ALL the large circulation equine magazines while we singlehandedly waged a successful (and extremely resource expensive) campaign against this Act? (Losing only when it was finally attached as a rider to the Farm Bill. Attaching a bill that has strong opposition as a "rider" to a bill that has very strong support is a time honored way that the honorable members of the U.S Congress have used to "honorably" circumvent opposition to a bill — we don't find that conduct "honorable" at all.)

Willie Nelson © Enzo Giobbé

Willie Nelson lends a voice

We were eventually joined by just THREE nationally prominent individuals (and their organizations) involved in animal beneficience in our opposition to this bill: Merritt Clifton (Editor, Animal People Magazine), Cathleen Doyle (California Equine Council), and Robin Duxbury (Project Equus).

Willie Nelson (actor/writer/composer/singer/musician) also joined us in opposition to the Farm Bill S.1541 (which we opposed because of the attached rider).

Had we been joined by more than just the four individuals (and their organizations and friends) mentioned above, and united together...we might have made a huge difference, both in the way the bill was written -- and for the horses it affects.

In the time that the "Commercial Transportation of Horses for Slaughter Act" has been law, we cannot find a single instance in which the handling of slaughter bound horses has changed. All the abuses this act sought to remedy have gone unheeded -- it's strictly "business as usual" for these purveyors of pain and death. HorseAid doesn't think that the President and Mrs. Clinton meant (or envisioned) this to happen when President Clinton signed the bill into law. The Act should be renamed "The UNsafe for any STEED Act of 1995". And now that the USDA has even promoted the eating of horsemeat in the U.S., what's next, horseburgers in the White House?

Remember, honorable members of Congress, that one in every 34 Americans are involved with horses in some way (over half of whom vote regularly). We pay over $2.5 Billion in taxes each and every year, and the total economic impact of the horse industry is just under $125 Billion a year. We even rank higher in GNP than the entire motion picture industry!

When will we learn that a society that does not seek to remedy all the abuses heaped on those animals that equally share this planet with us -- will soon erode into a society that will not seek to remedy anything at all?

A bad law is just that!

U.S. Horse Statutes and Case Law

  • U.S. Cruelty to Horses Case Law
  • State Equine Activity Statutes
  • State Cruelty to Animals Statutes

  • ...and two quotes from our HorseAid founders

    "In the 20's and 30's, it was the 'little girls' of those generations that saved most of the current horse breeds from certain extinction. Today it is up to us, the children, grand-children and great grand-children of those 'little girls' of decades past to ensure that their legacy is not lost."

    Staci Wilson, excerpted from her "The Five Sisters of Horse Abuse." speech, June 18, 1985.

    "A voice stilled, is a voice unheard. Unheard, it does not exist. If it does not exist, it cannot be counted. If it cannot be counted, we cannot use it to our side. If we cannot use it to our side, the other side will..."

    Enzo Giobbé, excerpted from his "...a small pony with a clenched hoof." speech, July 4, 1984.

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