Horse Slaughter Bill Gets Star Support Before Congress
by The Associated Press
Date Posted: 3/16/2004 7:36:37 PM
Last Updated: 3/16/2004 7:36:37 PM

Bo Derek has loved horses long before she galloped onto American movie screens in the hit movie "10." Now, the movie star hopes to ride to the rescue of thousands of American horses killed every year to feed European and Asian diners.

Derek, best known for her role in "10" and a 1981 remake of "Tarzan," came to Congress Tuesday to support legislation that would ban the killing of horses for gourmet dining overseas.

The 47-year-old, who wrote a book about her horse hobby, was unfazed when she was briefly introduced as "Bo Dietrich," an apparent mixing of her name with the early-era screen star Marlene Dietrich.

She has been called much worse, she said.

"I've been referred to as everything," she said. "Usually, it's Bob Derek."

Very few people in Congress Tuesday would have mistaken her for a Bob, wearing a sleek black pantsuit, cream top, and patient smile as photographers floated around her.

Derek came to support a federal ban on the killing of horses for meat offered by Reps. John Sweeney, R-N.Y., whose district includes the historic Saratoga racetrack, and Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., a thoroughbred owner.

They all expressed disgust with the idea of equine cuisine in countries like France and Japan, where it is often considered gourmet fare. While the practice of slaughtering American horses for foreign consumption has declined in recent years, nearly 50,000 horses were slaughtered in this country last year for human consumption.

"It's inhumane, and the vast majority of Americans agree with what we're trying to do," said Sweeney.

"Horses have never been in the food chain in America," said Whitfield, "There's no reason for these horses to be slaughtered ... and exported abroad."

Derek said that while she has supported a similar effort in her native California, she only found out about the lack of a federal ban about a week ago.

"As a horseowner, I was shocked," she said. "We don't use horses any longer for pet food so why are we sending them over to other countries?"

Five other states - New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Vermont and Virginia - have also passed similar bans, but House Agriculture Committee chair Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., has opposed the measure.

Goodlatte and other opponents argue a ban would not address the problem of what to do with tens of thousands of unwanted animals, possibly leading to instances of poor treatment or abuse.

Sweeney and others argue there is no evidence of such an increase in animal mistreatment in states where a ban is in place and predicted his side would maneuver around Goodlatte's objections if political horsetrading won't win his support.

"One way or the other it's going to move," Sweeney said