Legislation to ban horse slaughtering in Congress
Wednesday, May 5, 2004
On April 27, during the U.S. Senate's regular session, Sen. John Ensign of Nevada introduced legislation designed to halt the practice of slaughtering horses for the purpose of human consumption. According to Ensign, 50,000 horses were destroyed in the United States last year and exported for consumption in other countries.

“I believe, as a senator and a veterinarian, that it is time for this practice to end,” said Ensign, who was a practicing veterinarian before his election to Congress. “A series of recent polls shows Americans overwhelmingly support a ban on the slaughter of horses for human consumption. State laws aimed at ending this barbaric practice have fallen short, allowing foreign companies to destroy horses for food in plants located within the United States.”

According to the American Horse Defense Fund, all horses slaughtered in the United States are processed through one of two equine slaughter plants, both located in North Texas and owned by French and Belgian interests: Dallas Crown Packing Inc. in Kaufman and Beltex Corp. in Fort Worth. The Illinois legislature is considering prohibiting horse slaughter, as another plant, Cavel International, is making plans to open a slaughtering facility in DeKalb.

Annually, more than 50,000 American horses are slaughtered to be shipped to Europe and Asia. The Japanese are especially fond of the pricey meat, which they pay about $20 a pound. Annual horse meat consumption in Japan exceeds 20,000 tons, two-thirds of which are imported from Canada, the U.S. and Australia.

A spike in the European demand for horse meat came on the heels of outbreaks of mad cow and foot and mouth disease. The lean meat, considered a low fat alternative to beef, is especially popular in France, Belgium and Italy. In addition to the U.S., Mexico, Argentina, Australia and Canada also export large quantities of horse meat.

Some opponents of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act argue that the slaughter of horses for consumption offers horse owners an inexpensive way to dispose of horses that no longer serve a useful purpose. However, supporters of the bill suggest other options, including numerous rescue and rehabilitation organizations, as well as humane euthanasia by a veterinarian.

Ensign's legislation is supported by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the National Horse Protection Coalition, and the Humane Society of the United States, among other organizations. A version of the bill in the House of Representatives has more than 200 co-sponsors.


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