Throughout history, horses have worked alongside us as companions and partners in work, war and sport; they are living symbols of our nation's spirit.
We have the honor and duty to protect them, which is why I am imploring my colleagues in the horse racing industry to contact their federal representatives in Congress and urge them to cosponsor the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act (H.R. 113/S.1706) and maintain the ban on funding horse slaughter in the United States.
This key federal bill will prevent horse slaughter plants from opening in the U.S. and end the export of horses abroad for slaughter.
Our equine athletes are the lifeblood of our industry, yet too often they are condemned to a horrible death in a slaughter plant. The disreputable, predatory slaughter industry gathers up our loyal and trusting companions only to turn them into meat exports for profit.
Individuals who send horses to slaughter have nothing to do with responsible animal ownership or proper care, nor do they have an ounce of compassion for the graceful and sentient athletes they treat with such brutality. Horses unfortunate enough to end up in the hands of kill buyers suffer terribly at auctions, during transport and during the grisly slaughter process itself.
Horses are no better off being slaughtered in the U.S. than they are abroad. Before the last domestic plant closed in 2007, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) documented rampant cruelty at U.S. slaughter plants. There is no reason to believe that bringing slaughter back to the U.S. will make the process humane.
Quite simply, it is a brutal end for animals we have trained to trust us. Nothing about the way that slaughterhouses operate can be made humane for horses. These are lowbrow businesses concerned solely with serving foreign markets and turning a profit, a bloody one at that.
For the last 10 years, Congress has prevented wasteful spending and protected horses by including language in the Agricultural Appropriations Bill prohibiting federal funding for inspection of horse slaughter facilities.
In July, the House Appropriations Committee voted to spend our tax dollars on USDA inspections, which would pave the way for slaughter plants reopening in the U.S., while the Senate Appropriations Committee did not. Efforts to include an amendment in the House Appropriations bill to end this wasteful spending were stymied by pro slaughter politicians who have no interest in horse welfare. The very real possibility that these plants could once again set up shop in the U.S., using our tax dollars to fund USDA inspections, is looming.
Congress will need to reconcile this issue, and as horsemen, we need to take action now to protect our beloved horses by urging our federal representatives to vote to cosponsor the SAFE Act and maintain the current ban on horse slaughter in the U.S.
With the recent announcement by the Trump administration that the 2018 budget will include a 21% cut to the USDA budget, why would Americans want their tax dollars spent on supporting a predatory industry and inspecting meat that ends up on foreign dinner plates?
Horse slaughter also raises serious food safety concerns because drugs administered to horses make their meat unfit for human consumption. Those who work with horses on a daily basis need only glance at the labels on the products in their tack boxes. The overwhelming majority of those products come with a warning: Not for use in food producing animals.
There are several other good reasons to reject the return of horse slaughter.
Communities that hosted slaughter plants were stifled economically from the negative stigma of horse slaughter plants and real estate values plummeted.
Additionally, these neighborhoods were burdened with polluted water that often overwhelmed the small towns' septic systems, resulting in constant and horrible stenches.
Furthermore, the transportation of horses to these slaughter facilities was often just as inhumane as the treatment that awaited them. We shouldn't spend millions of American taxpayer dollars just to enable a cruel practice so that a greedy few can peddle tainted horse meat to the public. In the past, this has occurred at the expense of the taxpayer.
The slaughterhouse is not the least expensive way of ending the life of a horse, but it is the greediest and most inhumane way.
It is time for my fellow horse racing enthusiasts to take action and safeguard our horses. I believe that it is our duty to be the voice of our horses and stand up to the abusive horse slaughter industry.
I would strongly encourage you to contact your hometown legislators in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Let them know that as a member of our country's horse racing industry, you reject horse slaughter. Urge them to take the necessary steps to prevent it from returning to the U.S.
Click here to contact your U.S. Senator and House of Representative member.
Hal Handel is a former deputy attorney general in New Jersey who supervised the state grand jury investigation into the Tony Ciulla race fixing scandal in the 1970s. He later served as executive director of the New Jersey Racing Commission and served in executive capacities at Monmouth Park, Meadowlands, Philadelphia Park, and the New York Racing Association. He is a past president of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations of North America and a past chairman of the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau.
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