It was more than 20 years ago, but I will never forget the high I felt when I came across a pack of wild horses while on a horseback riding trip in Wyoming. Eight of us were on day four of our week long camping trip.
When I wasn’t riding, I spent a lot of time grooming my horse. (He wasn’t mine, but I felt that he took such good care of me–an inexperienced rider–that I bonded with him. His name was Teaser.) While we were riding we spotted a group of wild horses in the distance. As they approached our horses, our guide whispered that they could smell the horses. As they got closer, they must have gotten a whiff of us and took off. My eyes filled with tears, and I felt such a sense of joy at seeing these beautiful creatures run wild.
A Sad Sight
Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of the Humane Society of the U.S. writes, “One of the saddest sights I’ll ever see: a young mare who was someone’s faithful friend on trails or in show rings being forced into a truck headed to a slaughterhouse, where she’ll be killed to make meals for diners in other countries. But one of the happiest sights I’ve seen is a once-unwanted horse blossoming in a new, caring home. That’s what keeps us working: shutting down horse slaughter plants and fighting to stop long-distance transport of live horses to their deaths in Mexico and Canada.”
According to Pacelle and others fighting to stop this cruelty, buyers at American horse auctions outbid legitimate horse owners. Once they get them, they transfer the horses to foreign slaughterhouses to be sold as meat overseas.
A Federal Ban is Needed
Although some state legislatures have acted to stop horse slaughter, shuttering the last remaining foreign-owned horse slaughter plants in the United States in 2007, Congress has yet to enact a federal ban. This means that not only can horses continue to be exported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter, but more foreign-owned horse slaughter plants could try to set up shop in the U.S.
Fortunately, many members of Congress remain committed to horse protection. “I will continue to fight in Congress to end this brutal practice and ensure that American horses will no longer be savagely slaughtered for human consumption,” says Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), who is the lead Senate sponsor of the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act (S. 727) to ban horse slaughter. Senator John Ensign (R-NV), Representative John Conyers (D-MI), and Representative Dan Burton (R-IN) join her in that fight as lead authors of S. 727/H.R 503.
Ten years ago, a 17-year-old Dutch Warmblood named Jamaica was saved at the last minute from a killer buyer’s pen. Jamaica has racked up numerous awards, and was recently named “Horse of the Year” by the United States Equestrian Federation. Unfortunately, Thoroughbred racing’s 1987 Horse of the Year and 1986 Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand, was not so lucky; he was slaughtered in Japan.
How You Can Help
Ask your U.S. Representative and Senators to support The Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act (H.R. 503/S. 727). It will ban the barbaric killing of American horses for human consumption, including the export of horses across our borders for slaughter.
Back to Our Wild Horses
Our wild horses need our protection too. When Congress passed a law in 1971 to protect wild horses and burros, it found that wild horses and burros were fast disappearing from America because of their lack of legal protection.
Today a new bill titled the ROAM Act (Restoring Our American Mustangs) was recently passed in the House. ROAM, bill S.B. 1579 in the Senate, is pending in Committee.
“It’s not a particularly good bill,” says Laura Allen of Animal Law Coalition. Animal Law Coalition and other concerned animal welfare organizations are calling on Congress to amend the bill.
Click here for a full explanation of why the bill is in need of an overhaul.