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Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2006 - 1

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Location: Washington, DC


AGRICULTURE, RURAL DEVELOPMENT, FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2006 -- (House of Representatives - June 08, 2005)

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AMENDMENT NO. 8 OFFERED BY MR. REHBERG

Mr. REHBERG. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.

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Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding time, and I join him in rising in strong opposition to this amendment. This amendment is foolhardy just like the underlying provision that was placed in the farm bill at the last minute. We debated this thoroughly in the House Agriculture Committee prior to the writing of that farm bill and the committee members, 51 members, all from agricultural districts, overwhelmingly rejected this amendment as not in the best interest of America's farmers and ranchers. The Senate held no hearings, insisted on this provision, and it was put into law.

What we found after it was put into law was that it does harm. It does exactly the opposite of what farmers and ranchers intended. It increases the cost an estimated $10 per head for cattle, $1.50 for hogs, a similar amount for sheep; and it has the effect, the opposite of what was intended. It will make our products less competitive with foreign meat products, not more competitive. That is wrongheaded.

Secondly, it imposes unbelievably stringent liability on the retailers, and every one of them is writing their own separate set of regulations, so that if this law is allowed to take effect, and I commend the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Bonilla) for postponing that because we need to have a voluntary system, if it goes into effect, we are going to have a separate set of regulations for each retailer that farmers and ranchers will have to comply with in order to get their products sold. Once again they will say no liability risk if we buy the foreign product, no problem complying with additional regulations, they are going to buy more foreign product, not less.

Finally, last year I offered in the Committee on Agriculture legislation to do this the right way, to make it voluntary. When we did so, again the committee members overwhelmingly voted not to do this mandatory system, but to make it voluntary. That is what we should continue to work toward today. The way to do that is to keep the provision of the gentleman from Texas in this bill and delay the implementation of this very bad legislation.

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AMENDMENT OFFERED BY MR. SWEENEY

Mr. SWEENEY. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.

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Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong opposition to this amendment. This amendment is a piece of legislation that has been introduced by Members of the House that would ban horse slaughter in the country.

And, quite frankly, this legislation has been opposed by me and many others, but it is also a fact that this particular amendment is far worse than the legislation that the gentleman has offered for this reason: the principal concern stated by the gentleman from New York (Mr. Sweeney) is that the manner of the transport and the actual slaughter of these horses is inhumane.

But this amendment would simply limit the inspection of the horses for the purpose of slaughter; does not in any way stop what his other legislation at least attempts to do, that is, the transport of the horses to Canada, Mexico or anywhere else for the purpose of slaughter. The effect of that then is that the inhumane transport and the slaughter itself continue, but the horses are transported far greater distances.

Now, the gentleman makes reference to the fact that this is only 1 percent of the horses that die each year. And he cites 65,000 as a figure. But I would suggest to the gentleman that he is way, way, way off on his numbers, because there are not 65,000 times 100 or 6 ½ million horses dying each year in this country.

With the average life expectancy of a horse of more than 25 years, that would mean that we have more than 150 million horses in the United States. We do not have anywhere near that number. So this percentage is a far higher percentage.

That gives rise to the concern raised by the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Bonilla) and many others that you are going to have hundreds of thousands of unwanted horses, perhaps at the rate of as many as 50,000 a year according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. At a cost of $2,000 per horse to take care of them, that is a hundred million dollars times the average life expectancy that would remain in the lives of these horses if they were not sent to slaughter.

If that average is 10 years, you are talking about a billion dollars after you get 10 years out from now in terms of having to support and take care of these horses.

Now, the gentleman says no problem with that, but the evidence is pretty sparse that there will not be any problem with that because no country anywhere ever, ever has banned the slaughter of horses. That is what his amendment would accomplish.

So I suggest that that is a very, very bad idea with far-reaching complications.

I am not by any means alone in this concern. More than 60 reputable horse organizations, animal health organizations, and agricultural organizations have banded together to oppose this amendment, and they are some of the most respected people who own horses and take care of horses in the United States. The American Quarter Horse Association, the largest association of horse owners in the world, strongly opposes this amendment. The American Painted Horse Association, the second largest association of horse owners, opposes this amendment. More than a dozen State horse councils, including the New York State Horse Council and the Virginia State Horse Council, oppose the gentleman's legislation.

It is also opposed by those who take care of the health of our horses, very respected organizations like the American Veterinarian Medical Association, the American Association of Equine Practitioners. More than 7,000 horse doctors, the people who take care of horses themselves, are concerned about the implications of what this amendment will have if it is allowed to go into effect and ban the slaughter of horses.

Now, I do not believe anybody in this room eats horses. What this is about is what is the best approach for the humane treatment of horses, and the American Veterinarian Medical Association and the American Association of Equine Practitioners recognize the method by which horses are slaughtered in the United States as a humane method of euthanasia of disposing of horses.

So the bill does not prohibit other means of deposition of horses. If people still want to put down their horse by some other means, it does not stop them from doing that. It will simply stop the proper inspection of these horses, which, as the gentleman from Texas correctly notes, will deprive us of a lot of useful information that will be gathered by those veterinarians about diseases and so on that will confront these horses if indeed they do not get properly inspected and they have serious diseases.

Other organizations that oppose this: The American Farm Bureau opposes this legislation. The American Meat Institute opposes this legislation. The Equine Nutrition and Physiology Society opposes this legislation. The Animal Welfare Council opposes this legislation. The National Horse Show Commission opposes this legislation. Organizations that represent literally millions of horse owners in this country and elsewhere around the world oppose this legislation because of their concern, not about whether somebody is eating horses or not but whether or not these horses will be treated humanely if they are not allowed to go through the process they go through today.

So I urge my colleagues to oppose this amendment. It is not in the best interest of America's horses, it is not in the best interest of America's horse owners, and it is not in the best interest of the fiscal concerns that we must have if we are confronted down the road with the possibility of having to take care of these many, many horses.

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Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Chairman, I thank the chairman for the time.

I want to respond to a few of the remarks made by the gentleman from Kentucky and the gentleman from New York.

First of all, he talked about an inconsistent policy because we do not allow horses to be shipped overseas for slaughter purposes by boat. We do nothing to stop that from being done with regard to transport to Canada or Mexico. The fact of the matter is this amendment does not stop it.

So when my colleagues talk about the humane treatment of horses, this amendment is going to result in more inhumane treatment of horses if that is their guide, because they are going to be shipped greater distances to Canada and Mexico because they cannot be sent to slaughter facilities in the U.S.

Second, the gentleman from New York makes reference to the great racehorse Ferdinand, like this amendment would have stopped Ferdinand from having gone to slaughter. It absolutely would not have. I did not like seeing Ferdinand go to slaughter, but Ferdinand was sold to a Japanese owner and exported not for slaughter purposes but for breeding purposes; and later on in Japan, he was slaughtered. This amendment will do absolutely nothing to stop that same situation from happening to any other racehorse in the world.

Thirdly, the gentleman makes references to just three slaughter facilities. That is not true either. There are other slaughter facilities for horses. For example, there is a slaughterhouse in Nebraska which solely slaughters horses for zoos and sanctuaries for big cats which would be essentially shut down by this amendment because horses provide the proper type of high protein diet for those animals, when they are not out racing across the savannahs, because beef simply is not good for cats, these large cats.

The gentleman from New York says it is budget neutral, but the fact of the matter is all he is talking about there is budget neutral in terms of this particular amendment not costing any money; but consequences of the amendment will cost a lot of money because this amendment does absolutely nothing to stop the many practices that occur in this country that create unwanted horses, everything from nurse mares in the thoroughbred racing industry, to Premarin mares to produce the drug Premarin, to the foals of those mares, to the fact that for every Smarty Jones that is created, there are hundreds and hundreds of unwanted racehorses who do not make the grade and other horses that are unsuitable for riding and other pleasure purposes or showing. Those horses, as well, will fall into that category of unwanted horses.

Nor does the amendment do anything to take care of all those unwanted horses as they start to accumulate in our society. We have already talked about the massive estimated costs that will take place as a result of that.

Finally, the gentleman from Kentucky talks about the facilities that exist that would take care of horses, and we have some of those facilities in the country today. This amendment does not establish standards of care that horse rescue facilities must meet.

The humane society of the United States, which supports the amendment, admits that equine shelters are less well-established than cat and dog shelters. Citing extreme costs and staff time needed to shelter horses, the humane society warned of needing to be aware of distinctions between sheltering horses and sheltering other companion animals. Current horse-rescue facilities are overwhelmed with the amount of horses they already care for without this amendment being in effect and are in desperate search of additional funding.

The American Association of Equine Practitioners estimated that in the first year alone of a slaughter ban 2,700 additional equine facilities would be needed to keep up with unwanted horses displaced by the ban, compounding the problem by adding additional facilities that will also be searching for additional funding.

This is a bad, bad idea. I know there is a lot of emotion that says this is a great thing to do. It is not and it is not in the best interests of the horses of this country to pass this amendment. I urge my colleagues to oppose it.

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