Today, U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., joined members of Congress, celebrities and citizen advocates for "Horses on the Hill," to push for passage of her legislation which would prohibit the inhumane killing of American horses for human consumption in the United States. The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (H.R. 2966 / S. 1176) would also stop the transport of horses across the border to Canada and Mexico for slaughter.
In addition to Sen. Landrieu, attendees included U.S Senator Scott Brown, R-Mass., Reps. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., David Rivera, R-Fl., and Jim Moran, D-Va., as well as actress Bo Derek, Lorenzo Borghese from ABC's The Bachelor; and Amy and Raelyn Nelson, daughter and granddaughter of singer Willie Nelson. Students from Foxcroft School and Madeira School, both in Virginia, were also in attendance, along with President of the National Black Farmers Association John Boyd and representatives from the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), and the Humane Society of the United States, all of whom co-sponsored the event. Others included representatives from Gentle Giants Draft Horse Rescue, Animals' Angels and the Seraphim 12 Foundation, as well as racer Alex Brown and nine-year-old Declan Gregg, who founded Children 4 Horses.
"There are viable, affordable alternatives to slaughter. When a horse is old, sick, or can no longer be productive, its owner should provide humane euthanasia," Sen. Landrieu said. "Ninety percent of all horses that die each year are humanely euthanized and/or safely disposed of -- this additional 10 percent is not a burden. Horse owners will buy some of these horses and horse rescue organizations will take others. Brutal slaughter is not an appropriate alternative."
In November 2011, Congress voted not to renew a ban on funding federal inspectors at horse slaughter plants in the United States, opening the door for a return of horse slaughter to American soil, despite broad opposition in this country to the practice.
"Horses are not available for human consumption in the United States like cows, pigs, and chickens," Rep. Whitfield said. "There is not one horse slaughter plant in the United States and the public supports a ban on horse slaughter. We must protect American horses from being slaughtered and shipped to European and Asian meat markets."
"The people in attendance today represent the nearly 80 percent of Americans who oppose the slaughter of American horses," Rep. Moran said. "As pro-slaughter business interests seek to restart and expand the industrial killing of U.S. horses for human consumption, Congress can put a stop to this abhorrent practice by passing the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act."
"We must continue to open people's eyes about this appalling practice that is so often hidden from the public," said actress Bo Derek, AWI spokesperson. "As exhibited by those attending today's Horses on the Hill event, who represent millions of Americans, hundreds of equine associations, rescue groups and leaders, banning the practice of horse slaughter is the only way to ensure our beloved horses will receive the protection they deserve. We must pass the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act immediately."
"There may be no more special relationship than the one we have with horses," Borghese said. "The love and loyalty horses have shown people shows no bounds -- they have won wars for us, carried us west and built this great country, and have served as companions for our children and our disabled. Sending horses to slaughter is a violation of the bond we have with these majestic animals and will never be acceptable to the American people."
Amy Nelson, Willie Nelson's daughter, and Raelyn Nelson, his granddaughter, gave a statement on Willie Nelson's behalf: "We ride horses in America, we don't eat them. Slaughter is not humane euthanasia. It is not a responsible end of life option for any horse. Horses may die in transport to slaughter and the older ones are often rejected from the plants and may be left to starve. In addition to the well documented abuse, horse slaughter plants have shown to have detrimental effects on the communities in which they resided. Community opposition in numerous states has been overwhelming to horse slaughter plants in their states. There are solutions to the problem of unwanted horses including low cost gelding, humane euthanasia, and responsible breeding. With 80 percent of Americans polled against horse slaughter, the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act should be passed immediately."
Boyd said, "As a fourth generation farmer who also has the privilege of working with black farmers and small family farms across the country, I come to Congress in strong support of both bills banning horse slaughter. This practice is not common in the farming community, in fact, just the opposite is true, horse slaughter is a dirty little secret. Our horses have been and continue to be the backbone of American agriculture and sending them to slaughter for a few bucks is unacceptable."
"The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act is not about taking away rights or adding more government," Gregg said. "It's not a party issue. It's about doing what is right and listening to the over 80 percent of Americans who do not want our horses to be slaughtered. Let's work together and pass this legislation -- I will stay in this fight until we have won for the horses!"
"The bill, which has had strong support from a majority of Congress and the American public, is long overdue. For years, I have pleaded with the pro-horse slaughter camp to stop misleading the public but they are more concerned with wringing a few bucks from a suffering animal than doing what is right. Thankfully we have the majority of Congress advocating for America's horses," said Chris Heyde, deputy director of government and legal affairs for the Animal Welfare Institute.
"The overwhelming majority of Americans are intensely opposed to this gruesome practice and contest the use of tax dollars to fund an inherently cruel industry," said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of ASPCA Government Relations. "We stand with a large group of bipartisan leaders on Capitol Hill who have already declared that they will be pressing for accountability and recorded votes on this issue."
"Congress should act with great haste to close our national borders to the horse slaughter pipeline and prevent this mistreatment of animals from resuming in the United States," said Keith Dane, director of equine protection for The HSUS. "Americans don't eat horses, and they don't want them inhumanely killed, shrink-wrapped, and sent to Japan or Belgium for a high-priced appetizer."