- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Banning the slaughter of horses will be the first serious item of legislative business for the House this week as it returns from a five-week break.

The House tomorrow will vote on a bill that would prohibit the killing of equines for human consumption or other purposes. The measure has the backing of actress Bo Derek and singer Willie Nelson.

Supporters of the bipartisan American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, which amends the Horse Protection Act to forbid the transportation and sale of horses for human consumption, say the legislation will send a global message about the “cruel” practice.

“We don’t eat horses in this country and we shouldn’t kill them here so that others can eat them abroad and profit off their suffering,” said Tracy Silverman of the Society for Animal Protective Legislation.

Supporters of the bill held a rally yesterday on Capitol Hill. Demonstrators wore cowboy hats, waved signs reading, “American icon, not foreign delicacy” and “Stop feeding our horses to the French,” and heard statistics that 90,000 horses were slaughtered in the United States last year. Some were weeping.

The celebrity horsepower backing the measure has helped influence some lawmakers, supporters said.

Mr. Nelson’s daughter Amy said yesterday that humanity owes a debt to horses. “I feel like there is an army of horses, all the ones that have been slaughtered, and all the ones who are hoping not to be slaughtered, they are very strong spirits, they are all behind us,” she said.

The measure has an uncertain future on the House floor. After spending August campaigning in their home districts, members today will consider some minor items such as recognizing National Life Insurance Awareness Month. Their first real item of business is the horse act.

Supporters say they have the votes, but an organized group of opponents, including cattle ranchers and the American Quarter Horse Association, pledge to defeat the bill. They say the ban would not prevent the unregulated slaughter of horses abroad.

Former Rep. Charles W. Stenholm, Texas Democrat, is lobbying against the measure. He argued that the bill violates personal property rights and would lead to more equine abuse by closing the regulated factories and encouraging more slaughterhouses overseas. He said the slaughter method is humane and that the carcasses, if not consumed, would rot in landfills.

“We are on the side of what is best for the horse,” he said.

Both sides agree the vote will be close.

Mr. Stenholm wondered whether Congress had better issues to tackle: “Why in the world is this bill going to occupy such a predominant place when we have so many problems facing the country right now?”

Several states ban horse slaughter, but federal law is needed to prevent the transport of equines over state lines. Three foreign-owned horse slaughter plants operate in the United States, and most of their product is exported to Europe.

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