- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Today the House has the opportunity to right a very undemocratic wrong when it votes on a bill to ban horse slaughter. The wrong we speak of is the way the Department of Agriculture has ignored a temporary ban on horse slaughter passed last year, despite overwhelming congressional support. There are 269 House members who voted for last year’s ban, which means there should be 269 very upset Republicans and Democrats who will want to send a clear signal to USDA that it cannot again thwart the will of Congress.

Yet we’re distressed to read reports that the vote could be close. How close, no one knows, and it would be unwise to take the horse slaughterers’ chief lobbyist, former Rep. Charlie Stenholm, at his word when he says he feels “real good about [his] side of the vote.” There are currently 203 cosponsors, putting the bill 15 votes short of the number needed to guarantee passage. Where the other 66 members who voted for last year’s temporary ban are, we don’t know.

What we do know is if any of them switch their vote, they won’t be able to claim that it was because they never opposed slaughtering. USDA tried to argue that last year’s ban didn’t prevent horse slaughter “at all.” This is an interesting choice of words, considering that the bill’s cosponsor, Rep. John Spratt, at the time said that “this amendment in simple terms will stop the slaughter for human consumption of horses.” Apparently, USDA never got the memo.

Fortunately, there’s no such ambiguity this time. The aptly named bipartisan American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act would put a permanent ban on the transportation and sale of horses for human consumption. It would also effectively close down the three foreign-owned horse slaughter plants that butcher 90,000 horses a year.

Opponents of the ban have argued that all this would do is spur the development of more slaughter plants overseas. To which we say, fine, just as long as the French and Belgians — those who own the U.S. plants — aren’t doing it on American soil with American horses. Congress should not be in the business of supporting the culinary habits of European horse filet connoisseurs.

The opponents also claim that banning horse slaughter is inhumane, because owners wouldn’t be able to sell aging or lame horses. But to buy this argument, you’d also have to buy that neither the Humane Society of the United States nor the Society for Animal Protection Legislation, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association nor the National Steeplechase Association want what’s best for America’s horses.

What’s really animating Mr. Stenholm’s clients in the cattle rancher community is fear that those crazy animal-rights groups will come after their livestock next. Indeed, those groups are out there, but the craziest of them, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has largely ignored the horse-slaughter debate. It’s also not at all likely that the ban’s chief sponsor, Republican Rep. John Sweeney, would willingly act as a Trojan horse — pardon the pun — for the fanatics’ animal liberation movement.

Besides, public support for the ban shows that one need not be an animal-rightist to recoil from the way these American icons are strung up by their hind legs and bled for European palettes. The House should do the right thing today and protect America’s horses from such a grisly fate.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide