- The Washington Times - Friday, September 8, 2006

The House voted yesterday to ban the slaughter of horses for meat, a practice that lawmakers thought they already had ended.

Instead of banning it outright, Congress last year yanked the salaries and expenses of federal inspectors. But the Bush administration started charging plants for inspections, and the slaughter has continued.

The House voted 263-146 to outlaw the killing of horses for human consumption.

Opponents of the practice showed photographs of horses with bloodied and lacerated faces, the result of being crammed into trailers that would carry the animals to slaughterhouses.

“It is one of the most inhumane, brutal, shady practices going on in the U.S. today,” said Rep. John E. Sweeney, New York Republican and a sponsor of the ban.

Mr. Sweeney argued that the slaughter of horses is different from the slaughter of cattle and chickens because horses are American icons.

“They’re as close to human as any animal you can get,” said Rep. John M. Spratt Jr., South Carolina Democrat.

Added Rep. Christopher Shays, Connecticut Democrat: “The way a society treats its animals, particularly horses, speaks to the core values and morals of its citizens.”

The administration said a ban would do more harm than good for horses.

“We have serious concerns that the welfare of these horses would be negatively impacted by a ban on slaughter,” Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said in a letter released yesterday .

Defenders of horse slaughter said it offers a cheap and humane way to end a horse’s life when the animal no longer is useful. They say many owners cannot afford to care for an unproductive horse.

“These unwanted horses are often sick, unfit or problem animals,” said Rep. Collin C. Peterson, Minnesota Democrat. “Many of them are already living in pain or discomfort, and tens of thousands more could be neglected, starved or abandoned if their owners no longer have processing available as an end-of-life option.”

American horse meat is sold mostly for people to eat in Europe and Asia; some goes to U.S. zoos.



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