Monday, July 24, 2006

If horse slaughter is ever banned in the United States, it won’t be for lack of obstruction on the part of supporters of this barbaric practice. The latest maneuver in this ongoing tragedy is Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s attempt to hold up a floor vote on Rep. John Sweeney’s bill to ban horse slaughter. Without getting into specifics, Mr. Goodlatte essentially hijacked the regular committee process by invoking a fuzzy parliamentary procedure whereby his Agricultural Committee would be allowed to consider the Sweeney bill before it can go to the floor.

It is only the latest in a long list of anti-democratic abuses employed by opponents of the ban to keep them in good standing with their rancher buddies, who for inexplicable reasons view the campaign to end horse slaughter as somehow threatening to their cattle interests. It was last year, for instance, when an amendment to ban horse slaughter for one fiscal year passed in the House, 269-158, and in the Senate, 69-28. But despite this overwhelming bipartisan majority, an effort ensued to kill the amendment in conference committee. When that failed and President Bush signed the amendment into law, the horse slaughterers staged a legal battle with the Department of Agriculture to waive the law. Amazingly, the Agriculture Department agreed, citing in its own legal analysis that the amendment “does not prevent horse slaughter at all.” Having thus ignored the will of Congress, the department went on to perform some hilarious legal acrobatics to make their ridiculous assertion square with the law.

All the while, the three European-owned plants went on slaughtering horses and continue to do so to this day. Now we have Mr. Sweeney’s bill with its 199 cosponsors to — once again — ban horse slaughter. So it’s no surprise that Mr. Goodlatte and the rest are doing what they can to thwart the will of Congress. At this point, let us say that while we hardly align ourselves with the animal-rights lobby, what we’ve seen from the cattle ranchers and their legislators is nothing short of a perversion of democracy. Whether one particularly cares about the slaughter of horses, every American should care deeply when lawmakers and agencies obstruct the lawmaking process or choose to ignore the law all together. And for what? The self-interest of a few Belgian and French horse eaters.

Today, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is scheduled to hold hearings on the Sweeney bill. As a witness for the committee, Mr. Goodlatte will have the opportunity to explain why a bill that maintains bipartisan support in both houses is bad for the country. But at least he’ll be doing it the democratic way, which constitutes a nice departure from the ethically challenged practices of the ban’s opponents.

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