U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Susan Collins (R-Maine) today introduced bipartisan legislation to permanently prohibit and make it a federal crime to slaughter horses for human consumption in the United States. The legislation also bans any related interstate or foreign commercial activity, such as the export of horsemeat or the transport of horses to slaughterhouses in other countries.
The gruesome practice of slaughtering horses for food has no place in the United States, and it’s well past time for Congress to say once and for all that horsemeat is not what’s for dinner, said Sen. Menendez. Horses are routinely treated with drugs that are dangerous for human consumption and do not belong in our nation’s food supply. Our bipartisan legislation will help put an end to the cruel and inhumane slaughter of horses while protecting families from toxic horse meat and safeguarding the reputation of the U.S. food industry worldwide.
“Horses hold a special place in our history and culture, and the practice of slaughtering them to satisfy foreign appetites simply does not reflect the admiration we have for these animals,” said Sen. Collins. “In an effort to protect horses, this legislation would deter the transport or purchase of horses for human consumption.”
The Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act prohibits the knowing sale or transport of equines or equine parts in interstate or foreign commerce for purposes of human consumption. It also makes it a federal crime punishable by up to two years in prison for individuals and slaughterhouses who violate the law.
While the slaughtering of horses for human consumption in the United States is exceedingly rare, data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reveals that over 100,000 American horses are exported to Canadian and Mexican slaughterhouses each year.
Sen. Menendez continually leads the effort to ban horsemeat by defunding federally required meat inspections by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) at slaughterhouses where horses are sent, which effectively prohibits any slaughter plants from killing horses.
Full text of the SAFE Act (S.2006) can be downloaded here.
California Governor Newsom Signs Legislation to Strengthen Horse Safety and Race Track Accountability
Governor Newsom signs SB 469, which provides the California Horse Racing Board the authority to suspend a race meet license when necessary to protect the health and safety of horses or riders.
In a move to improve horse safety and bring a greater level of transparency and accountability to race tracks, Governor Gavin Newsom today signed SB 469 by Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) and announced the appointment of seasoned veterinarian Gregory Ferraro to the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB). SB 469 would allow the CHRB to suspend horse racing licenses when necessary to protect the health and safety of horses and riders.
The bill signing comes weeks after Governor Newsom directed CHRB to apply new safety measures and create a review group at Santa Anita Park to provide additional examination and determine if an individual horse is at elevated risk of injury before racing. A total of 38 horses were scratched or denied entry at Santa Anita Park since this new review process was established earlier this month.
“Business as usual has resulted in too many horse deaths,” said Governor Newsom. “I applaud the Legislature for taking action to expand the authority of the CHRB to cancel or move race meets when animal and human safety are at risk. This problem demands deeper partnership between the CHRB and track officials. I call on race tracks around the state to hold themselves to the higher screening standards recently adopted at Santa Anita. This model can save horses’ lives.”
Currently, short of an allegation of an actual rule violation, the CHRB is limited in its ability to take action against a licensee to limit, place conditions on or suspend a racing license. SB 469 will update the law to allow the CHRB to take immediate action on race meet licenses if horse or rider safety is determined to be at risk.
“Putting the safety of horses first is paramount,” said Senator Dodd, the author of SB 469. “I appreciate Gov. Newsom’s partnership and swift action in supporting this commonsense measure to allow the Horse Racing Board to halt racing when dangerous conditions exist.”
After reports about the increasing number of horse deaths at California race tracks, Governor Newsom announced new regulatory actions through the CHRB and called for additional oversight measures, including the creation of a review group at Santa Anita Park during the final two weekends of race meets in June. This horse safety review group examined the past performances of all the horses, including any history on the Veterinarian’s List and Steward’s List, as well as any medical history CHRB was aware of, and physical observations of the horse when practicable. The panel then advised Santa Anita management if certain horses were considered high-risk. The Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita Park, agreed to deny the entry of any such horses and treat the review group’s recommendation as the final word. A total of 38 horses were scratched or denied entry at Santa Anita under this process.
The Governor’s new appointee to the CHRB, Gregory Ferraro, 73, of San Francisco, was the director of the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine Center for Equine Health from 1997 to 2014. Ferraro was owner and chief executive officer of Gregory L. Ferraro DVM, LLC from 1972 to 1997. He earned a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and is a member of the American Association of Equine Practitioners and the American Veterinary Medical Association. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem. Ferraro is registered without a party preference.
Coalition of U.S. House members pen letter to DOI Secretary Bernhardt opposing sterilization of wild horses
A bipartisan group of House lawmakers is striking back at the Bureau of Land Management's latest attempt to test a permanent sterilization technique on wild horses.
The group of 30 congressional leaders, including four Republicans, sent a letter to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt late Friday urging him to "drop" BLM research into a controversial sterilization procedure — called ovariectomy via colpotomy — that involves removing the ovaries from mares. The latest proposal, which could begin as early as August, would involve about 100 mares already rounded up from a federal herd management area in central Oregon.
The lawmakers, led by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), also asked Bernhardt to "shed light" on why BLM is working "to push forward" with the proposed project after a federal judge last year issued an injunction halting the research. The bureau quickly abandoned the project and committed in February to adopt or sell most of the 845 wild horses it gathered up for the project.
But last month, BLM released a new environmental assessment (EA) analyzing the proposals to test the sterilization technique on mares at the Warm Springs Herd Management Area in Oregon. It marks at least the third time BLM has proposed such research, which has been challenged each time by litigation from advocacy groups.
"The BLM is charged with protecting wild horses under the landmark 1971 Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. From a welfare perspective, the 'spay' experiment raises serious concerns," the letter said. Among them are the "risks of infection, trauma, hemorrhage, evisceration, and even death," they wrote. BLM did not respond to a request for comment on this story before publication.
But according to the EA, the bureau wants to test the procedure "on at least 100 ungentled, wild horse mares" already rounded up last October as part of the previous attempt to research the sterilization technique. BLM would "contract with an experienced veterinary team" to conduct the "surgical procedure," it said.BLM would return about 28 to 34 of the sterilized mares to the range as part of the project. The U.S. Geological Survey would "evaluate the impacts of spaying" on these animals and on "herd behavior once returned to the range as compared with an untreated herd." Roughly 70 other mares would also be spayed and observed for seven days, then put up for adoption or sale and not returned to the range.
It's the latest effort by the bureau to find safe and effective ways to permanently sterilize mares as herd sizes grow rapidly across the West. But a federal judge blocked a similar proposal last year, and two years earlier BLM dropped a separate research proposal into several sterilization methods shortly after an advocacy group sued.
The congressional leaders led by Blumenauer wrote in the letter that they aren't convinced BLM will take proper precautions to care for the animals.
"It seems that the agency understands the risky nature of the procedure but is nevertheless aiming to quantify precisely how dangerous it is using federally-protected animals," they wrote. "This is especially disconcerting given the BLM's pronouncement that no post-operative antibiotics will be administered and that no veterinary interventions will be undertaken for any recovering horses returned to the range."
At the "absolute minimum," the letter said, if BLM conducts the tests it should include "veterinary and welfare oversight" similar to two previous proposals for sterilization research that included partnering with Oregon State University in 2016, and last year with Colorado State University.
Both universities dropped out before the research could begin, and the lawmakers noted with concern that such partnerships "are no longer a component of the project the BLM is attempting to yet again undertake."