The Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association (PHBA) formally announced its endorsement of the John Stringer Rainey Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, and pledges to advance initiatives that aim to protect horses throughout the state.
In 2015 the SAFE Act was renamed in honor of John Stringer Rainey, the late South Carolina philanthropist and former director of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. If passed into federal law, the bill would permanently end the slaughter of American horses for human consumption in the United States and abroad. It also amends Title 18 of the U. S. Code by making it illegal to “possess, ship, transport, purchase, sell, deliver, or receive any horse with the intent that it is to be slaughtered for human consumption,” with penalties that include fines and imprisonment.
In addition to its commitment to the health and safety of thoroughbreds, aftercare is also a top priority of the PHBA, according to president Greg Newell. “We are doing everything we can to help place horses who reach the end of their first or second career, whether they have finished racing or breeding,” said Newell. “Our Anti-Slaughter Committee, chaired by Kate Goldenberg, has done a wonderful job addressing what can be done to help our equine athletes.”
PHBA Board member Hank Nothhaft, also a member of the Anti-Slaughter Committee, said that endorsement of the SAFE Act was something the organization wanted to do to be a positive force towards improving the industry. The fact that many unwanted thoroughbred broodmares are found in slaughter pens proved to be a call to action. “There was unanimous support from the PHBA Board to mitigate the slaughter of broodmares,” said Nothhaft. “Older broodmares, especially, are not attractive candidates for equestrian activities, and thus they are not as easy to rehome as younger horses. This has really pushed us from sitting on the bench towards getting into the fray.”
“The Anti-Slaughter Committee was formed in order to protect our broodmares, stallions, and Pennsylvania-bred racehorses that end up in the slaughter pipeline, or in bad situations,” explained Jennifer Poorman of the PHBA. “What is coming from it is so much more.” Poorman said that the Committee has a goal to create a broodmare retirement program to address the need of unwanted mares.
“Our hope is to form a non-profit within our organization, to assist our breeders when the time comes when their broodmare can no longer breed,” said Poorman. “We’ll be looking to build a network of partner farms willing to assist with retirement from breeding, whether it’s a second career or permanent retirement due to physical limitations. “We’re also creating a campaign to educate our breeders about responsible aftercare, along with providing a network of resources for our breeders to turn to at any point they find themselves in need of assistance,” she said.
“No one has been looking out for the broodmares,” said Nothhaft. “There’s lots of enthusiasm for this project moving forward.” Nothhaft said one reason why the SAFE Act hasn’t gained traction towards passage since 2019 in Congress is because large agricultural interests fear that anti-slaughter legislation would bring undue attention to their industries, which involve large-scale slaughter of animals for food.
“The SAFE Act is one of three items we are working on,” said Brian Sanfratello, executive secretary of the PHBA. “The others are Pennsylvania-specific anti-slaughter legislation, similar to the SAFE Act, that would make it a misdemeanor for anyone who causes or transports a horse into the slaughter pipeline, as well as a PHBA code of ethics, with sanctions for anyone who is a member or registers horses with our organization and is found to be in violation of the Pennsylvania anti-slaughter measures.”
NGO investigations and EU audits have revealed massive problems with animal welfare and the import of horsemeat from overseas. The issue was discussed on an online event at the European Parliament which was organized by several NGOs and Eurogroup for Animals.
New video footage proves that horses are systematically abused, mistreated and neglected. Severely injured and sick horses do not receive veterinary care or euthanasia. Downer horses are pulled off the trucks with chains and left to die. In Canadian feedlots, newborn foals still freeze to death at temperatures as low as minus 36° Celsius. — Sabrina Gurtner, Project Manager, Animal Welfare Foundation
FOOD SAFETY AND ANIMAL WELFARE CONCERNS
Horsemeat imports from overseas have been criticized by international animal welfare organizations for many years. As a result, all Swiss supermarkets took horsemeat from overseas off their shelves. Several Belgian, Dutch and French retailers followed their example. In 2015, the biggest Swiss meat importer GVFI (Basel) also stopped these imports on the ground that the equines’ traceability is not ensured. Yet, around 17,000 tons of horsemeat from overseas continue to be imported every year to the EU and Switzerland.
An international animal welfare coalition, via a petition which has already gathered nearly 120,000 signatures, is currently calling on the European Commission to immediately suspend the imports of horsemeat from countries where EU requirements on food safety and animal welfare are not respected.
The EU suspended Mexican horsemeat imports, following issues similar to those that occurred in Uruguay, Argentina, Canada or Australia, and it led to a decrease in production and exports. Yet, now we witness an increase of Argentinian horsemeat imports into the EU, so any positive impact has been hindered by the lack of coherence of the EU approach on this dossier. The EU should send a clear message to its trading partners stressing that respecting the rules matters, and suspend imports where requirements are not met. Then, it should use its trade negotiations to incentivize progress and only restore imports if rules are respected . — Reineke Hameleers, CEO, Eurogroup for Animals.
The most recent EC audit reports on horsemeat production in Uruguay and Argentina confirm “serious questions about animal welfare at the time of killing”. The same EU audit reports also indicate that the audits did not reflect the everyday situation. “The inspections are announced in advance and slaughterhouses and horse dealers have developed a system to mislead the inspectors”, explains Gurtner. Footage recorded by NGOs shows that pens are emptied before the audits, or that sick and injured horses are exchanged with healthy animals.
Last year, 53,947 horses were shipped from the United States to Mexico for slaughter. That marks a 26% decrease from 2018 when 70,708 horses designated for slaughter were transported across the southern U.S. border, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Market News Livestock Export Summary.
Efforts to open new horse slaughter plants have been unsuccessful, partly because of legislation denying funds for federal inspections of such operations. Nevertheless, thousands of U.S. horses have been exported to slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada.
Canada and Mexico are two of the main exporters of horse meat to Europe. At least 85% of horses slaughtered at European Union–approved Canadian horse slaughterhouses originated in the United States, and 50% of the horse meat produced from those animals was exported to the EU.
Federal data on the number of horses transported to Canada annually aren’t available. However, the advocacy organization Animals’ Angels estimated that 12,273 U.S. horses were imported by Canada for slaughter in 2017.
California, Illinois, New Jersey, Texas, and New York have enacted laws against horse slaughter and eating horse meat.
MONTH / yEAR