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.”