The Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2008 was introduced July 24 in the House and would criminalize the possession, sale and transport of horses in interstate or foreign commerce for the purpose of slaughter for human consumption.
"Unlike cattle and other livestock, horses in this country have never been raised as a human food source," said John Conyers Jr., D-Mich. In introducing the bill, Conyers said horses are bought at auctions within the U.S. and then transported to foreign slaughterhouses for hours in packed and hot trailers without water, food or rest where they are then slaughtered in cruel and barbaric ways. The only way to prevent horses from suffering this fate, he said, is to stop the sale and transport of horses to these foreign slaughter houses before they leave the U.S.
Pressure from animal rights organizations has closed all U.S. slaughter plants in the past several years forcing the long transport of horses bound for slaughter.
Advocates of horse slaughter and those worried mounting number of unwanted horses in the U.S. have expressed similar concern about the transportation of horses long distances and believe it is in the best interest of horses to have slaughter facilities available domestically as an option for horse owners. Horse slaughter advocates also question the value of incinerating or burying a euthanized horse when it could serve as a good source of protein for human nourishment. "It is important for all of us to remember that, in all likelihood, it only matters to us, and not the horse what happens to them after they are gone," Dr. Nat T. Messer of the University of Missouri stated at the recent forum in Washington, D.C.
The transportation of horses already falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Slaughter Horse Transport Program (SHTP) established in 2001 requires that a horse transported commercially to slaughter travel in a safe and humane fashion. Among the program's requirements are that adequate food, water and rest prior to loading onto to a vehicle be provided; horses are not confined in a vehicle any longer than 24 hours without food and water, adequate floor space is provided and that two-tier trailers be phased out. The program is often cited as a model for the future development of humane transportation programs for other species.