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American horse slaughtering–Part One December 15, 2005

Posted by dr. gonzo in Horse Slaughter.

Around DeKalb people are wondering what pending and recently passed federal legislation might mean for the Cavel International horse slaughtering plant and its 50 or so employees.

First let’s look at what’s going on as far as bills on the floor of the House and Senate. There are some provisions being looked at that may make horse slaughter for human consumption out and out illegal in the United States.

Probably the most important bill is the Virgie S. Arden American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act or S.1915. A summary of action on the bill can be found here. It was introduced on Oct. 25, 2005, the chief Senate sponsor is Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) but it has 10 Senate co-sponsors including, Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS), Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT).

The bill itself is specifically designed, “To amend the Horse Protection Act to prohibit the shipping, transporting, moving, delivering, receiving, possessing, purchasing, selling, or donation of horses and other equines to be slaughtered for human consumption, and for other purposes,” according to the text of the legislation.

The Horse Protection Act (15 USC 1821-1831) was passed in Dec. 1970 and amended in July of 1976. This is where the bill starts and this bad boy is also known as Public Law 91-540; don’t try looking on the list of Public Laws provided by the Library of Congress though, they only go back to the 93rd Congress. Anyway you can see the 1976 amendment text at the bottom of the page linked above as the start of the bill. It essentially changed a few definitions, i.e. “sore” and “state.” Ok, history lesson over, sorry about that aside.

So what does all of this mean, at least in reference to S. 1915?

Well, I don’t know if anyone has ever tried to read federal legislation but it truly is the most futile of past times. Take, for example, the text in S.1915 which alludes to Section One of the Horse Protection Act:

(a) Definitions- Section 2 of the Horse Protection Act (15 U.S.C. 1821) is amended–

(1) by redesignating paragraphs (1), (2), (3), and (4) as paragraphs (2), (3), (5), and (6), respectively;
(2) by inserting before paragraph (2) (as redesignated by paragraph (1)) the following:
(1) The term `human consumption’ means ingestion by people as a source of food.’; and (3) by inserting after paragraph (3) (as redesignated by paragraph (1) the following:
(4) The term ‘slaughter’ means the killing of 1 or more horses or other equines with the intent to sell or trade the flesh for human consumption.

Just a bit unclear, at least, and at worst it’s like trying to choose from the red, blue or green wire when defusing a bomb. You absolutely have to have the original law in hand to make any sense of this. Which, as I linked to earlier, is conveniently provided by the U.S Department of Agriculture here or the U.S. House of Representatives here.

So now to the meat of the changes, so to speak.

According to S. 1915:
“(c) Prohibition- Section 5 of the Horse Protection Act (15 U.S.C. 1824) is amended–

(1) by redesignating paragraphs (8) through (11) as paragraphs (9) through (12), respectively; and

(2) by inserting after paragraph 7 the following:

(8) The shipping, transporting, moving, delivering, receiving, possessing, purchasing, selling, or donation of any horse or other equine to be slaughtered for human consumption.'”

First Section 5 Paragraphs 8-11 are changed into paragraphs 9-12. Paragraphs 8-11 prohibit the following:

“8-The failing to establish, maintain, or submit records, notices, reports, or other information required under section 1823 of this title.

9-The failure or refusal to permit access to or copying of records, or the failure or refusal to permit entry or inspection, as required by section 1823 of this title.

10-The removal of any marking required by the Secretary to identify a horse as being detained.

11-The failure or refusal to provide the Secretary with adequate space or facilities, as the Secretary may by regulation under section 1828 of this title prescribe, in which to conduct inspections or any other activity authorized to be performed by the Secretary under this Act.”

The above provisions are simply other things that the original Horse Protection Act prohibited.

S. 1915 adds a key paragraph to Section 5 (Prohibition) the Horse Protection Act and dubs it paragraph 7.

“The shipping, transporting, moving, delivering, receiving, possessing, purchasing, selling, or donation of any horse or other equine to be slaughtered for human consumption.”

That phrase in Ensign’s amendment effectively bans horse slaughter for human consumption in the United States. Ensign referenced a similar bill in the House, “The House version of this bill, H.R. 5031 (sic), currently has more than 120 cosponsors.,” in his Oct. 25 introduction of S. 1915, according to the Congressional Record. Although, when browsing THOMAS (federal legislation on the Web from the Library of Congress) for H.R. 5031 you will receive this lovely error message.

Which led me to believe either Ensign misspoke on the Senate floor or the Congressional Record had a typo in the Web version. I was right.

Check out H.R. 503, it’s the same bill as S. 1915, so there is the House version.

If you take a look at the bill summary and status for H.R. 503 you will see some small differences from the Senate bill S. 1915. First, the bill was introduced some eight months earlier than the Senate version, the chief sponsor in the House is Rep. John E. Sweeney (R-NY) and it has 133 co-sponsors instead of the 120 it had on Oct. 25 according to Ensign.

Both bills are currently stuck in committees. S. 1915 has been “Read twice and referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.” While H.R. 503 has been, “Referred to the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection.”

Will these proposals have what it takes to become law?

This could be an irrelevant question as in June the House of Representatives passed, as part of the Department of Agriculture spending bill took away funding for USDA inspection of horse meat for human consumption overseas. Of course, Cavel Plant Manager Jim Tucker said the plant could pay for it themselves so the result of that legislation is still up in the air.

Hard to see the future is. Activists and politicians alike continue to cite public polling which shows most Americans are opposed to horse slaughtering for human consumption. With so much support in both the Senate and House it’s hard to not see this thing becoming the law of the land. One poll, conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling during May 2003 in Texas (which is relevant because the other two U.S. horse slaughterhouses are located there) showed 81 percent of Texans opposed to the slaughter of horses for food, 81 percent! In Texas, no less! I’d say native Texan and President George W. Bush would have a hard time not signing this bill into law when it reaches the Oval Office.

Part two to this blog entry will be posted within the next couple of hours.


1. Desiree - December 15, 2005

Okay when I get more time tonight, I’m definitely going to read up on all this horse slaughtering stuff! I promise. For now, I’m just going to laugh at the “Any jaguar burgers?” comment!

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