House Votes to Outlaw Horse Slaughter
Thursday, September 7, 2006; 7:10 PM
WASHINGTON -- The House brushed aside objections from horse doctors and the White House and voted Thursday to outlaw slaughtering horses for people to eat.
Critics of the practice made an emotional appeal, showing photographs of horses with bloodied and lacerated faces, the result of being crammed into trailers destined for slaughterhouses.
Celebrities also turned up the pressure: Actress Bo Derek was on hand for Thursday's vote, and country singer Willie Nelson and oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens have been campaigning against horse slaughter.
The House vote was 263-146. Lawmakers thought they had ended the practice with a vote last year, but instead of banning it outright, Congress yanked the salaries and expenses of federal inspectors. In response, the Bush administration simply started charging plants for inspections, and the slaughter continued.
"It is one of the most inhumane, brutal, shady practices going on in the U.S. today," said Rep. John Sweeney, R-N.Y., a sponsor of the ban.
Sweeney argued that the slaughter of horses is different from the slaughter of cattle and chickens because horses, such as Mr. Ed, Secretariat and Silver, are American icons.
"They're as close to human as any animal you can get," said Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C.
Added Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn.: "The way a society treats its animals, particularly horses, speaks to the core values and morals of its citizens."
The bill's future is uncertain. The Senate has not acted on a similar bill, and Congress intends to finish its session by the end of the month.
The administration contends a ban would do more harm than good for horses.
"We have serious concerns that the welfare of these horses would be negatively impacted by a ban on slaughter," Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said in a letter released Thursday.
American horse meat is sold mostly in Europe and Asia; some goes to U.S. zoos.