WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, introduced legislation on June 27 to permanently end the slaughter of American horses for human consumption in the United States and abroad.

The John Stringer Rainey Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, S. 2006, is supported by several groups, including the Animal Welfare Institute, the ASPCA (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), the Humane Society of the United States, the Humane Society Legislative Fund, and Return to Freedom Wild Horse Conservation.

No slaughterhouses currently process horses in the United States since federal funding for inspections has been left out of the budget for the last several years, Since the slaughhterhouses closed, more than 100,000 American horses have been shipped each year to Canada and Mexico to be slaughtered for human consumption. American horses are not raised for food and routinely receive a wide range of medications that are expressly prohibited for use in meat products. So-called “kill-buyers” can legally purchase horses at auctions or from unsuspecting owners to ship them to slaughterhouses abroad.

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Further complicating the issue is that unsuspecting individuals who wish to re-home their horses are being duped into selling them into the slaughter pipeline. A recent example involved a veterinary student who allegeldy deceived owners into giving up their horses by stating that she would find good homes for them, but instead profited by selling them for slaughter. She was indicted in Alabama on 13 counts of fraud earlier this year.

The John Stringer Rainey SAFE Act would amend Title 18 of the U.S. Code to make it illegal for anyone to knowingly transport, purchase, sell, possess, ship or receive any horse with the intent of slaughtering the animal for human consumption. The SAFE Act would also codify penalties, including fines and imprisonment, for individuals who violate the law. The bill — which mirrors legislation that was introduced in a prior session of Congress — will be referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which Sen. Graham is the chair.

The legislation is named for the late John Stringer Rainey of South Carolina. Rainey was a business leader and philanthropist who supported organizations that promote second careers for retired racehorses. He also worked for the passage of legislation to end slaughter of horses.

“The gruesome practice of slaughtering horses for food has no place in the United States, and it’s well past time for Congress to say once and for all that horsemeat is not what’s for dinner,” said Sen. Menendez. “Horses are routinely treated with drugs that are dangerous for human consumption and do not belong in our nation’s food supply. Our bipartisan legislation will help put an end to the cruel and inhumane slaughter of horses while protecting families from toxic horse meat and safeguarding the reputation of the U.S. food industry worldwide.”

“We are grateful to Senators Menendez, Graham, Whitehouse, and Collins for their leadership in ending the slaughter of American horses for human consumption by introducing the John Stringer Rainey Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act,” said Cathy Liss, president of the Animal Welfare Institute. “The problem of tens of thousands of American horses being shipped to slaughter abroad has persisted for far too long, despite overwhelming public opposition to this practice. The food safety and animal welfare concerns associated with the horse slaughter industry are simply too great to ignore. We owe it to these majestic animals to ensure that they do not meet an inhumane death and that the predatory horse slaughter industry is finally stamped out in the United States.”

“Horse industry stakeholders and animal welfare organizations are joining forces on equine welfare solutions by assisting at-risk horses and providing safety net services for owners in need, but those efforts cannot prevent this practice as long as it remains legal. Each year that passes without a ban on horse slaughter in place subjects tens of thousands of American horses to a horrific fate — one that is entirely avoidable,” said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of ASPCA Government Relations. “We are grateful to Senators Menendez, Graham, Whitehouse, and Collins for their leadership in moving the SAFE Act forward to protect horses from this greed-driven cruelty.”

“Horse slaughter is fundamentally cruel. The fear and suffering of the animals, while reason enough to stop this industry, are not the only problems,” said Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, “Since American horses are not raised for human consumption and are given medications that can be dangerous to humans, their meat is not safe for human consumption. We applaud these Senators who have taken a stand with most Americans who view horse slaughter as the true abomination it is.”

“It is time to ban the slaughter of American horses for human consumption. Horses are an iconic American species, in large part because of their amazing contributions to the building of our nation,” said Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. “They deserve better than being shipped overseas to slaughter. We applaud Senators Menendez, Whitehouse, Collins and Graham for helping to protect them from the inhumane practices of slaughter.”

“That more than 80,000 American horses — including an unknown number who once roamed freely on our public lands — are shipped to their deaths in foreign slaughterhouses each year is an unnecessary betrayal of the animals that helped us build our country, continue to serve humanity and inspire people around the world as a symbol of the American spirit,” said Neda DeMayo, president of Return to Freedom Wild Horse Conservation. “RTF applauds Senators Menendez, Graham, Whitehouse and Collins for recognizing the public’s overwhelming opposition to horse slaughter and continuing this bipartisan fight for the good of America’s horses and for human health.”

Similar bills were also introduced in the House of Representatives earlier this year. They remain in committee.

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