The government’s temporary ban on horse slaughter is subject to annual congressional review. A new bill from U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan could make it a federal crime permanently.
The congressman filed legislation Wednesday that would protect horses from being killed for consumption overseas. According to the Department of Agriculture, more than 100,000 horses are sent to Canadian and Mexican slaughterhouses from the U.S. each year.
The Safeguard American Food Exports Act is a bipartisan bill that was also introduced by Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. Both representatives sponsored a similar bill in 2015.
“The slaughter of horses for consumption is a barbaric practice that has no place in America. I will continue to lead the effort with Congresswoman Schakowsky to ban domestic horse slaughter and end the export of horses abroad for the same purpose,” said Buchanan, R-Longboat Key.
In other countries, such as Belgium, Japan and Mexico, horse meat is thought to be a delicacy, CBS News reports. More than 90 percent of the horses sent to be killed for food are in healthy conditions, according to a press release.
“Horses have a special place in our nation’s history, and these majestic creatures were not raised as food for humans. The SAFE Act would prohibit any horses slaughter plant from opening and also end the sale or transport of horses and horse parts in the U.S. and abroad for the purpose of human consumption,” Schakowsky said in a statement. “I am proud to reintroduce this bill with Congressman Buchanan to put an end to this practice.”
Animal Wellness Action, a nonprofit animal advocacy group that endorsed Buchanan in his latest election run, weighed in on the proposed bill, as well. A spokeswoman said action to prevent horse slaughter is necessary because, “every aspect is fraught with suffering for the horses that fall victim to this predatory industry.”
“The horse slaughter industry delivers a series of traumatic events and ends with open-eyed terror for animals that deserve much better from us,” said Director of Federal Affairs Holly Gann. “Toxic horse meat is anything but a legitimate American agriculture export. Congress should move quickly to protect our horses.”
The SAFE Act has been endorsed by other animal activist groups, including the Animal Welfare Institute, the Humane Society and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The U.S. Senate is set to announce a similar bill soon.