WASHINGTON – U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) today introduced legislation to permanently ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption, the Save America’s Forgotten Equines (SAFE) Act. The bill would also prohibit the export of live horses to Mexican and Canadian slaughterhouses to be sold overseas. Companion legislation is being introduced in the Senate by Sens. Menendez (D-N.J.) and Graham (R-S.C.).
“The slaughter of horses for human consumption is a barbaric practice that has no place in America,” Buchanan said. “As co-chairman of the Animal Protection Caucus, I look forward to continuing to lead the effort with Congresswoman Schakowsky to protect these majestic creatures.”
Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky said, "Horses have a special place in our nation's history and in many Americans' hearts. They embody the spirit of America, and it is time to end the brutal and dangerous practice of slaughtering these creatures for human consumption. I have championed this issue for many years, and I am so proud to partner with Congressman Vern Buchanan to reintroduce the SAFE Act once again. Our bipartisan bill would amend the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 to prohibit the slaughter of equines for human consumption. Horses are not raised for human consumption. As a proud animal lover, we owe it to our horse companions to protect their welfare."
In 2017, Buchanan worked with the late-Congressman Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) to get the Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act signed into law as part of the 2018 Farm Bill, which made it illegal to slaughter, transport, possess, purchase, sell or donate cats and dogs for human consumption. The SAFE Act builds upon that legislation by adding horses, donkeys and burros to the prohibition. Although the practice of slaughtering horses for human consumption is currently illegal in the United States, the ban is temporary and subject to annual congressional review and no federal law exists to prohibit the transport of horses across America’s borders for slaughter in Canada or Mexico.
The lawmakers hope to include the SAFE Act as part of the 2023 Farm Bill when it is considered by Congress later this year.
In 2022, approximately 20,000 American horses were exported to Canadian and Mexican slaughterhouses, according to the Animal Welfare Institute. Those horses are butchered and then transported overseas for consumption in Japan, Italy and other countries.
The SAFE Act has received the support of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, the ASPCA, Return to Freedom and the Animal Welfare Institute.
Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, said, “The pipeline to slaughter is an open grave for the horses it carries off, not just a terrible cruelty but a national heartache. It’s time to saddle up and end their journey to hell. No animal more deserving of our kindness has ever suffered such a rotten fate. Horse slaughter for human consumption is a ruinous policy not merely for its callous indifference to a faithful species but for its blight upon our national character. We hope that legislators in both chambers and both parties will lend their support to Representatives Buchanan and Schakowsky and Senators Menendez and Graham in their efforts to pass the Save America’s Forgotten Equines (SAFE) Act, and vote this appalling practice out of existence.”
Nancy Perry, senior vice president of Government Relations for the ASPCA, said, “More than 80 percent of Americans oppose horse slaughter for human consumption, and despite robust partnerships between the equine industry and animal welfare groups to support rehoming horses, a legal loophole still allows tens of thousands of American horses to be shipped to other countries for slaughter each year. We are working resolutely to solve equine welfare issues on the ground, but the threat of horse slaughter contributes significant harm to industry, horse owners, and adoption organizations, and we cannot fully succeed while the slaughter pipeline remains open. By including the SAFE Act in the 2023 Farm Bill, Congress can start a new chapter for America’s equines and finally end the cruel, unnecessary practice of horse slaughter.”
Neda DeMayo, president of Return to Freedom, said, “We are grateful to Reps. Buchanan and Schakowsky for their continued, unwavering leadership. Polls show that the vast majority of Americans find it abhorrent that any horse, wild or domestic, suffers the road to slaughter. Congress must not allow itself to be undermined by a self-serving few on a measure with overwhelming support."
Susan Millward, executive director of AWI, said, “The horse slaughter industry has claimed the lives of millions of American horses over the last few decades, producing unsafe food, likely tainted with residues of dangerous drugs, for foreign consumers. These equines suffer incredible abuse even before they arrive at the slaughterhouse, often transported for long distances without food, water or rest, in overcrowded trailers where the animals are often seriously injured or even killed in transit. The overwhelming majority of Americans are vociferously opposed to butchering horses for human consumption, so we are grateful to Reps. Buchanan and Schakowsky, and to Sens. Menendez, Graham, Whitehouse, and Collins, for leading the SAFE Act to spare horses from this brutal fate.”
Buchanan, who co-chairs the Animal Protection Caucus in Congress, is a leading advocate for protecting endangered species and ending animal cruelty, introducing and co-sponsoring dozens of important animal measures. Most recently, his legislation to end government-mandated animal testing to determine a drug’s human efficacy was signed into law. He is also the only two-time recipient of the Humane Society’s “Legislator of the Year” award, winning the award in 2015 and 2020.