Anti-horse-slaughter legislation reintroduced

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Opponents of horse slaughter, not satisfied with existing state legislation prohibiting the practice in the United States, are pushing to go one step further.

Federal lawmakers recently reintroduced legislation that aims to abate the transport, sale, delivery, or export of horses for slaughter for human consumption. It aims to criminalize the purchase, sale, delivery, or export of horsemeat intended for human consumption.

HR 503, the Conyers-Burton Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act, was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee on Jan. 14 by sponsors Committee Chairman John Conyers of Michigan and Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana. The new legislation is similar to the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2008. That was passed by the committee this past September but never reached the House floor for a vote.

Once again, the bill hopes to stop the export of horses for slaughter in Mexico and Canada. Violators would face fines and/or one year's imprisonment for a first offense or those involving five or fewer horses, and fines and/or three years' imprisonment for repeat offenses or those involving more than five horses.

The National Council of State Legislatures recently approved a resolution urging Congress to oppose legislation that would restrict horse slaughter. The AVMA and American Association of Equine Practitioners also are actively working for its defeat. The AVMA opposes the bill because neither does it provide for the care of unwanted horses nor does it allocate funding for the care and placement of horses seized by the government in accordance with the law.

Also, the AVMA is concerned that passage of a law that prevents transport for slaughter will not change the number of horses transported for that purpose, but will simply change what people put on the horse's paperwork.

Meanwhile, the Humane Society of the United States and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals support the bill. They have raised concerns about the welfare of the horses during transportation and while being slaughtered in other countries, Mexico in particular.