Passage of the bill marks a historic moment in the effort to ban the slaughter of American horses for human consumption abroad, and was passed by a vote of 263 to 146. The legislation, which enjoyed more than 200 cosponsors and bipartisan support, was designed to stop the slaughter of nearly 100,000 American horses annually in three foreign-owned slaughter plants in the United States. Their meat is shipped overseas, primarily to France, Belgium and Japan, where it is considered a delicacy.
Opponents of the practice showed photographs of horses with bloodied and lacerated faces, the result of being crammed into trailers that would carry the animals to slaughterhouses. "The horse is tied to the spirit of the American frontier," Rep. Whitfield told the house in debate. "Most importantly, the horse is a companion."
Defenders of horse slaughter said it offers a cheap and humane way to end a horse’s life when the animal no longer is useful. They say many owners cannot afford to care for an unproductive horse. "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.
With the majority of Americans and the U.S. House of Representatives on the record supporting a permanent ban on horse slaughter, the Senate will now take up the bill for consideration.