Letter on Horse Slaughter

July 30, 2007

Contact: Dave Warner (202) 347-3600

Washington, July 30, 2007 


July 30, 2007


To: All Members of the U.S. House of Representatives

From: The Farm Animal Welfare Coalition

Re: Please Vote to Remove Sec. 738 of HR 3161, language that would end USDA oversight of the horse industry


The Farm Animal Welfare Coalition (FAWC), an ad hoc coalition of the nation’s largest farmer, livestock and dairy producer and input associations, wishes you to know of our strong opposition to Sec. 738 of HR 3161, the pending FY2008 agriculture/FDA appropriations bill. This language is so broad and sweeping in its restriction of USDA funding that the horse industry could be restricted from moving any horse for any reason, domestically or overseas, including horses used in breeding and competitions.

FAWC joins with the horse industry in its opposition to Sec. 738 of HR 3161. Our friends in the horse world tell us the language would eliminate funding necessary for USDA to operate quarantine facilities and to pay personnel to approve and facilitate the import and export of horses for exhibition, competition, sale or breeding. The language would not only cut off direct funding to USDA, but also eliminate USDA’s authority to impose user fees which support the operation of the three major USDA Animal Import Centers and the land border ports along the Canadian and Mexican borders. Sec. 738 would dramatically impact the authority and ability of the USDA to maintain those horse health and safety protections because it would deny funds for the various inspections required under current federal law for all horses. It would also have an extremely adverse effect on important equine activities and commerce.

FAWC is dedicated to ensuring government decisions relative to the housing, care, handling and wellbeing of livestock and poultry are based upon the best science available, professional producer experience in husbanding the animals in their charge, and ultimately, what best serves the wellbeing of the animal. It is sad and regrettable that Sec. 738 of HR 3161 will ultimately work against the wellbeing of horses and the horse industry.

We are aware some have written to tell you of their concerns relative to the unintended consequences of Sec. 738 of HR 3161 and the precedent it sets by banning a livestock product for reasons other than food safety or public health. Others have written to tell of concerns relative to federal government’s intervention in the private property rights of individuals. Still others oppose HR 3161 because it will negatively impact rural businesses and cost hundreds of jobs. And there are those who are deeply concerned Sec. 738 of HR 3161 carries no provisions for the safe disposal of upwards of 100,00 horse carcasses, leading to issues of water contamination, human exposure to zoonotic disease and related problems.

The following are facts:

  • 80-100,000 horses are abandoned each year in the U.S., and this number is expected to double in just a few years.
  • About 60,000 horses used to move to USDA-regulated and inspected processing facilities each year, carried in trucks regulated by USDA’s humane transport rules. Given legal challenges to the operation of these plants, unwanted animals are no longer euthanized or slaughtered under supervision of USDA inspectors following the requirements of the Federal Humane Slaughter Act.
  • The current situation seriously compromises the welfare of abandoned or neglected horses. Opponents argue unwanted horses can move to “adoption” facilities or be resold. The average capacity of a horse adoption facility in the U.S. is 30 animals. These facilities are already overcapacity. This means in the first year alone, the U.S. would need an additional 2,700 such facilities, according to the American Association of Equine Practitioners.
  • It is estimated to cost $1,900 per year in today’s dollars to house and feed each abandoned horse; this does not include veterinary or farrier services. It will cost $127 million in just the first year to properly care for these animals if this legislation is enacted. Will the proponents of HR 3161 seek federal money during these tight budget times to run horse shelters?
  • In contrast, there are no federal humane standards governing the care of horses which end up in so-called “rescue” or “retirement” facilities. Even the Humane Society of the U.S., the nation’s largest animal rights group, admits the standards of horse care at existing adoption facilities “are less well established than cat and dog shelters.” Does USDA intend to enforce horse care standards? Does the department intend to hire additional inspectors to inspect these facilities? Does Congress intend to fund these new full time employees?

It is imperative Congress not act precipitously or based upon emotion in the absence of meaningful alternatives to humane processing. To enact Sec. 738 of HR 3161 will disrupt perhaps irrevocably commerce within the horse industry and condemn tens of thousands of horses to abandonment and neglect.

Thank you for consideration of our views. If you have any questions about FAWC or its mission, please contact Steve Kopperud, FAWC coordinator at 202-776-0071 or skopperud@poldir.com.