Aug. 3, 2013 — A bi-partisan group of senators and representatives has introduced the Safeguard American Food Exports Act (S.A.F.E. Act, H.R. 1094 / S. 541). Couched in the language of food safety yet without scientific evidence to support its claims, this measure would impose fines and prison time for anyone who sells, transports, imports or exports horses going to a humane, regulated horse processing facility.
The S.A.F.E. Act purports to defend the health interests of the consumer, claiming that horse meat is tainted by drugs and chemicals not found in other meat species. However, the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) has already established stringent inspection processes including testing capabilities and labeling requirements. FSIS can now differentiate species in meat products and has also adopted validated testing methods and sampling methods to detect residues of drugs and/or chemicals in equine tissues, and it will test for approximately 130 pesticides and veterinary drugs in horses being slaughtered.
The government’s own research runs counter to a new ban on processing: the Government Accounting Office’s Report to Congress details how the previous cessation of horse slaughter negatively impacted the welfare of horses in the United States, because, in addition to removing the established bottom valuation for horse sales (traditionally set by slaughter prices), no alternative was developed to support the care and costs of the unwanted horses that would otherwise go to processing. Based on 2012 figures of animals shipped for processing out of the country, that will amount to almost 160,000 horses annually; there are not nearly enough facilities in the U.S. to adequately care for these animals. Because of the prohibitions set by the S.A.F.E. Act, these animals will likely face abandonment or neglect, or surrender to overwhelmed “rescue” facilities, rather than the swift, humane ending experienced by other livestock processed for food.
The Animal Welfare Council offers a science-based position paper on these bills posted at www.animalwelfarecouncil.org; it is available to download and share with others. Rational horsemen and horsewomen and the general public with honest concern for the welfare of horses will want to read the report and embrace its talking points. This is a time-sensitive matter, and the Animal Welfare Council urges everyone to make an informed decision and contact their legislators today to urge them to vote against this measure.
The Animal Welfare Council is a non-profit, tax exempt 501(C)(3) organization established for charitable and educational purposes. Membership includes organizations and business entities who are actively involved in caring for animals in recreation, entertainment, sport and industry. For more information about the AWC, visit www.animalwelfarecouncil.org.