A vote that was originally scheduled for last week will be held by the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. Up for debate and vote is H.R. 6598, which would make it a felony to sell or transport a horse for the purpose of slaughter. The bill is not supported by the horse industry including the American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Equine Practitioners and other agricultural groups.
"In the last week the AAEP has been communicating to its membership about the pending vote in the Judiciary Committee and urging them to contact their representatives and share their opposition to the bill," says Sally Baker, AAEP director of public relations. "We've really been using grassroots efforts to let them know from a veterinarian's perspective what the negative impact is going to be on the unwanted horse population."
Since state laws were used to close the few remaining processing plants for horse, the number of unwanted and neglected horses has risen dramatically. Tom Lenz, a veterinarian and former president of the AAEP, says the bill doesn't really address the core issue which is what to do with these horses that are no longer wanted or needed.
"If we are going to prohibit people selling or transporting the horses to a processing plant, then who is going to provide funding or infrastructure to take care of them, because obviously the owners can't or they wouldn't be selling them," Lenz says. "I think that's why most of the horse industry opposes this legislation; it's not that they're pro-slaughter, but they don't have the funding to take care of the horses that would result from this legislation."
Several members of the Judiciary Committee have already signed on as co-sponsors of the legislation and Lenz expects the bill to likely be passed out of committee and go to the House floor. Baker says AAEP agrees with Lenz's assessment and is continuing to work to educate members of Congress.
"Veterinarians are the people that in this whole process are the voice and the individual that has the best concern for the welfare of the horse," Baker says. "We hope Congress will listen to the many members of not only our organization, but others who have similar credentials, and hear their concerns about the unintended consequences that we are already seeing to some degree because of the closure of the plants in the U.S."