Saving our horses from slaughter

Below the West Front of the U.S. Capitol is one of our nation’s most famous statues honoring Civil War Gen. and former President Ulysses S. Grant. In front of the White House is former President Andrew Jackson, and in D.C.’s historic Foggy Bottom area is former President George Washington. Carved into the stone with these famous riders are the horses that carried them into battle.

Horses have played an important role in shaping our national character, carrying us westward. They have served as our partners for decades. There is a unique bond between humans and horses. Horses are used for sport, work, companionship and much more. These noble animals have never been raised for the purpose of slaughter in the United States.

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Horse slaughterhouses have not operated in the United States since 2007, but each year, more than 100,000 horses are trucked long distances across the borders to Mexico and Canada with the intent to slaughter them for human consumption.

This practice is not only cruel, as transport to these slaughterhouses is lengthy and inhumane; it poses serious health and food export risks. The Food and Drug Administration has prohibited certain drugs for use in animals that will be used for human consumption. Because horses are not raised for slaughter, they are routinely given these common drugs during their lives, posing a serious health risk to humans when the horses are ingested.

The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act of 2011 would ban the export of horses for slaughter. It would also create a permanent ban on the inhumane killing of American horses for human consumption in our country — instead encouraging humane euthanasia when horses become old, sick or are no longer productive. Most importantly, this legislation is consistent with the views of 80 percent of Americans on this issue, who, according to a recent poll, oppose horse slaughter.

In recent years, our horses have been protected from domestic slaughter due to Congress’s suspension of funding for horse-meat inspections. This year, however, instead of an open, full congressional debate on the issue, a few members of Congress reinstated funding for these inspections during a conference committee on appropriations legislation. This action does not reflect the current public opinion on this subject, and it opens the door to horse slaughter in our country, increasing the need to create a permanent ban on the practice, as was one of the recommendations in the June 2011 Government Accountability Office report.

Public opinion has prevented any horse slaughter plant from opening after funding for inspections was reinstated. When plants were proposed in Mountain Grove, Mo., and Roswell, N.M., the outcry was overwhelming. A similar outcry recently derailed a bill to promote horse slaughter in Tennessee. Clearly, it is time to pass the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act.

These animals are an integral part of the history and spirit that formed our nation and continue to inform its development. It is time for Congress to act to end this cruel and inhumane practice for good.

Landrieu is a member of the Senate Committee on Appropriations. Borghese is an actor from ABC’s “The Bachelor” and honorary animal welfare ambassador for The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals