Preventing horse slaughter - a personal evolution
By Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) - 02/14/12 12:36 PM ET
A few years ago, when I was still serving in the Senate, I was asked to support legislation that would ban the practice of slaughtering horses for human consumption. My initial reaction was cool to the notion that the federal government should be mandating or telling owners of these horses what they can or cannot do with their animals. However, my initial instincts on such a policy were outweighed by the personal and practical experience that horse owners brought to my attention, including my son, Chet. An avid horseman, Chet is active in the horse industry and had rescued several horses from a “killer buyer” — one who buys horses from sometimes unsuspecting owners and then sells them to slaughterhouses. My son retrained and sold those horses to become champion polo ponies. His experience showed me that live, active horses support an important infrastructure of jobs and economies in the United States. A live horse needs to be fed, groomed and trained, as well as receive vet care, among other things. This in turn creates and maintains a viable and enduring way of life in rural America. The sale of horses to killer-buyers in fact generates very little profit for the seller while simultaneously choking off the demand for the goods and services that other buyers would create.
I was proud to become a co-sponsor of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act and strongly support its enactment into law. Notwithstanding my personal evolution in seeking a ban to the practice of slaughtering horses for human consumption and the interstate transportation thereof, which the legislation would do, I support this legislation for three compelling reasons: Banning horse slaughter would save taxpayers millions of dollars every year, as it would eliminate a wasteful federal program that only serves to benefit a handful of foreign-owned companies; it would help foster and promote sustainable jobs in rural America; and it would end the needless suffering of more than 100,000 American horses each year, which are hauled across the United States to slaughter houses in Mexico and Canada to supply so‐called “high‐end” restaurants in France and Belgium.
Recently the proponents of the horse slaughter industry, who have been vigorously opposing the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, seized on a report by the Government Accountability Office that made flawed claims, based on flawed evidence, about there now being “too many horses,” which are starving to death and subsequently depressing horse prices. None of this is true. Unfortunately, in the ensuing confusion Congress enacted H.R. 2112, the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2012, which removed a long‐standing prohibition on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ability to inspect horses bound for slaughter, thus allowing for the resumption of horse slaughter in the United States — and the expenditure of federal tax dollars on a program that will benefit only foreign interests, not rural America.
Horse slaughter proponents further claim that slaughter exists because there are too many unwanted horses, but fail to point out that even when horse slaughter was allowed in the United States, a large number of horses from Canada were imported annually to a horse slaughter facility in Illinois. If we had too many horses, why did that facility need to import them?
I spent my entire political career working to reduce federal spending, shrink the size of the government, and promote American jobs. Supporting the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act fits all of those key goals while also helping reduce unnecessary animal suffering. For myself, the horse industry, and the majority of Americans who support a ban on horse slaughter, passage of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act is a win‐win issue for America.
Lott is senior counsel at the law firm Patton Boggs LLP and former Senate majority leader.