Republic of Horse

S.727 Senate, 3/26/2009

[Congressional Record Volume 155, Number 52 (Thursday, March 26, 2009)]
[Pages S3899-S3932]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Printing Office []


By Ms. LANDRIEU (for herself, Mr. Ensign, Mr. Cardin, Mrs. Boxer,
        Mr. Graham, Ms. Collins, Mr. McCain, Mr. Lautenberg, Mr.
        Menendez, Mr. Levin, Mr. Carper, Mr. Lieberman, Mr. Byrd, Mr.
        Kerry, and Mr. Leahy):
  S. 727. A bill to amend title 18, United States Code, to prohibit
certain conduct relating to the use of horses for human consumption; to
the Committee on the Judiciary.
  Ms. LANDRIEU. I rise today to introduce a piece of legislation that
this body has seen before, and actually we have passed a version of it
by an overwhelming majority. But we have had difficulty as this bill
has left this body and moved across the Capitol, and the efforts to
pass this bill have actually been thwarted--not so much on the floors
of the Congress or the Senate, but in committee rooms and conference
committees--sometimes out of full public view. It has become an issue
that must be dealt with on its substance, but also the way that
sometimes bills find themselves coming to dead ends, in my view in
inappropriate ways.
  The record of this subject has been long discussed on the floor. But
the bill attempts to end the transport of horses for slaughter to
Canada and to Mexico.
  This Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, a majority, has gone
on record saying that the practice of inhumane slaughter of these
majestic and very noble animals has no place in America. We do not use
their meat for human consumption. It is no longer used even in our pet
foods. This is not true in other parts of the world but it is true here
in America. So we want to have a better system to handle the breeding,
the raising, and the disposal of horses that are old, infirm, and sick.
But taking a perfectly healthy animal and slitting its throat and then
cutting it up with hatchets and saws and moving equipment while it is
still alive is not what people in America would like to believe is
going on. In fact it is--or was until a few years ago, until some of us
got together with a great coalition and ended the practice of slaughter
in the United States.
  There were only three plants operating--two in Texas, one in
Illinois. Those State legislators and the leaders in those States
stepped up and closed down those plants. But the problem is now the
100,000 or so horses out of 900,000 that die naturally every year. We
have about 9 million horses in America, 900,000 die, approximately,
every year. And the great part of this story is that 95 percent of all
horses die a natural and humane death because the owners are very good,
they are very responsible.
  Most people do what is right. That is what happens in most places, on
most subjects. But there is always that small group that, for whatever
reason, proceeds down a path that is wholly inappropriate, although
right now legal--we hope to solve that problem--and inhumanely
slaughters horses.
  The USDA and our own investigation show that 98 percent of the horses
that are inhumanely transported over our borders now to places that
are, of course, unregulated by our Government and very modestly
regulated, if at all, by the Governments of Canada and Mexico, 94
percent of these animals--92, I am sorry, 92.3 percent of those horses
being sent to slaughter are healthy. They are not sick and they are not
infirm and they are not old.
  People say to me: Well, Senator, do you not think we have to find a
way to

[[Page S3926]]

get rid of horses that are sick or too old? I say: Absolutely. There
are humane ways to get rid of horses. But the myth and the lie and the
shame of this slaughtering that is going on is that 92 percent of those
animals are healthy. Many of them are young. Many of them have a great
future. But because there is a loophole in our law right now, they are
being treated in this way.
  So I am introducing this bill with my good friend and colleague John
Ensign, Senator Ensign from Nevada, the leading cosponsor, also with
Senators Cardin, Boxer, Graham, Collins, McCain, Lautenberg, Menendez,
Levin, Carper, Lieberman, Byrd, Kerry, and Leahy as cosponsors,
original cosponsors of this legislation, entitled the Prevention of
Equine Cruelty Act.
  The way this bill would be put into place, should it be passed and
signed by the President into law, is if a person is found in violation
of this act, they are found to knowingly transport or sell or purchase
a horse with the intent to slaughter it for human consumption, they
will be fined, and there will be criminal penalties associated with
this practice. If a defendant is found guilty, he or she could be
sentenced up to 1 year of prison if he or she has no prior convictions.
If he or she does have prior convictions, the penalty will be
  As I have said, although U.S. slaughterhouses have been closed,
thousands of horses are inhumanely, every day, 1,500 a week,
transported across our borders to this deplorable fate. Sometime horses
are shipped as many as 600 miles with limited food and water. I could
show you dozens of pictures. I will spare those who are on the floor
and those watching from the horror of some of these pictures. But if
you want to see them, there are ample pictures and evidence on the
Internet available for what is a mindless and barbaric practice we want
to stop.
  When people say to me: Senator, how are farmers and ranchers going to
afford it? It is expensive to put down a horse. It costs about $225 to
humanely euthanize a horse. It costs $225 to feed a horse for 1 month.
So if you can afford to purchase an animal, if you can afford to
maintain an animal, you most certainly can afford the price of putting
it down humanely, for the work that is done on your behalf, for the
pleasure it has provided you or the transportation it has provided you.
  Horses are used in our country for many different and very necessary
purposes. I want to say this has been a long battle. It started many
years ago. But in September of 2007, the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld
the Illinois statute that banned the slaughterhouse from continuing.
  In April of that same year, the Senate Commerce Committee voted 15 to
7 to ban slaughter. In 2007, in January, the U.S. Court of Appeals for
the Fifth Circuit declared the slaughter of horses for food illegal in
Texas, upholding a law that dated back to 1949. And on September 7--you
might have still been there--the House passed H.R. 503, the American
Horse Slaughter Prevention Act. Unfortunately, that Congress adjourned
before the Senate could take it up, and the Senate did, in October,
take up this matter in the agriculture appropriations bill, only to
have it scuttled again.
  So I submit to you that there is a broad base of bipartisan support
for this legislation. I submit to you that the practice is cruel and
inhumane. I submit to you that I have every court, both at the district
and appellate level, that has weighed in has weighed in on the side of
our efforts here today. And it is my intention, working with Senator
John Ensign from Nevada, to finally get this bill passed, so we will
have, once and for all, ended inhumane slaughter and created a way for
horses to be put down or to die naturally and to be disposed of
properly in this country, which we think will be a great testimony to
the rising awareness of animal care in this Nation.
  Now, when people say: She has gone too far and we are going to do the
same thing for cows and goats and chickens--horses are not raised for
the same purpose as cows and goats and chickens. They are never raised
for slaughter. They are raised for companionship, for partnership, and
that is where the line, I hope, will be drawn.
  Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be
printed in the Record.
  There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be
placed in the Record, as follows:

                                 S. 727

       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of
     the United States of America in Congress assembled,


       This Act may be cited as the ``Prevention of Equine Cruelty
     Act of 2009''.


       (a) In General.--Chapter 3 of title 18, United States Code,
     is amended by adding at the end the following:

     ``Sec. 50. Slaughter of horses for human consumption

       ``(a) Except as provided in subsection (b), whoever
       ``(1) possesses, ships, transports, purchases, sells,
     delivers, or receives, in or affecting interstate commerce or
     foreign commerce, any horse with the intent that it is to be
     slaughtered for human consumption; or
       ``(2) possesses, ships, transports, purchases, sells,
     delivers, or receives, in or affecting interstate commerce or
     foreign commerce, any horse flesh or carcass or part of a
     carcass, with the intent that it is to be used for human
     shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than
     three years or both.
       ``(b) If--
       ``(1) the defendant engages in conduct that would otherwise
     constitute an offense under subsection (a);
       ``(2) the defendant has no prior conviction under this
     section; and
       ``(3) the conduct involves less than five horses or less
     than 2000 pounds of horse flesh or carcass or part of a
     the defendant shall, instead of being punished under that
     subsection, be fined under this title or imprisoned not more
     than one year, or both.
       ``(c) As used in this section, the term `horse' means any
     member of the family Equidae.''.
       (b) Clerical Amendment.--The table of sections for chapter
     3 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding at
     the end the following new item:

``50. Slaughter of horses for human consumption.''.