Slaughterhouses lose federal funding

The end of the practice of slaughtering horses, including retired race horses, for human consumption, moved closer to reality Wednesday when the United States House of Representatives voted 269-158 to pass an amendment to an appropriations bill which called for the removal of federal funding for the three slaughterhouses currently operating in the U.S.

By doing so, the slaughterhouses would no longer have government paid workers, including inspectors, working on site. Without the federal workers, the slaughterhouses would have no choice but to shut down.

The legislation was the result of efforts by, among others, Rep. John Sweeney, a New York Republican, whose district includes Saratoga Springs. The bill will now go to the Senate, where Nevada Republican John Ensign, who is a also a veterinarian, has been leading the fight to ban horse slaughter in this country. If the Senate approves the measure, it will become effective Oct. 1 and last for one year. During that period, anti-slaughter lawmakers will continue to work for passage of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, which would permanently ban slaughter in the U.S. for human consumption. More than 65,000 horses were slaughtered in the U.S. in 2004, many of retired Thoroughbreds.

"I am not surprised by the outcome," said prominent Thoroughbred owner and breeder John Hettinger, who has been a leading figure in the anti-slaughter fight. "I am surprised by the margin of victory--111 votes--which shows clearly that despite the best efforts of the AAEP, the AVMA, the AQHA and the Cattleman's Association, the will of the Congress is known and the will of the congress reflects the will of the people on this dirty `convenience.' I believe groups espousing it will lose credibility at a rate they cannot even imagine."

Said Wayne Pacelle, the president of the United States Humane Society: "This is the beginning of the end of horse slaughter for human consumption in the United States. We knew it had tremendous support. It was always just a question of getting a vote."

The slaughter problem has received much more attention in recent years, in part because of news reports that Hall of Fame horse Exceller and 1986 Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand were slaughtered in overseas meat plants.