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A Timeline of Horse Slaughter Legislation in the United States

The complicated legal issue of horse slaughter for human consumption has been debated in U.S. courts and Congress for years.

By Leslie Potter | March 2012 Extra

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The horse slaughter argument has heated up in recent months since the 2012 appropriations bill was approved without a ban for horse meat inspections. But this isn't the first time the horse slaughter debate has been a hot topic. The timeline below lists some of the key dates in the United States horse slaughter industry.

Updated January 2014

Nov. 3, 1998: California voters passed Proposition 6 which banned the slaughter of horses, donkeys and mules and sale of horse meat for human consumption.

June 8, 2005: Rep. John Sweeney (R-NY) proposes an amendment to the 2005-2006 appropriations bill that prohibits the use of federal funding for inspections of horses for meat. The amendment passed on a vote of 269-158.:

Sept. 20, 2005: Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), a veterinarian, and nine co-sponsors proposed a companion amendment to the Sweeney amendment that had passed the House of Representatives. The Senate amendment passed 69-28.

Nov. 10, 2005: The Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2005-2006 was signed into law. This appropriation bill included the following paragraph that ultimately led to the closure of horse slaughterhouses in the United States.

H. R. 2744—45
SEC. 794. Effective 120 days after the date of enactment of this Act, none of the funds made available in this Act may be used to pay the salaries or expenses of personnel to inspect horses under section 3 of the Federal Meat inspection Act (21 U.S.C. 603) or under the guidelines issued under section 903 the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996 (7 U.S.C. 1901 note; Public Law 104–127). (full text)

Feb. 8, 2006: The USDA issued a regulation (CFR 352.19) that allowed the remaining slaughterhouses to circumvent the horse inspection funding ban by paying for their own inspections.

Sept. 7, 2006: The House of Representatives passes the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, which would ban the sale and transport of American horses for human consumption. The Senate bill died in committee.

Jan. 7, 2007: Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D-IL) reintroduced the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (H.R. 503). The bill was referred to the House Agriculture Committee and never moved to a full vote.

Jan 17, 2007: Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) introduced S. 311, the senate version of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act. It never reached a full vote of the Senate.

January 19, 2007: The a three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit upheld Chapter 149 of the Texas Agriculture Code banning the sale, transfer or possession of horse meat for human consumption. This decision was upheld by the 19 judges of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on March 6, 2007. The statute had been in effect since 1949 but had not been enforced during the years that the Texas slaughterhouses were operational. This decision was upheld by the 19 judges of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on March 6, 2007.

March 23, 2007: The Dallas Crown slaughterhouse of Kaufman, Texas shut down operations. The mayor and residents of Kaufman had fought a long and expensive battle in an effort to shutter the plant, which had a long list of environmental complaints and was considered a public nuisance.

March 28, 2007: U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that it was illegal for horse slaughterhouses to pay the USDA for their own horse meat inspections, closing the loophole that had allowed horse slaughter to continue around the federal law. USDA inspectors were pulled from Cavel International, the equine slaughterhouse in DeKalb, Ill. the following day, and operations were shut down.

However, Cavel appealed the decision and argued for an injunction in July 2007, and were able to resume slaughter while the case was still under consideration.

May 24, 2007: Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed H.B. 1711 into law, banning the slaughter of horses for human consumption in that state. The bill had been sponsored by Rep Robert Molaro (D-Chicago) and Sen. John Cullerton (D-Chicago) in February 2007. The bill was appealed by the operators of Belgian-owned Cavel International slaughterhouse in DeKalb, Ill.

Sept. 21, 2007: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that the Illinois horse slaughter ban was constitutional, putting the final nail in the coffin of the last operational horse slaughterhouse in the U.S.

July 9, 2011: Sen Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and cosponsor Lindsey Graham (R-SC) reintroduced the American Horse Slaughter Protection Act (S. 1176).

Sept. 9, 2011: The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a version of the agriculture appropriations bill that no longer contained the ban on funding for horse meat inspections.

Nov. 17, 2011: The agriculture appropriations bill for 2012 was passed by Congress and signed into law without the wording that had prohibited horse meat inspections since 2006.

March 2013: The Safeguard American Food Exports Act was introduced in both the House and Senate. If passed into law, the Act would declare horsemeat unsafe and ban the sale of horses to slaughter and of horsemeat for human consumption.

April 2013: The White House released a budget proposal for 2014 that would once again prohibit federal funding of horse meat inspections.

January 2014: A new federal budget with the horse slaughter prohibition language included was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama.

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Reader Comments

Gwen    Tacoma, WA

12/4/2017 1:13:00 PM

Madison I am 1000% positive that you have been misinformed regarding the truth about horse slaughter. We all try to not think about it and some of us try to rationalize it as being more humane then allowing horses to be sick or starve. What you must not know is healthy horses that deserve a second chance and some that have been either stolen and or mistakenly sent make up a large majority of horses found in kill pens. I know because I rescue them as well as the sick ones that need a second chance. Sending a loyal companion with no food or water for days scared in a trailer to ultimately be killed in Mexico or Canada is cruel, if people love their horses and knew the truth they would never allow them to be treated that way. This ugly business is causing rescues to be completely over flowing due to the people profiting from this disgusting market.


5/11/2017 9:23:05 PM

RESPONDING TO "MADISON" FROM NOCONA, TX WHO MADE A COMMENT 10/7/16: You are the one with your head in the clouds; i don't care how long you've been a horsie person; it's obvious you don't have a clue about what's happening with the horse slaughter issues. There are papered, young, healthy, beautiful, PREGNANT, heavily trained horses being stuffed in kill pens all across the U.S. as they didn't sell at auction. Your comment about the only ones being slaughtered are the Heinz 57's, the sick and old could not be more incorrect. The overabundance of unwanted horses starts with backyard breeders & irresponsible owners. Inform yourself! You have a lot to learn.

Karen    La Porte, IN

3/14/2017 6:23:56 AM

Can this article be updated to the current year, 2017? It's very informative and I appreciate it.

Madison    nocona, TX

10/7/2016 3:26:20 PM

I have had the great pleasure of working with and riding/training horses since I was capable of walking. Any true horseman knows that horse slaughter is necessary, especially with the amounting number of unwanted horses in the united states. For those of you who simply believe that "relocating" these animals helps them I would like to prove how wrong you are. I don't think people realize how many horses are starving to death or dying horrible deaths because their owners can no longer care for them. Yes, relocation would work in a great and beautiful world but we have to face the fact that we can't just continue to let poorly bred horses continue to breed and tarnish their species. Horse slaughter can be done properly, just as cattle can be slaughtered properly. Horses are LIVESTOCK not COMPANION animals. They were never truly used as companion animals. Horse's were first used as food and were one of the last animals to be domesticated. I would love to see all of you "horse" people to tell me exactly where you are going to put all these extra sick/old/disease riddled creatures at and how you plan on paying for them? One horse should have at least 2-4 acres of their own, so tell me how many of you actually have the area to house 17 horses, can pay their vet bills, pay their expenses, and the rest of their upkeeping? I would just LOVE you to tell me how exactly you plan on keeping all these horses? Because you "back yard" horse owners have your head in the clouds.....

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