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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

Cynthia    Grass Valley, CA

10/1/2015 1:33:16 AM

Relocate the horses. Do not slaughter them.

Norene    Council Bluffs, Ia., IA

9/29/2015 6:00:36 PM

Murder SINCE when they started all this stuff notright. The U>S>A> ought to stick up for this slaughter save these beautiful horses. Government in Washington, D.C.

Cindy    Bradenton, FL

9/27/2015 12:24:38 PM

Horses are not raised for their my opinion they should not be labeled as "livestock" at the very least they are domestic livestock. How can we slaughter them for their food and deem it safe with all of the hazards not fit for human consumption we give them. It is impossible to tell what horses have been give through out their life. The slaughter process itself is not is any way humane for a horse. How can horse meat even be legal by any standards? To me the USA is just shipping them to other countries to do the dirty work and god knows the contaminated meat is probably coming right back to our country and being mixed in to our food supply. We need to look for other options for our beloved horses who have give us so much. If we stop making it so easy to just throw them away and breed more....the solution will find itself. I pray this day will come soon.

Jay    International

9/22/2015 11:13:20 AM

I can't believe we are still fighting this. If it is not your horse, it is not your business what happens to it. Why is a horses life more valuable than a cow? If I own a horse, and wan to slaughter it, it should be my right to do so. We live in a constitutional democracy, it does not matter if 80% of people disagree, the minorities rights are protected. Don't like horse slaughter, don't slaughter horses. Quit telling others what they are allowed to do with their property.

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