IN RESPONSE TO SAFE ACT OPPONENTS - I've been answering calls from leaders and advocates around the country with questions about the opposition from Susan Wagner and her group, Equine Advocates, and her baseless speculation that the bill has a loophole that will allow large-scale commercial horse slaughter to continue. It's deeply disappointing to me that the SAFE Act is under attack, not from the meat lobby this time, but from a group that purports to work for equine welfare. I wanted to put my response in writing so readers can circulate it or send it to anyone who has questions.
First, I want to make clear the language in the SAFE Act is what the sponsors in Congress wanted, and those sponsors resisted any changes. As written, the SAFE Act amends the Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act of 2018 by simply adding the words "or equines," thus protecting our nation's top three companion animal species from slaughter.
• Those speculating that the lack of a provision banning slaughter for animal consumption have provided no evidence or proof to support their claims. As the ones seeking to block the SAFE Act, they have the burden of proving their arguments. Thus far we haven’t seen anything other than that they “think” these scenarios “could” happen. Yet we’ve seen nothing to substantiate their speculation.
• The SAFE Act, as written, will effectively prevent the export of American equines for slaughter for any purpose. Nevertheless, we support the idea of strengthening the bill with an “animal consumption” amendment if and when the opportunity arises in the legislative process. First, however, we need to get the SAFE Act added as an amendment to the Farm Bill, as that is our most promising venue for passage. If we are successful, then we can work on amending it during the markup process to add the animal consumption piece.
• The speculation that U.S. tribes might exploit the lack of a provision for animal consumption makes no sense and would be economically nonviable. Who would the tribes sell to? No U.S. pet food companies use horse meat in their products, and pet food companies in Mexico and Canada that use horse meat are buying byproducts from companies that slaughter for human consumption. The foreign pet food companies are not buying live horses or whole horse carcasses, just bits and pieces not suited for humans. Thus, if the SAFE Act passes, any byproducts used by foreign pet food companies would NOT be from U.S. horses. If Susan and her group have reason to believe the tribes, or anyone else for that matter, could somehow profitably market the meat of roughly 20,000 U.S. horses per year (that's the number currently being exported for slaughter) to a foreign pet food market, I'd love to know what that reason is and who exactly will be buying.
• In response to speculation that Purina is using or will use U.S. horse meat in their Mexican pet food manufacturing plant, we called and wrote to Purina. Purina stated emphatically, over the phone and in writing, that they do not use horse meat in any of their products, including in Mexico.
• We also called Nebraska Packing, the only U.S. company we know of that imports equine products to be sold for zoo animal consumption. They stated they only purchase byproducts from horses slaughtered in Canada for human consumption. Again, if SAFE passes, any byproducts purchased by Nebraska Packing would NOT come from US horses.
• It has likewise been speculated that an exemption in the dog and cat meat law might be exploited by pro-slaughter tribes to engage in large-scale commercial slaughter of equines for human or pet food. However, the exemption in question states that slaughter is allowed only “for purposes of a religious ceremony.” That exemption wouldn’t apply to horses because no tribes in the US kill horses as part of a religious ceremony. This speculation is even more nonsensical given that a tribe would essentially have to invent a new religious ceremony to kill large numbers of animals for a commercial market that doesn’t exist.
• It has been suggested that the SAFE Act should include a ban on “intra-state” trade in horse meat, ostensibly to prevent tribes or others from selling horse meat within the state where a horse slaughter facility would be located. As I understand their argument, that would require a viable market of consumers within that one state who are ready to buy and eat the toxic, drug-laden meat of roughly 20,000 American equines every year. Again, that’s not a viable or realistic scenario, and in the unlikely event it came to pass, there are multiple avenues for shutting it down.
And finally, the suggestion that animal consumption wasn't included in the SAFE Act due to some kind of "backroom deal" is false, insulting, hurtful, and also defamatory. To those making those statements, knock it off!
Friends, let's drop the speculation and move forward as one to support the addition of the SAFE Act as an amendment to the 2023 Farm Bill. This is probably the best, most promising opportunity we've had to finally accomplish our common goal: A ban on the slaughter of American equines.