Last September, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 263 to 146 to pass H.R. 503, which bans the slaughter of horses for human consumption (see "The Last Roundup," cover story, May/June 2006). The Senate will now consider its version of the bill, S. 1915.
Every year, more than 100,000 horses are slaughtered in America or shipped alive to be slaughtered abroad. The issue captured national attention in 2002 when Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand was slaughtered in Japan. Gourmands were offered the opportunity to "Eat an American Champion." In 2005, Congress voted to halt taxpayer support of horse slaughter inspections—effectively killing the sale of horsemeat—but the U.S. Department of Agriculture circumvented Congress by permitting the three foreign-owned slaughterhouses to pay for their own inspections.
The pending bill prohibits "the shipping, transporting, moving, delivering, receiving, possessing, purchasing, selling or donation of horses and other equines to be slaughtered for human consumption." Opponents of the bill argue that slaughterhouses provide a humane end for horses that are old, broken down or sick.