Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Florida Horse-Slaughter Arrest Increases Push to Protect Them

Late in 2015, quick action by Columbia County's Neighbors' Equine Assistance Team (NEAT) saved 20 plus Standardbreds from the auction block and possible horse-slaughter.

MIAMI, FL – The arrest of a Miami-Dade man for selling horse meat to undercover agents this month is being called an important step toward infiltrating the secret world of horse slaughter. But animal-rights groups say much more needs to be done.

It may surprise many to know that horse slaughter is not technically illegal in the United States. Instead, each year advocates must fight to de-fund the Food and Drug Administration's horse slaughter facilities inspection program.

In 2015, more than 100,000 American horses were shipped overseas to be slaughtered for meat, according to Marty Irby, senior director of rural outreach and equine protection at the Humane Society of the United States. And he believes it's time to put more protections in place for these animals.

"America was built on the backs of horses," Irby said. "And whether it's the wild horses out on the range, or horses that are being raced, or horses that are being utilized for trail riding, the American people have enough respect for horses that they don't think they should be slaughtered and consumed."

Legislation has been introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate to prohibit the establishment of horse-slaughter operations within the U.S. and to end the current export of American horses for slaughter abroad. The bipartisan bill is co-sponsored in the House by Florida Rep. Vern Buchanan, but has not yet come up for a vote.

Not only is the transport across borders and subsequent slaughter of horses cruel to the animals, Irby said, consuming horse meat poses a particular danger to humans.

"Because horses are raised differently than farm animals that are produced for their meat, horses have different drugs they've been given - things that are in them that wouldn't be safe for humans to eat," he explained.

A variation of the legislation, called the Safeguard American Food Exports Act, has been introduced for the past several years, but has yet to make it across the finish line.

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