Faced this summer with whether to allow the slaughter of horses for meat, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said nay.
Collins, a Maine Republican, is among a bipartisan group of senators who hopes to bar permanently any horse slaughterhouses in the country as well as exporting horses for human consumption.
“Horses hold a special place in our history and culture, and the practice of slaughtering them to satisfy foreign appetites simply does not reflect the admiration we have for these animals,” Collins said.
She’s not the only Maine lawmaker trying to crack down on the use of beloved animals for food.
U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a 2nd District Republican, and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a 1st District Democrat, are among 150 co-sponsors of a House bill that would bar people from eating dogs and cats, which is not explicitly illegal in most states.
Only six states specifically outlaw raising dogs and cats for food, though some might prosecute those who do for animal cruelty.
The House proposal would also prohibit anyone from engaging in shipping cats and dogs for others to slaughter or consume.
Poliquin supports “this common-sense, bipartisan effort” that would “provide yet another tool for law enforcement to go after those who would cruelly abuse animals,” spokesman Brendan Conley said.
Maine apparently doesn’t have any specific prohibition on eating dogs or cats. Nor does it have laws barring the transport of horses, dogs or cats to out-of-state slaughterhouses.
U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Florida, said in a prepared statement that he introduced the Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act of 2017 because it is legal to slaughter dogs and cats for food in much of the country as long they are killed humanely.
“It is long overdue for Congress to unify animal cruelty laws across our country to explicitly ban the killing and consumption of these animals,” Hastings said.
Unlike dogs and cats, which have mostly been eaten in Asian countries, horse meat has long been a poor man’s alternative to beef in Europe and, at times, in America.
Most of the horses that might wind up on someone’s plate are mustangs that are running wild on Western lands. President Donald Trump this spring called for slashing the budget of the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the mustangs and often feeds them. He is reportedly eyeing the removal of restrictions that keep mustangs from winding up in Canadian and Mexican slaughterhouses.
Though there is no ban on horse meat consumption in the United States, there is a law in place barring the oversight of horse meat by federal inspectors and another law that makes it illegal to serve or distribute meat that hasn’t been inspected.
Collins is an original co-sponsor of a Senate measure that would further crack down on the use of horses for meat, a proposal that has fallen short in previous sessions of Congress.
That bill says that “unlike cows, pigs, and other domesticated species, horses and other members of the equidae family are not raised for the purpose of human consumption.”
Moreover, it said, horses are often treated with drugs and substances not intended for people to eat, so their meat would be unsafe.
The bill bans eating horse meat or exporting horses to slaughterhouses, steps that would dry up any obvious American involvement in the horse meat trade.
U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., said in a prepared statement that he introduced the measure because “the gruesome practice of slaughtering horses for food has no place in the United States, and it’s well past time for Congress to say once and for all that horse meat is not what’s for dinner.”
In addition to co-sponsoring the bill, which is before the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Collins also voted in July for an appropriations amendment that would lock in a prohibition on slaughterhouses for horses in the U.S.
A House panel, on the other hand, voted to allow the slaughterhouses, with supporters insisting it would be more humane to kill horses for food in the U.S. than to ship them long distances to Canada or Mexico to suffer the same fate.
It is not yet clear what the final bill will say, though animal rights activists see hope that the Senate viewpoint will prevail.
In addition to the measures to squelch the consumption of dogs, cats and horses, there are bills under consideration to prevent people from owning lions, tigers and other big cats, from slicing the fins off sharks, and legislation outlawing the testing of cosmetics on small mammals such as guinea pigs.
Maine U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, prepares for a hearing in 2016.