As effective as the annual bans on USDA inspections of horse slaughter for human consumption have been, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-IL, and Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-FL want a more permanent solution.

They’ve introduced H.R. 961, the Safeguard American Food Exports Act that deems “equine parts” as unsafe, a notion to which large parts of Asia and Europe might take exception. The bill in the U.S. House of Representatives also bans the “knowing sale or transport of equines or equine parts in interstate or foreign commerce.”

The Schakowsky-Buchanan bill has collected 225 co-sponsors in the House but has not gone far since it was introduced early last year and assigned to two subcommittees.

But yesterday, the bill was allowed to generate a little traction by being included in the Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Energy’s hearing on “Improving Safety and Transparency in America’s Food and Drugs.”

The committee heard testimony from two panels. It wanted to hear about any of the 10 bills, including H.R. 961. The list included:

H.R. 961, the “Safeguard American Food Exports Act of 2019”

H.R. 1769, the “Defending Against Imitations and Replacement of Yogurt, Milk, and Cheese To Promote Regular Intake of Dairy Everyday Act” or the “DAIRY PRIDE Act”

H.R. 2117, the “Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research Act of 2019” or the “FASTER Act of 2019”

H.R. 2267, the “Infant Formula Protection Act of 2019”

H.R. 2827, the “Keep Food Containers Safe from PFAS Act of 2019”

H.R. 4487, the “Codifying Useful Regulatory Definitions Act” or the “CURD Act”

H.R. 4712, the “Fairness in Orphan Drug Exclusivity Act”

H.R. 4866, the “National Centers of Excellence in Continuous Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Act of 2019”

H.R. 5663, the “Safeguarding Therapeutics Act”

H.R. 5668, the “Making Objective Drug Evidence Revisions for New Labeling Act of 2020” or the “MODERN Labeling Act of 2020”

Rep. Schakowsky says a ban on horse slaughter in the U.S. along with the prohibition on exporting horses for human consumption is needed “for the health of consumers and wellbeing of horses.”

“Many of the substances used to treat horses are banned by FDA, making horsemeat dangerous for human consumption,” she said. “As a lifelong advocate for consumer protection and animal welfare, I welcome the focus on this legislation.”

Rep. Buchanan, the co-chair of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, calls the slaughter of horses for human consumption a “barbaric practice.” Animal activist groups, such as the Humane Society of the United States, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), and the Animal Welfare Institution, are backing H.R. 961

The European Union, which claims to have more stringent food safety practices than the United States, requires 200,000 horses per year for human consumption. To satisfy its demand, the E.U. imports horses from Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, and Uruguay.

Horse meat is on the menu in China, Japan, Mexico, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Spain, Iceland, France, Russia, Kazakhstan, and many Eastern European, South American, Southeast, and Eastern Asian countries.

In 2005, shortly after the last U.S. horse slaughterhouse shutdown, the USDA was prohibited from spending any money on equine inspections. USDA must inspect any meat for human consumption in the U.S.

In 2011, President Obama asked Congress to lift the prohibition, and USDA began to review requests for “grants of inspection” from a handful of applicants in rural areas. By 2014, however, bipartisan action re-imposed the ban on equine spending, and it was re-imposed before any applicant was able to obtain a “grant of Inspection” from USDA.

Since then, the budget ban has been re-imposed annually, and there are no prospects for horse slaughter within the U.S.

The HSUS estimates 60,000 U.S. horses are exported annually for human consumption. “The fact is American horses should not be on anyone’s dinner menu –here or overseas,” says Kitty Block, HSUS president and CEO. Riders routinely treat their horses with chemical ointments and various drugs, and that leaves them with residues that would be unsafe in food.

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