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More protection for state's wild horses OK'd by House

June 09, 2005
By Suzanne Struglinski
<suzanne@lasvegassun.com>
SUN WASHINGTON BUREAU

WASHINGTON - The House agreed to ban federal funding for inspectors at horse slaughterhouses and border inspection sites on Wednesday, adding another potential layer of protection for the Nevada's wild horse population.

Last month the House agreed to ban the Bureau of Land Management sales of wild horses after the government discovered dozens had been bought and then resold to slaughterhouses that sold the meat to foreign countries.

Sales have resumed, unless the Senate agrees to the same ban, but the BLM has implemented stricter guidelines and consequences for those who buy horses and do not intend to care for them.

But Wednesday's amendment, approved 269 to 158, offered by Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C., and Rep. John Sweeney, R-N.Y., aims to end horse slaughter for human consumption overall.

"We do not eat our horses in the United States and it makes good fiscal sense to prohibit any further waste of the American people's hard earned money for an industry that offers absolutely no economic value to the United States," Sweeney said in a statement. "Even more importantly, it is our moral responsibility as a humane nation to protect our equine pets, companions and athletes from the cruelty of horse slaughter."

Nevada Reps. Jon Porter, Jim Gibbons and Shelley Berkley voted yes on the amendment to the agriculture spending bill, agreeing to not fund inspectors at the plants.

Spratt said, "Passage of our amendment sends a strong message: Americans will not tolerate this senseless act of animal cruelty."

The bill also closes any loophole of factories shipping horse meat through Canada or Mexico because it also removes money for border inspections for horse meat. Without an Agriculture Department stamp the other countries will not accept it, according to Sweeney's office.

James Tucker, general manager of Cavel International, one of the three U.S. factories that kill horses and sell the meat to foreign countries, said if the amendment becomes law, there would be an impact on the factory and the industry but may not shut it down completely.

Tucker said without federal inspectors, the factory would have to fund their own inspections. He said the company will have to evaluate how much it would add to operating costs and if it would eventually reduce the foreign market.

Tucker said the argument that U.S. taxpayer money should not fund a market Americans do not use can be applied to many agriculture exports. He said that theory also does not consider the money brought in by shipping the meat, such as shipping containers and trucks or the 50 employees that work at Cavel.

Meanwhile, Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., plans to introduce legislation that would ban the interstate shipment of horses for slaughter for human consumption, possibly in the next two weeks.

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