Local state legislators, thoroughbred industry professionals and equine advocates want New York to protect horses from slaughter in the face of changing attitudes about this practice around the country.
Legislation that would impose a statewide ban on slaughtering horses for consumption and penalties for transporting horses out of the state for slaughter was championed Thursday morning by state Sen. Kathy Marchione, R-Halfmoon, and Assemblyman James Tedisco, R-Glenville. They made the case for their bill, which has a Democratic lead sponsor in the Assembly, at a race horse retirement ranch in Greenfield.
Marchione is the main sponsor of the bill in the Senate and Tedisco is a co-sponsor in the Assembly.
The push for legislation was prompted by the development of a horse meat plant in New Mexico and steps in that direction in Oklahoma, which represent a shift in the country from 2007, when federal protections were put in place. Since that time, though, horses have still been exported out of the country for slaughter. Marchione noted that almost 140,000 horses were sent to Canada for slaughter in 2010.
Two years ago, Congress removed the de facto prohibition on domestic slaughter of horses and opened the door for a system of slaughter that would be regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Jack Knowlton, co-owner of Sackatoga Stable and a fixture of racing in Saratoga, said lobbying efforts in recent years for a strict federal prohibition haven’t amounted to anything.
“At least we’re going to be showing the way,” he said of the proposed state ban. “Hopefully this can gain some momentum.”
Joyce Anderson, a volunteer at the horse retirement facility, stressed the difference between euthanasia and the slaughtering of horses for consumption. “Horse slaughter is a savage, brutal, barbaric process,” she said.
Equine Advocates President Susan Wagner added that her organization supports euthanasia, because it is done by a doctor with lethal injection. She said that horses that are slaughtered are often nervous and frantic right before they are killed, which sometimes can be having their throats slit.
“There is nothing good about it,” she said.
She added that racing horses aren’t safe to be eaten because of the drugs they’re given to compete. “The meat is unfit for consumption … You can’t have your horses and eat them too.”
If enacted, the laws would be enforced similar to Buster’s Law, with enforcement by officials from the local level up to the state police. Violating the law would be a misdemeanor worth no more than a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The legislation would include ponies, donkeys and mules.
Versions of this legislation have been introduced dating back at least to 2004, but have never even reached a floor vote.