WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Susan Collins (R-Maine) today introduced bipartisan legislation to permanently prohibit and make it a federal crime to slaughter horses for human consumption in the United States. The legislation also bans any related interstate or foreign commercial activity, such as the export of horsemeat or the transport of horses to slaughterhouses in other countries.

“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 horsemeat is not what’s for dinner,” said Sen. Menendez, a regular recipient of the annual Humane Society’s Humane Champion award. “Horses are routinely treated with drugs that are dangerous for human consumption and do not belong in our nation’s food supply. Our bipartisan legislation will help put an end to the cruel and inhumane slaughter of horses while protecting families from toxic horse meat and safeguarding the reputation of the U.S. food industry worldwide."

“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,” said Sen. Collins. “In an effort to protect horses, this legislation would deter the transport or purchase of horses for human consumption.”

The Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act prohibits the knowing sale or transport of equines or equine parts in interstate or foreign commerce for purposes of human consumption. It also makes it a federal crime punishable by up to two years in prison for individuals and slaughterhouses who violate the law.

While the slaughtering of horses for human consumption in the United States is exceedingly rare, data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reveals that over 100,000 American horses are exported to Canadian and Mexican slaughterhouses each year.

Sen. Menendez continually leads the effort to ban horsemeat by defunding federally required meat inspections by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) at slaughterhouses where horses are sent, which effectively prohibits any slaughter plants from killing horses.

“Horse slaughter is fundamentally cruel. The fear and suffering of the animals, while reason enough to stop this industry, are not the only problems,” said Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. “Since American horses are not raised for human consumption and are given medications that can be dangerous for humans to consume. We applaud these Senators who have taken a stand with most Americans who view horse slaughter as the true abomination it is.”

“Horse industry stakeholders and animal welfare organizations are joining forces on equine welfare solutions by assisting at-risk horses and providing safety net services for owners in need, but those efforts cannot prevent this practice as long as it remains legal. Each year that passes without a ban on horse slaughter in place subjects tens of thousands of American horses to a horrific fate—one that is entirely avoidable,” said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of ASPCA Government Relations. “We are grateful to Senators Menendez, Graham, Whitehouse, and Collins for their leadership in moving the SAFE Act forward to protect horses from this greed-driven cruelty.”

“We are grateful to Senators Menendez, Graham, Whitehouse, and Collins for their leadership in ending the slaughter of American horses for human consumption by introducing the John Stringer Rainey Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act,” said Cathy Liss, president of the Animal Welfare Institute. “The problem of tens of thousands of American horses being shipped to slaughter abroad has persisted for far too long, despite overwhelming public opposition to this practice. The food safety and animal welfare concerns associated with the horse slaughter industry are simply too great to ignore. We owe it to these majestic animals to ensure that they do not meet an inhumane death and that the predatory horse slaughter industry is finally stamped out in the United States.”

“That more than 80,000 American horses—including an unknown number who once roamed freely on our public lands—are shipped to their deaths in foreign slaughterhouses each year is an unnecessary betrayal of the animals that helped us build our country, continue to serve humanity and inspire people around the world as a symbol of the American spirit,” said Neda DeMayo, president of Return to Freedom Wild Horse Conservation. “RTF applauds Senators Menendez, Graham, Whitehouse and Collins for recognizing the public’s overwhelming opposition to horse slaughter and continuing this bipartisan fight for the good of America’s horses and for human health.”

“It is time to ban the slaughter of American horses for human consumption. Horses are an iconic American species, in large part because of their amazing contributions to the building of our nation,” said Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. “They deserve better than being shipped overseas to slaughter. We applaud Senators Menendez, Whitehouse, Collins and Graham for helping to protect them from the inhumane practices of slaughter.”

Full text of the SAFE Act can be downloaded here.