“What we need is responsible horse owners to stop the overbreeding…”
TRENTON — Horse slaughter is one step closer to being illegal in New Jersey.
A bill designed to prohibit the sale of horses for human consumption passed in the state General Assembly on Thursday with a vote of 72-3 in favor.
The bill specifies in prohibiting horse meat for human consumption.
With its approval, the bill will be sent to the Senate and go through committee through June. Once it passes through the Legislature, it goes to Gov. Chris Christie for his signature.
Bill sponsor Ronald Dancer (R-12) helped create the legislation after a federal law against slaughter of horses for human consumption was lifted last fall. While new federal legislation, called the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, is in the works, Dancer decided to take the initiative and create a state law banning it. He is optimistic that the bill will become law.
Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-20) is the Senate sponsor.
“I feel confident that the Senate will act upon the bill with Sen. Lesniak’s leadership in the Senate,” Dancer said.
If the bill becomes a law, it prohibits anyone from selling or slaughtering horses for human consumption. Penalties for violators include civil fines between $500 and $1,000 for each horse slaughtered or carcass of meat sold.
“Our preference is that horses be humanely euthanized,” Dancer said.
The assemblyman is proud of New Jersey for taking initiative on the issue and hopes to lead the rest of the nation in a prohibition against the practice.
NJ.com readers weighed in on the controversial issue.
“None of us prefer the sentencing to death or slaughter of any animal, regardless of the species; but, the reality of it all is, that we need horse slaughter houses as a practical alternative and solution to govern the horse population,” said Gayle O’Neal, a NJ.com commenter.
“We don’t need slaughter houses to control the population,” said commenter Adam Romanik. “What we need is responsible horse owners to stop the overbreeding of the already out of control horse population.”
Vickery Eckhoff, a Forbes.com contributor who writes extensively on predatory practices in the horse industry including horse slaughter, noted that the drugs horses are given throughout their lives make horse meat unfit for human consumption.
One drug, called phenylbutazone, also referred to as “bute” or “horse aspirin,” is a known carcinogen for humans, according to the National Toxicology Program.
Bute is an anti-inflammatory drug for horses that treats short-term pain or fever. According to Eckhoff, virtually all thoroughbreds are given bute during their lives.
“These are all legal to use on regular horses but not legal for food animals,” Eckhoff explained.
With the lack of medical records at horse auctions, there is no way of telling which of the horses has been treated with medication. Given this uncertainty, Eckhoff argues that all horses are unfit for consumption.
“There are instances where trainers take horses directly from the track to kill buyers,” Eckhoff claims.
She first became aware of the issue when she was younger and growing up near a horse slaughterhouse on Long Island. When her older sister was going to college, she sold her beloved horse to a horse trainer. When the horse trainer went bankrupt, Eckhoff believes her sister’s horse was sold to be slaughtered.
“For me it’s a personal issue because he was a lovely horse,” she said.
As she became more aware of the issue, she followed a horse rescue group on Facebook and even saved one of the horses.
According to John Holland, president of the Equine Welfare Alliance, an all-volunteer, 501(c)(4) organization, a federal ban would be preferable to combating horse slaughter.
“We won’t solve this problem until we get a federal ban, but a state ban is a good statement,” he said.
Holland explained how a patchwork of state laws could still be bypassed by members of the horse slaughter industry. Some, he said, will always try to test the limits of the laws.
He is, however, optimistic about states passing their own legislation.
“Certainly if New Jersey passed this, it will be a really good indication of things to come,” Holland said.
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