WASHINGTON – Horse slaughter is an issue that cuts to the core of agriculture and it has farmers looking anxiously to their legislators for help.
Ohio Farm Bureau headed to Washington D.C. March 6-8 to encourage their congressmen to vote against a bill banning horse slaughter.
No other option. One of the reasons for opposing the ban is the legislation doesn’t provide an alternative.
“It does not address what will happen to the horses at the end of their useful life,” said Phil Greenisen, Columbiana County Farm Bureau president.
The proposed law does nothing to provide horse welfare and eliminates a humane option for unwanted horses, according to Kelli Ludlum, American Farm Bureau lobbyist.
Each year in the U.S., about 100,000 horses are processed at three plants. Mahoning County Farm Bureau President Dave Kenreich said no one knows what will happen to those horses if slaughter isn’t an option.
Precedent. In addition to concerns about horse welfare, Farm Bureau members also argued that banning horse slaughter could lead to the same laws for cows, hogs, goats, chickens and other livestock.
Marilyn Ruprecht, Knox County Farm Bureau president, said the country needs animal livestock for everything from ethanol to the new farm bill.
“We consider this basic to animal agriculture. If you’re willing to throw this out, what’s next?” she said.
Ludlum said banning horse slaughter would reduce the value of all horses by about $350 each.
Last time. In 2006, lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives disagreed with the Farm Bureau’s arguments. A bill to ban horse slaughter passed by a vote of 263-146, although the legislation later died in the Senate.
New legislation for banning the practice has already been introduced this year.
“Last year, we got outworked,” said Bob Peterson, Ohio Farm Bureau president.
Constituents who opposed the bill didn’t call their congressmen, but those in favor of it got their message through loud and clear.
Ludlum said one of the bill’s main supporters is the Humane Society of the United States, an animal rights organization.
She added that animal rights groups are using the proposed horse slaughter ban to set a precedent for stopping the slaughter of an animal for reasons other than health and safety.
Ohio leaders. House Republican Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, who voted against the bill last year, doesn’t hold much hope that Congress will change its mind in 2007.
“There’s a lot of members who won’t stand up and do the right thing,” he said. ” This is going to be a very big problem, but you can’t explain that to suburban America.”
U.S. Rep. Zack Space, D-Ohio, a member of the House Agricultural Committee, said agriculture is a business and business decisions shouldn’t be based on sentimentality.
“There’s no room for something like that in farming,” he said.
But lawmakers like U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio, feel differently. Schmidt, who also sits on the House Agriculture Committee, favors the horse slaughter ban because a friend had horses stolen for slaughter.
Policy. American Farm Bureau policy opposes any legislation that gives animal rights groups the authority to establish standards for farm management.
“They should be brought under rein and not dictate the way farmers do their business,” said Glenn Smith, Trumbull County Farm Bureau president.
For Farm Bureau presidents like Jo Ann Murtha of Hocking County, the proposed horse slaughter ban has more than just face value.
“If we lose that (the vote), the farm bill, nothing else makes sense,” she said.
(Reporter Janelle Skrinjar welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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