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By Carolyn C. Koelmel

Last month in The Buffalo News, there appeared an article that continues to haunt me. The article told how 30 horses died in a “gruesome” tractor-trailer fire on Interstate 81. The horses were being transported to a slaughterhouse in Quebec.

A clause in federal legislation that prevented horse slaughterhouses from operating in the United States did not prevent the export of horses for slaughter. For this reason, more suffering is caused by allowing horses to be sent on a long, miserable journey to meet their end in Canada or Mexico. Many journeys are 36 hours, 1,000 miles with living horses enduring subfreezing or sweltering temperatures, with no food or water and no chance to unload to move freely.

The passage of Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act of 2013 (S 541/HR 1094) could end this brutal, barbaric treatment of intelligent and sensitive animals. The bill would ban horse slaughter in the United States and the transport of American horses to foreign countries for slaughter. It is incumbent upon Americans to urge our members of Congress to support these bills. When passed, it would effectively end the slaughter of American horses here and abroad.

Human consumption of horse meat is unsafe and risky. Horses are routinely given toxic drugs for worming, pain management and performance enhancements. These drugs can cause fatal human diseases. Shipping these creatures to this horrific end is a betrayal of their good natures and presents a large statement about U.S. views as to what is wise to consume in other countries.

Horse slaughter is a huge money-making business, veiled as a way to dispose of old, unwanted, decrepit companion animals. People must understand the ramifications of responsible ownership. A very high percentage of horses that go to slaughter are in good condition. They bring the seller more dollars per pound. Unwanted horses, no matter their condition, need to be treated humanely: safe relocation or humane euthanasia and disposal.

Controlling the population is key. Breeding should be limited. The horse racing industry discards thousands of animals each year. The industry must implement a retirement fund and limit breeding.

Using taxpayers’ money for horse slaughter is irresponsible. The majority of Americans are against horse slaughter and oppose their cruel treatment.

This is a complex, multi-faceted problem, but passage of S 541 and HR 1094 points us in the right direction. Calling, writing and emailing our senators and representatives asking them to support these bills will let them know we are aware of the positives that will come from their passage.

Carolyn C. Koelmel of Williamsville is a member of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.