By Holly Viers
Every year, tens of thousands of American horses are forced into crowded trucks and transported hundreds of miles to Mexico and Canada, where they are slaughtered and turned into horsemeat.,Now, Greene County resident Andrea Kovacs is saying, “Enough is enough.”To put an end to this practice, Kovacs is urging Tennesseans to voice their support for two bills, which would prohibit the knowing sale or transport of horses for human consumption.
“(Horses) are highly individualized, each with unique, complex life histories,” Kovacs said. “I believe if any man has the ability to reduce those qualities to only meat, he obliterates what is good, beautiful and worthy in this world. … He impoverishes all of us by annihilating them.”
Horse slaughter began in the U.S. in the early 1970s, according to Equine Advocates, a nonprofit organization. Around the same time, horses not used for research purposes were removed from the Animal Welfare Act, which had protected them from unsafe or inhumane transportation, sale and handling. By 2006, most U.S. slaughter plants had closed their doors, but three still remained — two in Texas and one in Illinois. A 2007 court ruling upheld a Texas law banning horse slaughter, according to the Animal Welfare Institute, and when similar legislation was passed in Illinois, horse slaughter on U.S soil came to an end.
The practice continues
The 2007 legislation wasn’t the end of the story. Now, instead of being slaughtered in the U.S., horses of all ages and breeds are sent to Mexico and Canada, where the practice still occurs.As explained by Equine Advocates, the horses are killed in often brutal ways — sometimes when they are still conscious — and their meat is shipped to Europe and Japan, where horsemeat is considered a delicacy.
“After 2007, very few people realized it was still going on,” Kovacs said. “I didn’t, and I’ve rescued horses now since I was in my 30s, so most of my adult life.”
Close to home
Kovacs emphasized that this isn’t just a national issue, but rather one that occurs only minutes away. Just before Easter, Kovacs learned of a horse slaughter dealer in Northeast Tennessee, who she said buys horses at regional auctions and takes them to a slaughter plant in Mexico.
“He ships them 34 hours into Mexico, and when those truck doors open again, they’re at the hell on earth of the slaughter plant; that’s it for them,” Kovacs said. “These horse slaughter dealers outbid rescues and good buyers that want to give a decent home, and they don’t disclose their intent. So it’s really just horrific.”
The urgent need
Based on data collected from 2012 to 2016, an average of 137,000 American horses were trucked over U.S. borders each year to slaughter facilities in Mexico and Canada, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).Kovacs believes horse populations could dwindle to a dangerously low level if the practice continues, making the situation more urgent than ever.
“It’s not a vague threat,” Kovacs said. “It’s a very, very fierce reality.”
What you can do
Two bills — one in a House of Representatives subcommittee and the other in a Senate committee chaired by Sen. Lamar Alexander — have the power to end horse slaughter transport, if passed. The first is H.R.113, also known as the Safeguard American Food Exports Act of 2017, and the second is S.1706, also called the SAFE Act. Both bills would amend the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to deem horse parts unsafe for human consumption, since many horses are given drugs that are considered dangerous for humans.
Kovacs encourages Tennesseans to contact Congressman Phil Roe’s office to voice their support for H.R.113, while Alexander would be the most direct contact for S.1706.
“I have been a horse rescuer. I feel I’ve been a horse protector and now I think I have to be a horse warrior,” Kovacs said, “because I won’t give up this fight against horse slaughter until the last day I breathe.”