By Dan Tuohy, New Hampshire Union Leader
A horse slaughter plant in New Mexico plans to open soon, which is mobilizing animal welfare advocates to repeat calls for a federal ban on slaughterhouses and horse meat for human consumption.
One of these opponents is an 11-year-old boy from Greenland, N.H. Declan Gregg, who runs the blog Children 4 Horses, keeps tabs on the bills that are in committee on Capitol Hill. He has traveled to Washington three times to fight for the bills, and he and his mother, Stacie, plan to keep pressing the case in 2014. "It's not good for the horses, community or public safety," Declan Gregg said in a phone interview Friday.
Gregg, who was the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Humane Kid of the Year in 2012, continues to fight for the SAFE Act, the Safeguard American Food Exports Act, a version of which was introduced in the U.S. House and Senate. That bill would prohibit the sale or transport of horses or horse parts in interstate or foreign commerce for human consumption.
It is a food safety issue, his mother said, because horses are not raised for slaughter and are routinely given medications that are labeled "not for animals intended for consumption." Declan Gregg was inspired to speak out two years ago, when he was 9 and noticed his mother was saddened by the horse slaughter issue.
He soon found his voice, and encouraged other children to speak out, as well. He promoted letter campaigns to legislators and spoke before the politicians in Concord and in Washington, D.C. Today, at 11, he is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, likes drawing and enjoys playing basketball. And he's a savvy advocate.
His family does not own horses, but he says he is fighting for responsible horse ownership. Gregg has mustered support among New Hampshire's congressional delegation. SAFE Act co-sponsors include U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and U.S. Reps. Carol Shea-Porter and Annie Kuster, Democrats representing the 1st and 2nd congressional districts, respectively.
Former U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta, R-N.H., was a co-sponsor of an earlier bill against horse slaughter. In the interview, Gregg pointed out that he is in the majority on this subject. He cited a national poll finding that 80 percent of Americans support a ban on horse slaughter. The ASPCA uses the term "horse slaughter" to refer to horses killed for human consumption.
While no horse slaughterhouses currently operate, the ASPCA says American horses continue to be trucked over borders to slaughter facilities in Mexico and Canada. In New Mexico, Attorney General Gary King has filed a lawsuit to block the company, Valley Meat, from slaughtering horses. King said the slaughter posed dangers to public health and safety, as well as to his state's natural environment.
The Associated Press has reported the company planned to reopen the slaughterhouse, on a limited basis, in early January. Animal welfare advocates also hope Congress will block funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to perform inspections at horse slaughterhouses, which would effectively be a ban. It would be similar to a ban in place from 2006 to 2011.
U.S. Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., co-chairman of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, sponsored the amendment to bar the agricultural appropriation. Moran calls horse slaughter inhumane, but he also says the USDA should focus more on its existing, traditional food inspections.
As the controversy dusts up, Declan Gregg and family hope for a hearing on the SAFE Act sometime in 2014. They would like to travel again to Washington to see its passage. Said Gregg, "I would be so happy, and it would be a great day for everyone, especially the horses!"