America's Effort to End Horse Slaughter
Part Two of a Series
Legislative Attempts To Undo the Burns Rider.
On January 25, 2005, Congressmen
Nick J. Rahall (D-WV) and
Ed Whitfield (R-KY) corrective legislation on January 25, 2005.
H.R.297 was a House bill described, "To restore the prohibition on the commercial sale and slaughter of wild free-roaming horses and burros." The bill was introduced in the House Committee on the Interior. The Chair of this committee was (and still is)
Richard Pombo (R-CA), the "point man" for the effort to lease and sell off much of America's public lands, including the
Arctic Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Needless to say Congressman Pombo didn't let H.R.297 see the light of day even though H.R.297 picked up 68 cosponsors in Congress.
On March 9, 2005, Senator
Robert Byrd (D-WV) introduced similar legislation in the Senate. However the Senate Interior Subcommittee is chaired by noneother than Senator Conrad Burns, so quite obviously that bill never saw the light of day either.
These two powerful Republicans managed to thwart the prior will of Congress and prevented the issues from being debated and properly considered.
The Sweeny-Spratt Floor Amendment.
After 41 formerly protected wild horses wound up being slaughtered at the Cavel International Slaughterhouse in DeKalb, IL, some members of Congress had seen enough. Congressmen
John Sweeney (R-NY) and
John Spratt (D-SC) introduced a floor amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations Bill that would prohibit federal funds from being spent on inspectors for slaughter horses. The congressmen needed some way to get past the Pombo roadblock and the only practical way available to them was by simply pulling the funds that allowed slaughter plants to accept horses for human consumption. (USDA rules do not permit slaughterhouses to employ private inspectors in lieu of USDA inspectors.) Similarly USDA would not be allowed to inspect horses being exported for slaughter.
Since this was an amendment to an appropriations bill, the ban would only be effective for one year. However it was an important tangible first step in the effort to stop horse slaughter.
On the eve of the amendment vote Congressman Richard Pombo pulled one of the more sleazy tactics of his career. There was already established legal opinion that the BLM could not legally prevent any horses sold as a result of the Burns Rider from being resold for slaughter. However the afternoon before the vote, BLM Director Kathleen Clarke published a new list of (unenforceable) "Sale Authority Guidelines" and Pombo distributed "Dear Colleague" letters to the other Members of Congress touting the guidelines as having solved the slaughter issue and that there was no need to vote for the amendment.
Fortunately most Members of Congress saw through the charade and the Sweeney - Spratt amendment passed by a bipartisan majority of 90 votes.
The subsequent activities that took place in the Senate are described in Part Three.