There is nothing at the federal level to keep the food supply safe by banning the slaughter of US horses, although there have been many attempts at both the state and federal level for over a decade. The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act of 2005, introduced by Congressman John Sweeney (R-NY) was the first bill introduced at the federal level to ban the slaughter of US horses. It passed the House, but failed to pass the Senate, which was introduced by Senator Ensign (R-NV). Horse slaughter on US soil became illegal in 2006 when funding for USDA inspections for horse slaughter in the US was removed from the Agriculture Appropriations Bill. The last operational horse slaughter plant in Dekalb IL continued to slaughter US horses using their own inspectors, but was sued by the Humane Society of the United States on grounds of violating the Food Safety Act, and won. This essentially shut down horse slaughter operations in the US, but it didnt stop US horses, riddled with toxic medications deeming them unsafe for the food supply, from shipping to Canada and Mexico for slaughter for human consumption.
There's a small but important distinction that after Congress defunded inspections for the 2006 fiscal year, that the USDA contacted the plants and suggested they petition USDA to pay for their own inspections. They did so, and this enabled the plants to operate until 2007. Media outlets have consistently and inaccurately put plant closing dates in 2006 because they don't know of the fee-for service arrangement with USDA (which was found to be illegal in 2007 as mentioned above). What closed the plants in Texas was Ag Code 149 (a state ban). But the defunding language in the Agriculture Appropriations Bill kept the plants closed. It did not, however, shut a single plant.
In a sneaky maneuver by three Congressmen during the reconciliation process of the Agriculture Appropriation Bill in November 2011, the defunding language had been removed from the budget. This allowed for USDA inspections, and therefore made horse slaughter legal in the US once again.
The reversal of the ban didnt go unnoticed by the meat processing industry. There were 6 permit applications filed with the USDA to open horse slaughter facilities in the US immediately following the reversal of the ban. Several equine organizations prepared lawsuits to prevent the facilities from opening, including New Mexico District Attorney Gary King on behalf of Santa Fe County against Valley Meats of Roswell, which was based on environmental, health and consumer protection concerns. The lawsuits became moot once the defunding language was added back to the Agriculture Appropriations Bill in 2014.
The Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act was first introduced to Congress by Congressman Meehan (R-PA), and Senators Landrieu (LA-D) and Lindsey Graham (SC-R) in 2013. The SAFE Act of 2013 died in committee with 183 cosponsors in the House, and 29 in the Senate. The bill would have shut down the US horses slaughter pipeline, making it illegal to slaughter US horses for human consumption in the US and abroad. The next version of the SAFE Act S.1214/HR.1942 was introduced in 2015 by Senator Menendez (NJ-D) and Congressman Guinta (NH-R). It is currently the only legislation on the books to ban the slaughter of US horses.
Since the SAFE Act was first introduced, special interst groups such as the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) and Cattlemans's Association have put a stranglehold on it in order to provide a convenient dumping ground for irresponsible owners by lobbying Congress with paid lobbyists. Despite the passionate and determined attempts by horse and food safety advocates to meet with members of Congress in support of the SAFE Act, a march on DC in 2015, countless petitions and phone calls by the horse advocacy community, all of which resulted in over 200 cosponsors, there are unseen forces lobbying Congress to keep the SAFE Act from passing.
The SAFE Act is a bill which will amend Section 301 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. 331) as follows:
(ddd) Notwithstanding any other provision of this section--
(1) equine parts shall be deemed unsafe under section 409 of this Act; (2) equine parts shall be deemed unsafe under section 512 of this Act; and (3) the knowing sale or transport of equines or equine parts in interstate or foreign commerce for purposes of human consumption is hereby prohibited.
Members of Congress have made it abundantly clear that they want to hear from the public on this issue. More on this in PART 5.