Thursday, December 8, 2011

American Horse Slaughter: Lies, Confusion and the Law

It's huge news: horse slaughter is back in America! Or is it? There's a ton of confusion, hype and spin going on-- so I'm here to give you the straight scoop.

What Everyone is Yelling About:
PETA says they support horse slaughter!

Is it True?
No-- but they sort of support the recently signed bill. PETA basically said that while they hate the idea of horse slaughter, they'd rather have horses killed here in the USA, semi-humanely, rather than on foreign soil, where they're more likely to die terribly. Ideally, says PETA, there should be a ban on slaughtering American horses domestically and overseas. You can read it "from the horse's mouth" here.

PETA: Making sexy and ridiculous comparisons since forever.

What Everyone is Yelling About:
President Obama signed a bill that makes horse slaughter legal in the USA. He supports horse slaughter! Slaughter plants will re-open within a few months!

Is It True?
Not really. Obama can't be blamed or credited for the possible comeback of U.S. horse slaughter.

First, Obama didn't sit down to approve horse slaughter specifically. The few lines about horse slaughter were packaged into H.R. 2112, the Fiscal Year 2012 Agriculture Appropriations Bill. This is a HUGE bill that gets passed every single year; it's a $125.5 billion dollar budget for the Departments of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration and a billion other big-name agencies. The House and Senate add stuff, negotiate, remove stuff, and pass it on to the President. It included everything from assigning funds to school lunch programs to prohibiting funds for the FDA to approve genetically engineered salmon. This is the same infamous bill, by the way, that made pizza sauce a "vegetable" in school lunch programs.

Lobbyists: On one hand, they influence laws to benefit corporations. On the other hand, pizza!!

Secondly, the president couldn't really veto the bill, even if he had wanted to. Doing so would be political suicide-- without a working budget, he'd basically shut down the FDA, school lunch assistance programs and other stuff that would have people screaming. Remember when there was so much debate about bills that Congress almost caused a government shut down and left American troops without pay? It would be like that. Also, vetoing it probably wouldn't work. While a president can veto any bill and send it back to Congress, Congress can vote to over-ride a presidential veto. This bill has enough bipartisan support to do that. By the way, when a president signs a bill, he has to sign all of it into law; he doesn't get to pick it apart and only sign off on the stuff he likes.

Finally, H.R. 2112 doesn't "make horse slaughter legal." It wasn't illegal in the first place. Five years ago, a law was passed defunding FDA inspections of horse slaughter plants. With no FDA inspections, slaughter plants closed because they could no longer legally sell to foreign markets, not because the government made horse slaughter itself illegal (except in California, where they did). H.R. 2112 said, "Okay, fine, it's now legal to fund FDA inspections of horse slaughter plants again." However, the bill didn't throw money at those inspections either; it just said it was legal to pay for them now. It will be up to lobbyists to try to get legislature passed to pay for these inspections. It will also be up to American businessmen and communities to decide if they even want to build or re-open slaughter plants in their area.

Whether you approve of horse slaughter or don't, whether you love Obama or hate him, the President didn't have much to do with the issues here. I'm not sure he even knows that there's a controversy. The few lines on horse slaughter inspections didn't even make it into an official summary of amendments to the bill, found here. I'm pretty sure if you saw the President in a bar and asked him about it, this is what would happen:

You:  "Mr. President, what were your reasons for legalizing horse slaughter in America?"
Obama:  "Um, what? Oh, that budget thing. Didn't read all of it. Signed it while flying through Asia, in fact."
You:    "But how do you feel about horse slaughter?"
Obama:   "Let me get an aide to do some fact checking. I'll get back to you. Gotta go, bye."

"Huh. People slaughter horses? I might look into that if I get the Iraq-Afghanistan-Libya-Healthcare stuff resolved."

P.S. If you're some sort of masochist, you can read the full H.R. 2112 bill here.

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