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Commentary, sarcasm and snide remarks from a Florida resident of over thirty years. Being a glutton for punishment is a requirement for residency here. Who am I? I've been called a moonbat by Michelle Malkin, a Right Wing Nut by Daily Kos, and middle of the road by Florida blog State of Sunshine. Tell me what you think.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Stop horsing around

Congress is considering new legislation. H.R. 503 would ammend the Horse Protection Act so as to prohibit the transportation of horses for slaughter and human consumption.

While transportation systems for humans still require plenty of improvements, Congress will now consider a bill that allocates millions of dollars for the prevention of transporting horses for human consumption. H.R. 503 will amend the Horse Protection Act to enact federal bans on sales, donations, transport, and possession of horses for slaughter. That may be bad enough for fans of federalism, who will rightly wonder about the constitutional basis for federal protection of horses. However, the text at the end of the bill should get some attention:

Section 12 of the Horse Protection Act (15 U.S.C. 1831) is amended by striking “$500,000” and inserting “$5,000,000”.
In a month when we have seen at least one, and now possibly two, terrorist plots against American airlines, Congress seems more interested in the safety of horses. Not only does Congress have some priority and jurisdiction issues, the financial impact seems highly strange. Did the dangers of human consumption of horses suddenly expand tenfold?

But it won’t just end with the $5 million this bill demands. The Congressional Budget Office notes that this level of funding will prove woefully inadequate:

The bill would authorize the appropriation of up to $5 million per year to implement its provisions, but CBO estimates that those amounts would be insufficient to cover costs incurred by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts, CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 503 would cost USDA $21 million in 2007 and $233 million over the 2007-2011 period.

Once again, Congress has produced a program while ignoring the costs it creates. The 203 cosponsors of this bill will push through a program with wholly inadequate funding. H.R .503 may start at a relatively minor $5 million, but it will surely grow into yet another expensive bureaucracy managing a task that doesn’t belong to the federal government at all.
What is the big deal about slaughtering horses for meat? Isn't Congress concerned about feeding millions of people who go hungry on a regular basis? So why put roadblocks in the way of potential?

I did a Yahoo news search and found this article.

Shelby Staples couldn’t believe it. Back behind the main traffic area of Pimlico Racetrack on Preakness Day, inside a stall in Barn EE, Kentucky Derby winner Kauai King stood alone and unguarded.

“I told the people I was with that I was going off to find a bathroom,” the Madison Heights resident recalled, “and I just walked into the barn. I went up to this magnificent horse - which was crazy, because he could have kicked me to death - and reached out and touched his mane and talked to him. I even laid my cheek on his neck.”

The tender moment was short-lived. Alarms were sounded, guards appeared and Staples was hauled unceremoniously out of the barn. Understandably - many a gambler would have loved to have given this horse a shot or a pill to make him useless for the second leg of the Triple Crown.

“They kept yelling, ‘Who are you? What are you doing here?” Staples recalled. “And my husband was really upset. He said, ‘I can’t believe you’d do something that stupid!’”

That was 40 years ago, in 1966, and Staples remembers that she was crying.

“But it wasn’t what everybody thought,” she said. “I wasn’t crying because I’d been thrown out of the barn, or because my husband had yelled at me. Those were tears of joy, because I had actually touched Kauai King.

“That night, I had a miscarriage.”

This memory is why Staples is writing a book, “The King & I,” on the life of Kauai King, and why she is actively promoting a bill currently in Congress that would prohibit the slaughter of horses in the United States.

“He (Kauai King) lived to be 26 years old,” she said. “He died in Japan, on the island of Hokkaido. But even though he was obviously well cared for, I couldn’t help but wonder if the end came when someone walked him to the slaughterhouse.”

That’s what happened to Ferdinand, a Kentucky Derby winner as a 17-1 longshot in 1986. When Kentucky Congressman Ed Whitfield discovered in 2003 that this former Horse of the Year had been butchered for food in Japan, he drafted the first of many anti-horse slaughter bills.

Americans hardly ever eat horsemeat any more. Even the pet food companies have largely eliminated it. But three horse slaughterhouses are still operating in this country - two in Texas and one in Illnois - to supply customers in Europe and the Far East. Shelby Staples finds this horrific, and she’s quick to pass along a quote from Lauren Hillenbrand, the author of “Seabiscuit”:

“Here are these exquisite, immensely powerful creatures, who willingly give us their labor in return for stewardship. They have attended us throughout history, bearing us across frontiers and into battle, pulling our plows, thrilling us in sport, warming us with their beauty. We owe them more than we can ever repay. To send these trusting creatures to slaughter is beneath their dignity and ours.”

That’s the rationale for House Bill 503, which aims to “prohibit the shipping, transporting, moving, delivering, receiving, possessing, purchasing, selling or donation of horses and other equines to be slaughtered for human consumption.”

The issue cuts across party lines in Congress. Ironically, one of the leading opponents is Staples’ own congressman, Bob Goodlatte of the 6th District. As chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Goodlatte has made no secret of his opposition to H.R. 503.

“Why is Congress rushing to enact legislation that causes many problems and solves none, especially when there is no consensus in the livestock community?” Goodlatte asked as he convened a hearing on the bill in late July. “Even if the goal of this legislation was desirable, and I do not accept the premise, this is not a bill that will improve the treatment of horses. Too little has been done to deal with the consequences of destroying a legitimate business by government fiat. If anything, H.R. 503 in its current form will lead to more suffering for the horses it purports to help.”

On another occasion, Goodlatte noted: “We certainly understand and respect people’s emotions, but there are a lot of facts that get in the way of thinking that this bill would work out for the benefit of horses. It wouldn’t. It would create many, many, many unwanted horses who would be mistreated and create a multitude of problems.”

And he’s not the only one to get up on his high horse, so to speak. H.R. 503 has been saddled with extra amendments (including one to grandfather in the existing the slaughterhouses), shuttled from one committee to another and shot down by the Agriculture panel. Now it has emerged from the Energy & Commerce committee, says Chris Heyde of the Washington-based Society for Animal Protection Legislation, and has a very good chance of passing the House on Sept. 7.

So a woman is upset about getting run out of a barn where she didn't belong,(The miscarriage bit is so over the top that I question the veracity of Ms. Staples story) and an dying Kentucky Derby champ is sold for horse meat. Is this a good enough reason to spend five million dollars of taxpayer money?

No it isn't. TFM grew up following horse racing because of my father's ownership of standardbred horses. What are we supposed to do with these animals when they die? Bury the rotting carcases? Why not put them to use? Congress doesn't need to be meddling in this, its a waste of money, cuts off a potential food source. HR 503 is one of the dumber bits of legislation to come through Congress in some time.

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