by Sadie K. Fowler

    Walking horse industry leaders are teaming up to fight against a recent
Senate proposal that, if passed, could open the Horse Protection Act up to
    Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) and Rep. John Sweeney (R-NY) have each proposed
two separate acts and amendments, respectively (senators propose acts and
representatives propose amendments), in hopes to prevent the USDA from
giving certification to U.S. facilities that slaughter horses.
    Sen. Ensign and Rep. Sweeney's first proposals, which have already
passed the Senate and House, will have absolutely no affect on the HPA as it
deals solely with the Meat Inspection Act. Their second proposals, known as
the "Virgie S. Arden American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act or "Ensign
bill,"  if passed, will open the HPA up to amendment and will increase the
USDA's annual budget from $500,000 to $5 million.
    "This is coming at a time when we are spending a lot of money for self
regulation," said Niels Holch, who serves the walking horse industry as a
lobbyist in Washington. "It would dramatically undermine our self-regulation
program. The industry is opposed to the Ensign bill for two reasons; one, it
opposes opening up the HPA, which hasn't been amended in 30 years and two,
the industry opposes an increase in USDA funding."
    Ensign and Sweeney¹s primary goal is to prevent the USDA from giving the
two or three American horse slaughter facilities any USDA certification,
according to Holch. The senator and the congressional representative have
been fighting for this cause for years. At first they had proposed their
bills to the Agriculture Committee, and these bills were not drafted to
amend HPA.
    Since Ensign and Sweeney had no luck getting their anti-slaughter bill
passed through the Agricultural Committee, they decided to propose a bill to
amend the Meat Inspection Act through the Appropriations Committee. The
Appropriations Committee oversees all the budgeting for various departments,
including the Department of Agriculture. Since the Meat Inspection Act falls
under the Department of Agriculture, Sweeney and Ensign proposing these
bills prevents inspectors from visiting slaughter houses for one year. The
catch is that any funding provided by the Appropriations Committee to these
various departments expires after one year. All in all, this is a short term
fix to their primary goal: to prevent horses from being slaughtered.
    A long term solution to their goal would be to amend the Horse
Protection Act, which was drafted under the Commerce Committee more than 30
years ago. Ensign recently proposed the Slaughter Prevention Act to amend
the Horse Protection Act. This bill has been referred to the Senate Commerce
Committee. Most relevant to the walking horse industry, if this bill is
passed it will amend section 12 of the HPA to increase the money available
to the USDA to $5 million.
    Niels Holch, along with other industry organizations such as the
National Horse Show Commission (NHSC), Walking Horse Owners' Association
(WHOA), Walking Horse Trainers' Association (WHTA) and Tennessee Walking
Horse Breeders¹ and Exhibitors' Association (TWHBEA) are doing everything
they can to lobby against the Ensign Bill.
    Holch believes a far better way to deal with the horse slaughter issue
is for Sen. Ensign and Rep. Sweeney to continue pursuing their goals through the Meat Inspection Act.