TRENTON, NJ – Two New Jersey state legislators have introduced a bill that would ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption and the sale of horse meat in the state.

Assemblymen Ronald Dancer and Gilbert “Whip” Wilson sponsored Assembly Bill 2023. The state already has a law regarding dog meat for human consumption. The legislators plan to insert language into an existing regulation outlawing dog-meat production that would also ban the production and sale of horse meat. Assembly Bill 2023 states in part:

"This bill would prohibit a person from knowingly slaughtering a horse for human consumption purposes, and from knowingly selling, bartering, or attempting to sell or barter, at wholesale or retail, for human consumption, the flesh of a horse, or any product made in whole or in part from the flesh of a horse. Any person violating the bill’s prohibitions would be guilty of a disorderly persons offense, and would be subject to a minimum criminal penalty of $100 and imprisonment of not less than 30 days. Such a person would additionally be liable to pay a civil fine of between $500 and $1,000 for each horse slaughtered, and for each horse carcass or meat product sold, bartered, or offered for sale or barter, in violation of the bill’s provisions."

New Jersey has a special relationship with horses, the legislators contend. The horse was named New Jersey’s state animal in 1977, and it is included in the state seal.

Congress recently lifted a five-year-old ban on funding horse meat inspections in the US. As a result, horses may soon be slaughtered and processed again in this country for human consumption. Federal lawmakers' lifting of the ban on funding for horse meat inspections happened in part due to the recession, which began just as horse slaughtering stopped. The last US horse slaughterhouse closed in 2007 in Illinois.
Animal-welfare activists have threatened a massive protest in any town where a slaughterhouse may open. However, pro-slaughter activists point out that the ban had unintended consequences, including an upswing in neglect and abandonment of horses.

A federal report from the US Government Accountability Office released in June 2011 found local animal welfare organizations reported an increase in investigations for horse neglect and abandonment since 2007. Data showed that investigations for horse neglect and abuse in Colorado increased more than 60 percent — from 975 in 2005 to almost 1,600 in 2009.

In 2010, about 138,000 horses were transported from the US to Canada and Mexico for slaughter, nearly the same number that were killed in the US before the ban took effect in 2007, the study said. An estimated 9 million horses existed in the US in 2011.

Currently, federal legislation called the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act is working its way through Congress.