New legislation aimed at stemming the export of horses for slaughter in Mexico and Canada was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee on Jan. 14. Sponsored by Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) and Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN) HR 503, the Conyers-Burton Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act, prohibits the transport, sale, delivery or export of horses for slaughter for human consumption. It also criminalizes the purchase, sale, delivery or export of horsemeat intended for human consumption.

Violators would face fines and/or one-year imprisonment for a first offense or those involving five or fewer horses, and fines and/or three-year imprisonment for repeat offenses or those involving more than five horses.

The new bill is essentially the same as HR 6598, the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2008, also introduced by Conyers and Burton in July 2008. The committee passed that bill in September, but it never received a full House vote.

"It's a new Congress, so the bill has to go through the process from the beginning with a new name," says Nancy Perry, vice president of government affairs for the Humane Society of the U.S. "But HR 6598 underwent so much scrutiny, we feel this bill will reach the full House quickly."