There is no place in America for a foreign-driven horse slaughter industry. We are not, nor have we ever been, a horse-eating culture. Horse slaughter is a cruel and bloody business of roundups, neglect, transportation, and kill floors. In a [USDA] 2012 poll, an overwhelming majority of Americans (80%) actively opposed horse slaughter for human consumption.

Money — not simply justifiable concerns about land erosion, drought, other native species, and horse welfare — is the bedrock of horse butchery and cuts to the crux of the matter. As a long-time environmental activist, I am well aware that our global community is facing serious threats to our natural resources, not the least of which is water. But to assume a fix to the questionable overpopulation of America’s wild and healthy domestic horses is to kill them (for profit, no less) is to insult the core of our cultural values.

America is the home of the horse. It is a paleontological fact that the horse we know today originated on this continent. Around the world and throughout recorded history, horses have been the founding blocks upon which we built the nations we hold sacred today, scars and all. They plowed our fields, raised our cities, and carried us into battle. During World War I alone, more than one million rounded-up American wild horses poured their blood onto our battlefields. Another million horses died for our nation-building Civil War. They also carried Native American Warriors across this great land in an effort to preserve their nations, too. They stood by the Choctaws and Cherokee peoples in the tragic Trail[s] of Tears and fought with Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho at the Battle of Little Big Horn. Good, bad, or otherwise, it was the horse who settled Western civilization. Horses transported our goods, logged our forests, hauled coal from our mines, herded our livestock, and gave us the iconic cowboy. It is the horse who is the single most influential animal to affect humankind.

Now, as then, the horse remains interwoven into the very fabric of our country’s diverse communities. Nearly 10 million of the more than 55 million horses in the world live in the United States. Each year alone, U.S. horse-related industries (care and maintenance, sports and entertainment, investments and employment) draw more than $102 billion in revenue. The USDA reports that 92% of the 1% of America’s horse population that is sent to slaughter is able to establish productive partnerships with us — if given the chance. Surely we can find responsible and humane alternatives for the relatively small percentage of American horses that are relinquished by their owners. To make horse slaughter a viable industry, more horses will have to fill the kill pens — creating an industry that does not currently exist, one that will breed irresponsible stewardship, perpetuate inexcusable suffering, and increase horse populations in general — which means MORE, not fewer, horses pushed into the horse slaughter pipeline to satisfy its investors.

Take a stand with me. Contact your representatives and demand that Congress pass the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act (H.R. 1094/S. 541) to prevent horse slaughter from resuming in our country and to permanently stop the shipment of our wild and domestic horses to slaughter for other countries. When we commit as a nation to stop horse slaughter in America, we can more productively use our time and resources to implement viable solutions for discarded horses by way of educational programs, responsible management, and volun-tourism on private, public, and tribal lands.

In the end, this fact remains: our horses deserve better — and we, as Americans, can do better. Only when we join together to end the sale and shipment of horses for slaughter can we efficiently, financially, and effectively work together to solve our horse crises — as well as our environmental and natural resource threats — solutions that will benefit us all, irrespective of nation.

—Robert Redford