It’s Time to Retire Horse Slaughter for Good

Tuesday, January 21, 2014 - 12:30pm
Tan horse standing in tall grass

By ASPCA President and CEO Matt Bershadker

Some foreign companies look at beloved American horses—wild mustangs on the range, show horses, race horses, even work horses— and see only two things: profit and food. They want to turn these majestic animals into frozen meat products for Europe and Asia, with no concerns about the unconscionable cost on life, health, the environment, or the integrity of our culture.

Fortunately, this industry was blocked from slaughtering horses in the U.S. when the president and Congress, echoing the voices of a clear majority of Americans, passed legislation late last week to prohibit the use of tax dollars to inspect U.S. horse slaughter facilities. This protection, included in a major bipartisan budget package, effectively reinstates a ban on domestic horse slaughter for the 2014 fiscal year.

Two aspects of that last line are worth calling out: “domestic” and “2014.” These are significant because the regulation does not prohibit the transport of U.S. horses for slaughter to other countries, and because it must be reapproved every year.  

Congress failed to include the language in the 2012 budget, opening the door for a return of horse slaughter in the U.S. Applications to open horse slaughter facilities were filed with the USDA in New Mexico, Missouri and Iowa and these plants came perilously close to opening.

The international transport loophole is equally disturbing. In 2006, two foreign-owned facilities in Texas and one in Illinois killed more than 90,000 horses for human consumption in countries like France, Belgium and Japan. In 2007, all three slaughterhouses for horses in the U.S. were closed, and several states have implemented laws banning the selling, giving and possessing of horse meat intended for human consumption.

But protecting our horses coast to coast in a lasting way requires passage of the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act (S. 541/H.R. 1094), bipartisan legislation that would end the export of American horses for slaughter abroad, once and for all.

Americans are overwhelmingly on the side of the horses. In a national poll commissioned by the ASPCA, 80 percent of American voters expressed opposition to the slaughter of U.S. horses for human consumption.

Opposing horse slaughter on humanitarian grounds alone is a no-brainer. The majority of horses killed for human consumption are young, healthy animals who could go on to lead productive lives with loving owners. These equines suffer incredible abuse even before they arrive at the slaughterhouse. They’re often transported for more than 24 hours at a time, without food, water or rest, in dangerously overcrowded trailers. Horses slip and fall and are often seriously injured or killed in transit.

Some erroneously liken horse slaughter to euthanasia, but make no mistake: Methods used to slaughter horses rarely result in quick, painless deaths. Horses are difficult to stun and may often remain conscious during their butchering and dismemberment.

Others argue that slaughtering horses in America is an acceptable alternative to shipping horses overseas for slaughter. They may be surprised to learn that even when there were active horse slaughter facilities in the U.S., tens of thousands of American horses were still exported to other countries for slaughter.

Consuming horse meat is actually very dangerous. Unlike pigs or chickens, horses are not raised for food in this country. Over their lifetimes, they’re routinely given drugs and other substances—both legal and illegal—that can be toxic to humans if ingested.  And few of these substances have been approved by the FDA for use in animals intended for human consumption.

A New York Times article revealed the hodgepodge of drugs regularly administered to American race horses, and resulting food safety threats. And the shocking discovery of horse meat in beef products in the U.K. and other European countries certainly underscores the potential threat to American health if this grisly practice returns to the U.S.

Last year, more than 160,000 American horses were sent to cruel deaths by foreign industries that produce unsafe food for consumers. We should no longer be party to such cruelty. Horse slaughter is simply inhumane, whether here or abroad, and a lasting end to this vile practice is the only just solution.

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My horse is 28 and a walking pharmacy. He will be cremated and not"recycled by any industry. I hope the people eating horse meat choke and die from it. Disgusting! Not that fond of eating cows, pigs or chicken either.

Alisa Klein

I am all in favor of permanently banning the slaughter AND/OR transport for slaughter of these majestic and beautiful animals that are so tied into our proud and strong history/heritage. I am calling for our President and all portions of our government to write legislation permanently ending this barbaric practice and put a final, permanent nail in the coffin of the horse slaughter industry.
Without the majestic mustang our heritage and history would be quite different.

Christina Sultan

Congratulations to the U.S. investigators who had the courage and moral fortitude to conduct the investigations of those U.S. facilities. I am sure it wasn't easy for them.

Kathy Ford

I deeply feel that our American horses or any horse shouldn't be transported to foreign countries to be slaughtered. It's like killing dogs and cats for consumption, its wrong. Plus, the inhumane treatment to them being transported and then tortured before they eventually die. Greed is really showing what some people are. I hope that PETA can develop meat without having to kill poor animals. No one wants to die.

Chris White

I'm missing something here regarding many of the comments. This isn't about "meat eaters" vs. "vegans".
This is about cruelty to animals and in particular horses.
Ghandi said something to this affect... a nation is judged morally by the way it treats its animals.
If you've ever stood closely to a horse and looked into its eyes, as I have,
it's as if you're looking deep into your soul.....
All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men/women to do nothing!!!!

Nancy Barberis

Let's insist that this law (S. 541/H.R. 1094) be permanently approved, not just for 2014. Can another rewrite of this law prohibit exporting our horses to foreign countries for slaughter and food? I will fight for that!

Eleanor N. Kelly

So now do something about the race horse industry that produces thousands of colts a year to try for the triple crown and only one can make it or not. Over and over every year, thousands...

John Burridge

As well as the greyhound racing business, especially in Florida, where absolutely sickening treatment of these wonderful animals is rampant. My present companion was a virtually hairless skeleton that looked to be at death's door. He had been at Greyhound Friends in Hopkinton, Massachusetts for a week before I saw him, so he must have been in terrible shape when he got off the truck from Ebro, Florida, a track that is so bad that even within the industry many breeders put a prohibition from racing there in their puppy contracts. It's a sleazy little cracker dump just north of Panama City in the Florida panhandle. Those with a strong stomach can judge the varacity of my statements by visiting


I agree with most of this comments. We also need to stop the shipping of live horses to Canada for slaughter.


We had a horse slaughter facility just 30 miles from our home, it was horrible and the treatment was worse than you can imagine. We fought to get rid of it and finally won. I pray this never happens again, we will keep on fighting as long as necessary.