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.

Add new comment



l Robinson

I am horse lover and have two. If there are no closely inspected humane slaughter plants in the US people are shipping them by the thousands to Canada or worse (horrible) to Mexico. There will always be "disposable" horses that people don't care about and there has to be some humane way to get rid of them and Mexico plants are hell. What else will become of them?


We have been conditioned to believe that the animals that are eaten or used for entertainment are somehow not as valuable as those we have as pets. As the human race evolves more of us have discovered that all animals feel pain, emotions, fear, happiness and they enjoy social bonds with one another just as we do. Change always comes slowly but it does (and will) come. If you have been enlightened and no longer think animals are here for you to eat or for your entertainment - plant as many seeds as you can everyday in the minds of those who still cling to their outdated concepts - do it with love and patience (you were once one of them) and you will know the joy of converting many to veganism!


I thought we were supposed to comment on horse slaughter, not pros/cons of vegan and dairy farming???

Anyway, I think the only effect this law will have is to lower the price of petfood. The horses will still be slaughtered, there will just be less competition to buy the meat. I don't see any real victory here for horses.

Douglas Anderson

DITTO Marty...couldn't have said it any better!!!
It warms my heart & soul to no end knowing that the innocent & helpless are having more & more speak out in their behalf.


how is this going to prevent the death of any unwanted horse? Will they not still be slaughters for the animal food? and if there are more unwanted horses than there is need for animal food, we'll probably see the more unhealthy horses left to fend for themselves and die a slow death. I just don't get how this is going to make a difference for any horses, instead it reeks of propaganda to be used to claim a victory when in fact not one horse is helped by it.

I just don't get it.


This is a fight that has been going on for years. Thanks be to all the rescue groups that poured their limited funds into getting rid of horse slaughter. Thanks be to all the truly dedicated and compassionate horse people that would not let the slaughter start again. It took a lot of money and time to get this done. Now who will make sure that the bill is signed every year?

Darlin McDaniel

What about slaughterhouses for beef and other food animals? Are they humane?


Other cultures in other countries can raise their own types of meat to use. They dont need to have our own American Horseflesh. I know they came from elsewhere origionally. But the ones here now are ours plain and simple. If not for the American Horses our country wouldnt of grown the way it has. They are a part of our freedom and deserve the same.


Another issue that confounds me is that NYC is now banning the use of horse drawn carriages in the city, claiming it's cruel to allow horses to do this type of work. This was cheered by animal rights organizations as a victory, but I fear all it is going to do is create a bunch of pet food as the owners of these horses auction them off, losing their livelyhood and the horses will go from the life of the proud tradition of doing relatively easy labor, much better than horses that pull plows or work in mines. Pulling carriages is easy work for them and now they will have an uncertain future, most likely slaughtered for petfood. All these so called animal lovers who praise this as a victory will probably be feeding the horses to their dogs and cats soon.

If you ask me I think we should focus on why there are so many unwanted horses instead of adding more laws that won't help any of them and we should encourage any business that lets these animals work in a non-abusive job, and scenic carriage rides are ideal for these large breed horses that no longer have a place in our society.

Another issue that burns me up is killing of aggressive dogs. Dogs are bred to work in security, police, army, guarddogs, etc where they want them to be aggressive and if properly handled it's not a bad thing, yet the ASPCA kills all aggressive dogs claiming it's the humane thing to do...

Killing is humane??? I just don't get it, if a dog is healthy but agressive why not let professionals adopt them and put them to work. Who are we to say the dog is better off dead? it could live a happy life as a guard dog, but instead is killed and the guard dog companies have to breed an agressive dog to take it's place. It just makes no sense at all. We should at least try and offer them to trained handlers, if none can be found then you can kill the dog, but I'll never support an organization who is so closeminded that would rather kill a dog than see it working as a security/guard dog job.

I think the ASPCA needs some serious revision of their policies.


I agree, horse slaughter is inhumane. I hope the end to exporting our horses for slaughter is near!