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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Patricia Akers

I was so happy to hear that Congress and our wonderful president took a stand against horse slaughterhouses in the U.S. That's the 1st step and thank you for that, but now you need to take another stand and ban the export of OUR horse meat for European and Japanese dinner plates! Enough is enough. I don't eat meat of any kind so let's save our cows, pigs, fowl, and all others from inhumane treatment. We call ourselves the "humans" and thought "we" were the ones with the brains!


I'm sure there are many animal lovers commenting here who most likely own a cat or a dog, but what I'd like to know is what they feed them? Is everyone here making comments against eating animals and at the same time feeding those animals to their pets?


Something doesn't smell right with the wording of what they passed: "prohibit the use of tax dollars to inspect U.S. horse slaughter facilities". It sounds to me like our tax dollars won't be used to inspect horse slaughter facilities. It says nothing of closing them down. In fact, it sounds to me that it allows these facilities to operate without oversight of any kind. Many of our horses are sold to people who haul them down to Mexico where they are more cruelly abused and more horrifically slaughtered than if they were treated here in the U.S. Just something to think about... Living in Texas.


Why does our government keep giving away our animals to other countries. This takes all control away from the ones trying to protect. We are supposed to be smart and caring United States citizens. What does that say about our government. I believe that animal abusers should have the same thing done to them, that they inflicted on a defenseless animal. How would Michael Vick and many others feel about being electrocuted, beaten, starved, chained, and many of the other horrific treatments they inflict on these animals. Someone eletrocute him, keep him chained, and let's see what he has to say then, along with alot of other offenders.