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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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Marty Krutolow

Now we have to fight specesism, the belief that one animal has any more right than another to a life free of abuse, exploitation and death for our own amusement and pleasure ... Yes, that also means your taste buds so "because they taste good" is not a valid reason to kill someone.

Dogs, cats, cows, chickens, pigs, and every other (human) and non-human animal have their own reasons for living.

Go vegan. Make the connection. It's the right thing to do especially if you love animals.


I second that. Well said!

Eric Mazzie

Amen Marty! I couldn't have said anything better than what you did. Vegans unite!


WELL SAID!!! HUMANS DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT to decide the life or death of any living creature of God.



Marion Cavanagh

I ABSOLUTELY agree. I no sooner would eat a human than eat an animal. Why do these people think they have lord over the helpless? I am VEGAN!


ABSOLUTLY!!! Thanks so much Marty for those fabulous words you nailed it!!! I love animals so much that is kills me when I read, hear and see this crap that humans do to them, every day my heart breaks and my hatred for most humans increase. I would so love to go vegan, just can't afford it which really sucks. If I could everything that I own would be animal free. THANK YOU TO ALL YOU ANIMAL LOVERS OUT THERE some day animals will be free from evil humans that abuse them, unfortuneatly it won't be in my lifetime, I won't be here to wittness that joyous occasion.


I always thought a vegan diet was more expensive, but it IS NOT! If you buy only the prepared vegan foods (patties, ready-made dishes, etc., then yes, it could be). When we finally went the whole nine yards and only buy fresh fruit and veggies(along with bulk beans, rice, etc), our family food bill has been cut by at least 20% by eating NO meat or dairy products. Cheese was the hardest to let go of, but there are close alternatives. Once you get past the idea that you need to top potatoes with sour cream (olive oil is just as good), or that protein must come from meat (so many other plant options), you will find that you eat better and are healthier for it. Expense is not a reason to not go vegan.


You don't kill or abuse any animal in order to get milk, cream or any dairy product. And if your local dairy is abusing their animals, try to get them shut down.


You don't call factory farming abuse? It is a disgrace how these poor cows have to live. They are not out on the pasture eating fresh grass. They are confined in a small space living miserable lives, producing milk and then eventually getting slaughtered.