The ASPCA has worked for years to protect American horses from terrifying, inhumane deaths at slaughterhouses. Because we understand that a considerable amount of misinformation circulates around this sensitive topic, we would like explain what horse slaughter is and why we have taken a position against it.
When we use the term “horse slaughter,” we are referring exclusively to the killing and processing of horses for human consumption. To be clear: Horse slaughter is NOT humane euthanasia. Due to the historic role that horses have played in the development of our country and culture, the ASPCA is opposed to the slaughter of horses for human consumption.
The last three U.S. horse slaughterhouses were shuttered in 2007. In 2006, these facilities—two in Texas, one in Illinois, all foreign-owned—killed and processed more than 90,000 horses for human consumption. Americans by and large do not eat horse meat, so it was shipped overseas to countries like France, Belgium and Japan.
The owners of these slaughtering plants paid no export taxes and little in income taxes. The slaughterhouses themselves were not clean/green enterprises, and proved to be environmentally damaging as well as economically draining. It is telling that Texas and Illinois have implemented laws specifically banning selling, giving and possessing horse meat intended for human consumption: States with experience hosting horse slaughter facilities do not want them back. See which other states have laws regarding the slaughter or sale of horses for human consumption. 
While no horse slaughterhouses currently operate in the United States, it is true that American horses are still trucked over our borders to slaughtering facilities in Mexico and Canada. Some well-meaning animal advocates feel that it would be more humane to reopen horse slaughterhouses in the U.S. rather than continue to allow the animals to be sent to abroad for processing. They may be surprised to learn that even when there were horse slaughter facilities in the U.S., tens of thousands of American horses were still exported to other countries for slaughter.
Regardless of their final destinations, horses suffer horribly on the way to and during slaughter. Even prior to 2007, it was not unusual for them to be shipped for more than 24 hours at a time without food, water or rest. Horses were often injured even before arrival due to overcrowded conditions during transport. The methods used to kill horses rarely resulted in quick deaths: They often endured repeated stuns or blows, and sometimes remained conscious during their slaughter.
Reopening slaughterhouses here is not the answer to ending this form of cruelty. Instead, the ASPCA advocates for a federal ban on the international and interstate transport of horses intended for human consumption. Over the last few years, different bills that would have achieved this have been introduced in Congress—and even though each one has had strong bipartisan support, none have made it over the finish line and become law. Until such a law passes—and we have no doubt that one will—it is critical that we not allow the horse slaughter industry to gain a foothold in the United States. Once it is here, it will be much more difficult to get rid of it.
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