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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Tis a dilemna I've not solved for myself. i can not support slaughter of horses. They just represent so much of the development of our country. They work, they race, they show, and are virtual pets. Then, for whatever reason, death in a very scary place???

But, how about cattle, chickens, ducks and rabbits. Well, just mebbe as they are not raised as work anomals or whatever, just produe eggs and eventually meat for the table. Non cruel killing? I am not satisfied, but not sure , either.

Vegan. Sounds, OK, huh? No mamals eaten. Well, fish??? Example, the Dolphin slaughter in Japan!! Or the "scientific" whale hunting".

Off track a bit. but, are we to know that plants do not live, breathe, think endure pain? I don't know and I don't thnk anyone else does either.

Oysters, crabs, lobsters, shrimp. How do they fit?


Dear Carl,

Vegan means no animals or animal products are eaten. No mammals, fish, birds, frogs, dairy products. Plants only. Beans, peanuts, potatoes, greens, fruit, etc. All the foods you probably love already.


I live in New Mexico and they are still trying to get the horse slaughterhouse open here. I think it has to to with the state and not the government because the man is fighting the state. It is a sin what they do to the horses and shipping them out is of the country is not the answer. By the time they get there they are half dead from dehydration, starvation and broken legs. What is the answer, who knows because there is a lot of abuse to horses here.


It's interesting that the same states that seem to be willing to support the slaughter of horses also support the annihilation of wolves or for that matter any wild animal that threatens their commercial livelihood on government land. Horses are viewed as domesticated animals. China will violently kill dogs in the streets, clubbing them to death to be used for human consumption. Other asian countries will relentlessly kill whales. Elephants and Rhinos have been almost hunted to extinction for illegal ivory and big cats have been all but eliminated in the wild so someone can take advantage of the legend of Tiger Penis, or some other organ that has no basis in science.
We can't control what goes on outside of our own boarders, but rather than allowing well funded special interest groups negatively influence what the vast majority of Americans seek as law, let's change the laws to prevent the export of Horses in mass, and take a big bite out of commercial i interests whose cultural more's don't parallel those of American citizens.
Finally let's stop allowing States to decide whether mistreatment of animals in puppy mills is allowable since their constituents want it. It's immoral and unethical, no different that child abuse or any other socially unacceptable behavior. Pressure Obama to pass a Federal law to not only shut down puppy mills that are in violation of standard, but fine the owners $1000 a dog present in their facilities so that they no longer have the capital to start over somewhere else. Are the people of Missouri part of a different species of human? I don't think so, and I'm sure that the public at large there has no interest in supporting the special interests of the puppy mills within their borders. It's time the politicians who support these mills are taken to task and removed from office. As a humane society we don't need them to interpret the rules.


Transporting horses to Mexico and Canada or overseas for slaughter must also be stopped. The horses suffer terribly on these long journeys and meet an even more inhumane death awaits them at their destination.


so sad


Anyone in Arizona...please check out what McCain had to say to my email. He states that there was a rise in horse suffering of 60% due to neglect, inability to feed, etc. with the last legislation passed by Congress. Also: At least America slaughters their horses in a more humane way than Mexico does. Seriously? More humane? Mexico: stab til it bleeds to death or America: Hang by one leg and slice it's throat. Sorry so graphic but seriously po'd!!!!

Mary Jane

I do not eat meat of any kind, and I fully support the permanent closing of the slaughter houses in the U.S. There must also be a law in existence that forbids the transport of horses to Mexico and Canada for slaughter. Otherwise, statistics show that it doesn't diminish the number of horses that are slaughtered one little bit. 131,000 horses were transported out of the U.S. for slaughter in 2012 under horrific conditions, and that jumped to 160,000 horses in 2013. However, neglect, abuse, and slow starvation are NOT acceptable alternatives for these poor horses for whom luck has run out. Horses are VERY EXPENSIVE to properly maintain. the price of horse feed, hay, and bedding keeps going up, and there simply aren't enough rescue organizations to save them all. I wish I knew the solution, but I don't. Perhaps restrict breeding more so there aren't so many horses to begin with. I know I would NEVER allow any horse of mine to end up on a killer's truck on a one way trip to hell.

Momma Nature - ...

Sometimes it seems like we take one step forward and two backward but maybe Congress will get wiser in 2014 and make it permanent ban on horse slaughter houses in the US as well as a ban on export of horses and horse meat to other countries. STOP THIS MADNESS.

Doris Carman.

Vegan is good if thats what you want go for it, but this article does not mention that its not just horses they wont have enough inspectors for its all slaughter houses.They will have to pay for inspections and meat prices will sky rocket. Even those of us who raise our own for our own consumption will pay a big price when taking it to the slaughter house.Have to learn the butcher trade.Also horses are still being sent overseas for slaughter.