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. “Euthanasia” is defined as a gentle, painless death provided in order to prevent suffering. Slaughter is a brutal and terrifying end for horses and is not humane. Horses bound for slaughter—who may include pregnant mares, foals, and horses who are injured or blind—are commonly shipped for more than 24 hours at a time in crowded trucks without food, water or rest. Once they arrive, their suffering intensifies. The methods used to kill horses rarely result in quick, painless deaths, and some animals remain conscious during dismemberment. Due to the cruelty of the practice, and 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. Since there is no American market for horse meat, it was shipped overseas to other countries.
The slaughterhouses were not only bad for horses, but also for the communities that housed them. The slaughterhouses 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, 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. Additionally, the long distance transport mentioned above is an inherent aspect of this industry because Americans will never create a demand for horse meat. Given the vast geography of the U.S., any transport of American horses to slaughter—within or outside the U.S.—will still be long and brutal.
Reopening slaughterhouses here is not the answer to ending this form of cruelty. Instead, the ASPCA advocates for a federal ban on the slaughter of American horses for human consumption as well as their export to other countries for that purpose.
Until such a federal ban is in place, 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.
Fortunately, in April 2015, the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act (H.R. 1942/S. 1214) was introduced in Congress to prohibit the slaughter of horses for human consumption in the U.S. and ban their export abroad for that purpose.
Visit the ASPCA Advocacy Center to urge your members of Congress to pass this important legislation. And if you'd like to get even more involved in fighting horse slaughter on a local level, consider joining our volunteer Horse Action Team. By spending just a few minutes of your time effectively, we believe you can make an immeasurable difference for our nation’s horses. Learn more and register here.
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