America’s Dark Secret: Horses Are STILL Being Killed for Meat

March 18, 2024

a white horse

Every horse in the United States is just one bad sale away from slaughter. Unbelievably, this cruel practice still exists: horses are routinely transported across our country’s borders to face inhumane and horrifying deaths, killed for their meat to be eaten overseas. The trip itself is brutal, too, and sadly some horses don’t survive it. In 2023 alone, more than 20,000 American horses were transported to slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada.

There is no reason this predatory and vicious industry should continue to exist. Horses sent to slaughter are typically ensnared in the slaughter pipeline when their owners are experiencing hardship or transition. These horses could instead be rehomed and live productive lives, but slaughter buyers, also known as “kill-buyers,” regularly attend and outbid legitimate prospective horse owners at auctions. These kill-buyers may go to great lengths to acquire horses any way they can, including from owners who publish well-intentioned “free to good home” ads. Their only goal is to turn a profit by feeding a niche international demand for horse meat.

You’re probably asking yourself: How is horse slaughter legal and what can be done to stop it? The first step is to understand the problem.

Q. What is horse slaughter?

A. The term “horse slaughter” refers exclusively to the killing horses for human consumption. Horse slaughter is NOT humane euthanasia. While euthanasia is defined as a gentle, painless death provided to prevent suffering, slaughter is a brutal and terrifying end for horses.

Horses bound for slaughter are commonly and legally shipped for more than 24 hours at a time in crowded trucks without food, water or rest. The methods used to kill them do not uniformly provide quick, painless deaths for all, and there are documented instances in which horses have been observed to still be conscious during dismemberment. As sensitive flight animals, horses commonly respond to a noisy environment where they see, smell and sense danger by flinging their heads. In the kill box, this creates obvious potential for multiple injuries during stunning.

Q. Are horses slaughtered for meat in the U.S.?

A. No—at least, not legally. The last USDA-regulated horse slaughterhouses in the U.S. (two in Texas and one in Illinois, all foreign-owned) were shuttered in 2007. However, tens of thousands of American equines continue to be trucked over our borders annually to slaughter facilities in Mexico and Canada. The largest markets for horse meat, historically, are France, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, Japan and Mexico.

Q. Are only sick or injured horses at risk?

A. No, any horse in America could be at risk, regardless of their age, health or past. In fact, horses bound for slaughter often include valuable purebred horses, prizewinning competition horses and beloved companions whose owners were no longer able to care for them.

Meet Camille, Mama and Twister, Phoenix, and Journey, who were bound for slaughter before fate stepped in. Their miraculous stories inspire our work to create brighter futures for equines.

Q. Is slaughter necessary?

A. NO! Slaughter only exists because there is an international market for their meat and it’s not yet illegal to export American horses for slaughter. Horses shipped to slaughter could easily be given positive outcomes in the United States. Healthy horses should be rehomed, and horses who are suffering from chronic conditions or old age deserve kind, compassionate euthanasia.

Q. Are there alternatives for people who can no longer care for their horses?

A. YES! The ASPCA, our partners, and many other shelters and rescues nationwide provide resources like high-quality rehoming and safety net programs accessible to horse owners anywhere in the country. The programs are designed to keep horses with their owners when that is what’s appropriate or provide a safe place to await adoption when needed. Programs also provide compassionate, humane end-of-life services. Learn more about our innovative programs for all equines.

Q. Can federal legislation address the problem?

A. YES! The Save America’s Forgotten Equines (SAFE) Act is currently pending in Congress and has a growing, bipartisan cosponsor list. The bill would prohibit the slaughter of horses for human consumption in the U.S. and ban their export abroad for that purpose—this was already done for cats and dogs in 2018. You can help ensure Congress passes this important legislation by taking action today.

Q. What can you do to help protect horses from slaughter?

A. In addition to supporting the SAFE Act (linked above), you can spread the word! Share information about equine safety net programs, and if you know anyone who is interested in acquiring a horse, encourage them to consider adoption. Browse hundreds of adoptable horses at!

If you work with an equine organization, avoid kill pen bail-outs and learn about alternative ways to help horses and their owners.

Learn more about horse slaughter and take action at