Last year, 53,947 horses were shipped from the United States to Mexico for slaughter. That marks a 26% decrease from 2018 when 70,708 horses designated for slaughter were transported across the southern U.S. border, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Market News Livestock Export Summary.
Efforts to open new horse slaughter plants have been unsuccessful, partly because of legislation denying funds for federal inspections of such operations. Nevertheless, thousands of U.S. horses have been exported to slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada.
Canada and Mexico are two of the main exporters of horse meat to Europe. At least 85% of horses slaughtered at European Union–approved Canadian horse slaughterhouses originated in the United States, and 50% of the horse meat produced from those animals was exported to the EU.
Federal data on the number of horses transported to Canada annually aren’t available. However, the advocacy organization Animals’ Angels estimated that 12,273 U.S. horses were imported by Canada for slaughter in 2017.
California, Illinois, New Jersey, Texas, and New York have enacted laws against horse slaughter and eating horse meat.
U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Susan Collins (R-Maine) today introduced bipartisan legislation to permanently prohibit and make it a federal crime to slaughter horses for human consumption in the United States. The legislation also bans any related interstate or foreign commercial activity, such as the export of horsemeat or the transport of horses to slaughterhouses in other countries.
The gruesome practice of slaughtering horses for food has no place in the United States, and it’s well past time for Congress to say once and for all that horsemeat is not what’s for dinner, said Sen. Menendez. Horses are routinely treated with drugs that are dangerous for human consumption and do not belong in our nation’s food supply. Our bipartisan legislation will help put an end to the cruel and inhumane slaughter of horses while protecting families from toxic horse meat and safeguarding the reputation of the U.S. food industry worldwide.
“Horses hold a special place in our history and culture, and the practice of slaughtering them to satisfy foreign appetites simply does not reflect the admiration we have for these animals,” said Sen. Collins. “In an effort to protect horses, this legislation would deter the transport or purchase of horses for human consumption.”
The Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act prohibits the knowing sale or transport of equines or equine parts in interstate or foreign commerce for purposes of human consumption. It also makes it a federal crime punishable by up to two years in prison for individuals and slaughterhouses who violate the law.
While the slaughtering of horses for human consumption in the United States is exceedingly rare, data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reveals that over 100,000 American horses are exported to Canadian and Mexican slaughterhouses each year.
Sen. Menendez continually leads the effort to ban horsemeat by defunding federally required meat inspections by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) at slaughterhouses where horses are sent, which effectively prohibits any slaughter plants from killing horses.
Full text of the SAFE Act (S.2006) can be downloaded here.
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) announced today that it will support the passage of the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act (H.R.961/S.2006) that would prevent the horse slaughter industry from reestablishing operations in the United States and prohibit the export of American horses abroad for slaughter. The action was taken at the regularly scheduled meeting of the NTRA Board of Directors held in New York on June 6.
“The slaughter of horses for human consumption is something the NTRA has opposed for many years,” said NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop. “In the last decade alone, thousands of retired U.S. racehorses have been adopted and transitioned to second careers. The development and growth of quality racehorse aftercare programs continue to be a high priority for the industry.”
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) is a broad-based coalition of American horse racing interests consisting of leading thoroughbred racetracks, owners, breeders, trainers and affiliated horse racing associations.