Supporters of horse slaughter put forth many arguments to support their position. But if you look at the facts, you'll see the truth: The slaughter of horses for meat is not only unnecessary and inhumane but it is also harmful in many ways.
Once you learn the truth about horse slaughter, you'll understand why you should work to ban the cruelty of horse slaughter in the United States.
Here are the facts:
Is it possible to conduct commercial horse slaughter in a humane manner?
No. Horse slaughter, whether in U.S. or foreign plants, was never and cannot be humane due to the nature of the industry and the unique biology of horses. Slaughter is a brutal and terrifying end for horses and is not humane. Horses are shipped for more than 24 hours at a time without food, water, or rest in crowded trucks in which the animals are often seriously injured or killed in transit. Horses are skittish by nature due to their heightened fight or flight response, which makes accurate stunning difficult. As a result, horses often endure repeated blows and sometimes remain conscious during dismemberment; this is rarely a quick, painless death. Before the last domestic plant closed in 2007, the USDA documented in the slaughter pipeline rampant cruelty violations and severe injuries to horses, including broken bones protruding from their bodies, eyeballs hanging by a thread of skin, and gaping open wounds.
Additionally, border pen inspections conducted from 2010–2012 show further proof of the cruelty and lack of oversight that exists throughout every step of the slaughter process. The USDA documented dead horses and severe injuries to horses in border pens, including broken legs, head trauma, and eye lacerations. The answer is not to return to subjecting our horses to abuse and unacceptable conditions at plants in the U.S., but to ban horse slaughter and the export of horses for slaughter altogether and provide our horses with a decent life and, when necessary, a humane death.
Will horse slaughter have a negative financial impact on American taxpayers?
Yes. Subsidizing horse slaughter cruelty will divert precious financial resources away from American products and food safety. The authority to fund horse slaughter inspections was restored last year, and the USDA has been asked to process horse slaughter applications to provide inspection of horse slaughter facilities. The many millions of tax dollars necessary to conduct horse slaughter inspections would be diverted away from food safety programs in place to protect Americans, to enable a practice that 80% of the American public opposes. The EU is on the verge of tightening requirements for lifetime regulation of horses sent to slaughter, due to overwhelming evidence that drugs administered to American horses are dangerous to humans. The EU food safety regulations would require onerous and ever-evolving USDA oversight – at additional taxpayer expense – to ensure compliance. At a time when funding for many vital programs for Americans is being cut, it is outrageous that Congress
would spend tax dollars on horse slaughter.
Unlike animals raised for food, the vast majority of horses destined for slaughter will have ingested, or been treated or injected with, multiple chemical substances that are known to be dangerous to humans, untested on humans, or specifically prohibited for use in animals raised for human consumption.
Because of growing concern about the health threats of drug-laced American horsemeat, the European Union (EU), a primary importer of American horsemeat, may soon require that American horses presented for slaughter at EU approved plants be accompanied by lifetime medical records verifying that the animal was never administered toxic drugs. Horses are gathered from random sources at various stages in their life, and there is no system in the U.S. to track medications and veterinary treatments given to horses to ensure that their meat is safe for human consumption.
Can the federal government ensure the safety of horsemeat?
No. The USDA has no system in place to track horses’ lifetime medical histories, and the reputation of the entire U.S. meat industry is at risk. Testing random samples of horsemeat overlooks the fact that every single horse has a unique, unknown past. Unlike animals raised for food, horses do not spend their lives being prepared for the food chain. Every horse is a pet, riding companion, race horse, show pony, or work partner. Each may be a single patient to any number of vets, transferred by any number of owners, and has a unique life story. Relying on random-sample testing of horsemeat is inadequate at best and dangerous at worst.
Has ending domestic horse slaughter damaged the U.S. horse market and led to fewer options for disposal of horses, causing neglect and abandonment?
No. Horse neglect and abandonment cannot logically be attributed to the closure of U.S slaughter plants because the number of U.S. horses sent to slaughter has not decreased since domestic slaughter ceased in 2007. The same number of horses are still being sent to slaughter, across our borders in Canada and Mexico. The slaughter option still exists, so any increase in neglect or abandonment can only be attributed to other economic factors. Any downturn in the horse market is clearly related to the economic downturn that began the same year that the last slaughter plant closed and continues today. Historically, all animals—dogs, cats, horses, and even farm animals raised for food—face greater chances of neglect in a poor economy.
But most horses in slaughterhouses are not unwanted; rather, they have wound up in the hands of kill buyers because they are in good health and will bring a better price per pound for their meat.
Are there any other ways to address an overpopulation of horses?
Yes. There are several ways to address homeless horse issues. We can limit overbreeding, provide shelter, and expand adoption work. More than 160,000 horses went to slaughter last year alone, but not every horse going to slaughter needs to go to rescue; the vast majority could be given new homes. The USDA documented that 92.3 percent of horses sent to slaughter are in good condition and are able to live out a productive life. These horses could be sold, donated, or otherwise rehomed; however, kill buyers regularly outbid legitimate horse owners and rescues at auctions. Based on the USDA’s own finding, fewer than 1 percent of the U.S. horse population may require the help of rescues or euthanasia.
There are countries who consume dogs, cats, and other pets as food, but the U.S. does not allow dogs and cats to be exported for food purposes—even though there is a well-documented overpopulation issue regarding these animals. The idea of slaughtering companion animals is unacceptable to the American people and will never be embraced. Our attitude toward horses is not so different: A 2012 national poll found that 80 percent of Americans support a ban on horse slaughter for human consumption.
Horse slaughter enables and perpetuates overbreeding, neglect, and irresponsibility. As long as slaughter is an outlet for breeders to sell their excess horses, they will be rewarded—and continue to overbreed. Horse slaughter is purely a function of supply and demand, not a disposal service.
Will horse slaughter plants stimulate the local economy?
No. Horse slaughter plants have proven to be economic and environmental nightmares for the communities that host them. These plants pollute local water, decrease property values, permeate the air with a foul stench, drain local economies, and damage the environment. The last three horse slaughter plants in the U.S. offered only a few low-income, dangerous jobs that did nothing to bolster local economies.
Long before the plants closed in 2007, they had worn out their welcome. For example, in 2005, the city council of Kaufman, Texas, home to the Dallas Crown facility, voted unanimously to implement termination proceedings against the plant. Paula Bacon, mayor of Kaufman stated, “As a community leader where we are directly impacted by the horse slaughter industry, I can assure you the economic development return to our community is negative.”
Attracting new business was difficult for communities burdened with the presence of a horse slaughter plant because of the related negative stigma. Real estate values also plummeted. The minimal financial contributions of horse slaughter facilities are vastly outweighed by the enormous economic and development-suppressing burden they present.