Horse slaughter proponents have consistently fought the passage of federal legislation that would make the slaughter of American horses illegal. One of their main justifications is that there is a huge “unwanted horse” population in the United States. Their premise is that slaughter improves horse welfare, offering a “humane” way to dispose of these animals—a “necessary evil” without which horses would be subjected to neglect, abandonment and abuse.
Those who advance this unsubstantiated claim include the American Association of Equine Practitioners, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Quarter Horse Association, and the Livestock Industry. These groups are not passive in their position — they actively lobby Congress to block passage of a federal ban.
In truth, no hard data exists to back up claims about a burgeoning population of “unwanted horses.” What is clear is that killer buyers working for the slaughterhouses are outbidding other buyers at auction because they have the financial incentive to do so. The market for slaughtered horses is set by the international demand for their meat in other countries, not by the number of supposedly unwanted horses.
Horse slaughter proponents claim that shutting down U.S. plants has depressed the market for horses, resulting in over 100,000 unwanted horses in the United States and a concomitant increase in abuse, neglect and abandonment. Yet, more horses are slaughtered now than before the U.S. plants closed. According to the Government Accountability Office, nearly 138,000 American horses were exported to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico in 2010. How can closing U.S. facilities depress the market for horses when demand from killer buyers continues to rise? Such numbers directly undermine the argument put forth by slaughter proponents.
Research published in 2017 found that there are 2.3 million adults (1.2 million households) with the desire and the resources to adopt a horse immediately. This suggests that homes are available to take in enough horses equal to the number that would otherwise be sent to slaughter.