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Issue of Horse Slaughter: Causes and Interventions

Horse slaughter is an appalling way by which people get rid of their horses for-profit and in a quick removal. Most often horses that suffer are equines with medical illness or deformed appearance, especially racehorses, once racehorses are considered no longer useful get turned over for a quick penny rather than spending money on a licensed equine practitioner to euthanize humanely. Would you believe me if I told you there is a secret market started by foreign interests within the United States, to slaughter horses for human consumption internationally? Or that these same special interests were behind building these horrific equine slaughterhouses’ in the early 1990s?  How about the fact that tens of thousands of equines in the US suffer brutal, vicious deaths and often feel every second of their torture?  Or furthermore, that the government in 2017 inconspicuously passed a bill that would prevent government spending on equine slaughter inspections therefore not enforcing meat produce regulations causing potential harm to those that consume contaminated meat?

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Just like Americans see felines and canines as domestic companions it is the same ordeal when discussing horses. It is against our culture to participate in such taboo rituals, however, equine meat is considered a delicacy in foreign countries such as Japan and the

European Union and often exported to these locations in the world. The obscurity of Congress turning a blind eye and foreign interests not being regulated are soundly an unsettling practice. Due to the lack of American horsemeat consumption, horses are exported to the EU, Canada, and Mexico with USDA oversight. When equines are being transported vast distances they often are in crowded and unhealthy conditions. Those that get hurt during transport are dragged to their deaths. With these secret interests selling internationally for $15-$30 per/lb the revenue being observed is repulsive and morally devastating.  “The amount of US horses sent to slaughter has not decreased since domestic slaughter was ceased in 2007” (e.g., www.aspca.org/animal-cruelty/horse-slaughter./).

A peek at the history of equine slaughterhouses will reveal this industry began in the 1970s and by the 1990s there were a total of 16 slaughterhouses in the US all started by foreign interests.  This highly secretive business operates by “kill buyers” or “insiders”, these buyers pay cash, capable of outbidding anyone wanting to attempt to rehabilitate these horses.  It is in these awful circumstances that horses meet their fate, auctions can be stressful for the horse as they are naturally skittish creatures. After bids are taken these horses are transported in heavily crowded trailers with minimal food, water and rest, often when horses arrive at these slaughterhouses, they suffer from severe injuries due to other frantic horses kicking and trampling each other during their travels, some show up already deceased. They are then sent to a “knock box” or death chute where they are rendered unconscious, hoisted up by their legs and pulled apart and dismembered. However, this practice and be up for debate as these horses are still conscious when having their throats slit allowing them to feel every ounce of pain and torture.  California made history in 1998 by passing Proposition 6 (ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption) starting a nation-wide movement. By 2006 there were only 3 out of the 16 slaughter factories open in the US (foreign-owned and operated) by 2007 no horse slaughter plants were open in the US. In the same year, The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act was supposed to pass however, it was blocked in the Senate by lawmakers representing pro-horse-slaughter interests.

In July of 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to the reopening of horse slaughter plants in the U.S. in which 26 out of 30 Republicans favored it. In the same year, the government passed a bill that would prevent spending on equine slaughter inspections therefore not enforcing any sort of regulations.  Horse meat in the United States is not considered safe for consumption as most horses are not raised here for meat and consistently are given medications that can be toxic to us humans.  Most medications administered to horses have a warning sign or label notifying that “medication is not intended for animals made for human consumption” and some may be forbidden by the USDA. Due to the lack of regulation in this industry and lack of monitoring the horse’s previous medical history etc. horse meat would not meet the U.S. standards in accordance with the USDA.

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Luckily, this year some progress has been made, an agricultural spending bill will direct the USDA to resume posting inspection reports. As of March 2019, The Bureau of Land Management reinstated a 2014 policy that the Trump administration originally threw out and replaced it with allowing 25 horses to be purchased for slaughter within one day were the BLM allows only 4 to be purchased over six months. There is still a lot of progress to be made, the system set up for the slaughter of horses is flawed in every aspect and necessary steps will need to be taken to prioritize animal welfare reforms, something only time will tell.


  • “Breaking News: Key House Committee Votes to Reopen Horse Slaughter Plants in the U.S.” A Humane World, 2 Aug. 2017, blog.humanesociety.org/2017/07/key-house-committee-votes-reopen-horse-slaughter-plants-u-s.html.
  • Animals & Politics, blog.hslf.org/political_animal/equines/
  • “Horse Slaughter.” ASPCAwww.aspca.org/animal-cruelty/horse-slaughter
  • “Horse Slaughter.” Equine Advocateswww.equineadvocates.org/the-issues/horse-slaughter/.
  • ASPCA. “The Facts: Funding Limitation for Horse Slaughter Inspections.” Www.aspca.org, www.aspca.org/sites/default/files/horse_slaughter_funding_limitation_fact_sheet_-_aspca_1-16-15.pdf.

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