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January 13, 2010

Racing to End to Horse Slaughter

It's time to save America's horses and put an end to this cruel practice

The Humane Society of the United States

  • Horses are shipped for more than 24 hours in cramped trailers without food, water or rest. Kathy Milani/The HSUS

  • The panic-stricken environment of a slaughter plant is particularly harsh for horses, who often sustain injury even before they are killed. Kathy Milani/The HSUS

  • Now awaiting her demise, this horse could have been adopted to a loving home. Kathy Milani/The HSUS

  • The suffering only intensifies upon entering the kill box, where frightened horses often struggle. Kathy Milani/The HSUS

  • Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), has been instrumental as the lead Senate sponsor of the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act to enact a federal ban on horse slaughter. Michelle Riley/The HSUS

  • Miss Judge, a Thoroughbred mare once destined for slaughter, became the featured horse at an event with world-renowned natural horsemanship horse trainers Pat and Linda Parelli. The HSUS

  • Jamaica, a 17-year-old Dutch Warmblood who was recently named “Horse of the Year” by the United States Equestrian Federation, narrowly escaped the fate of slaughter. The HSUS

The bloody, panic-stricken environment of a slaughterhouse is no place for any horse to meet her end.

But as long as horse slaughter is legal in the United States, this covert, predatory industry will have its buyers at American horse auctions, outbidding legitimate horse owners and funneling these animals off to foreign slaughterhouses to be sold as meat overseas.

Cruel industry

Horse slaughter is a death fraught with terror, pain and suffering. Horses are shipped for more than 24 hours at a time in crowded cattle trucks—vehicles with ceilings too low for a horse to stand up straight—without food, water or rest.

Horses bound for slaughter often sustain severe injuries from the bites and kicks of other, more aggressive horses. They frequently fall, and unable to regain their footing, are often trampled to death. Healthy, very young, injured, pregnant, blind—all endure the grueling journey.

Once horses arrive at the slaughter plant, their suffering intensifies. Terrified, they struggle in the kill box, making it difficult for the often untrained staff to render them unconscious. In Mexico, our undercover cameras documented the use of the puntilla knife to stab horses repeatedly to paralyze them for butchering.

Horse slaughter is not humane euthanasia—in fact, there is nothing about this process that is "humane."

Lethal loophole

Although some state legislatures have acted to stop horse slaughter, shuttering the last remaining foreign-owned horse slaughter plants in the United States in 2007, Congress has yet to enact a federal ban.

This means that not only can horses continue to be exported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter, but more foreign-owned horse slaughter plants could even try to set up shop on U.S. soil.

Fortunately, many members of Congress remain committed to horse protection. "I will continue to fight in Congress to end this brutal practice and ensure that American horses will no longer be savagely slaughtered for human consumption," says Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), who is the lead Senate sponsor of the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act (S. 727) to ban horse slaughter. Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), and Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN) all join her in that fight as lead authors of S. 727/H.R 503.

At the forefront of the fight

In addition to our legislative efforts, The HSUS has taken an active role in the rescue and care of horses heading to slaughter.

When all three U.S. based horse slaughter plants closed, The HSUS offered to take the horses that were already at or en route to the plants. While most of the horses were reloaded and sent to slaughter plants in Mexico and Canada, The HSUS was able to rescue a group of 30 horses who had literally been standing inside one of the plants, waiting to die, when the court order came to shut down the kill floor.

These horses were distributed between many different horse rescues, all opening up their barn doors and offering to take them in. In fact, two of these horses are enjoying the green pastures at the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, one of The HSUS' two horse sanctuaries.

The HSUS will continue its efforts as the nation's largest direct care provider for at-risk equines with the opening of the Doris Day Rescue and Adoption Center at the ranch later this year.

Second chances trump slaughter

Proof that slaughter isn't the answer is evident in the stories of horses rescued from that horrible fate only to go on to successful careers:

  • Ten years ago, a 17-year-old Dutch Warmblood named Jamaica was nearly sent to slaughter, saved at the last minute from a killer buyer's pen. Jamaica has now racked up numerous awards, and was recently named "Horse of the Year" by the United States Equestrian Federation. (Unfortunately, Thoroughbred racing's 1987 Horse of the Year and 1986 Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand, was not so lucky and was slaughtered in Japan.)

  • Miss Judge also escaped slaughter. After years of making money for her owners on the racetrack, the 11-year-old Thoroughbred mare was sent to an auction—one that killer buyers frequent—but Angel Acres Horse Haven Rescue stepped in, paying $350 to save her life. Miss Judge went on to strut her stuff as a featured horse at an event with world-renowned natural horsemanship horse trainers Pat and Linda Parelli. She was adopted by someone who fell in love with the gentle mare.

You can give horses a second chance

While The HSUS and horse rescue organizations across the country work tirelessly to give every horse a second chance, thousands of American horses are still shipped across our borders each week for slaughter because the horse slaughter industry can outbid them.

Ask your U.S. Representative and Senators and to support The Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act (H.R. 503/S. 727). It will ban the barbaric killing of American horses for human consumption, including the export of horses across our borders for slaughter.

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