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Neglected horse before being rescued - report animal abuse and animal cruelty
Kathy Milani / The HSUS

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 because of the nature of the industry and the unique biology of horses. Slaughter is a brutal and terrifying end for horses, and it is not humane. Horses are shipped for more than 24 hours at a time without food, water or rest in crowded trucks. They are often seriously injured or killed in transit.

Horses are skittish by nature (owing to their heightened fight-or-flight response), which makes accurate pre-slaughter 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 wounds.

The answer is not to return to subjecting our horses to abuse and unacceptable conditions at plants in the U.S. but to ban both horse slaughter and the export of horses for slaughter altogether and to provide our horses with decent lives and, when necessary, humane deaths.

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Does 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. It makes no sense for the federal government to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to oversee new horse slaughter plants. At a time when Congress is focused on fiscal responsibility and the budget of the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service is already stretched thin, the USDA should not extend funding for a new program to slaughter horses—a practice that 80 % of Americans oppose.

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Is horsemeat safe for human consumption?

No. U.S. horsemeat is dangerous to humans because of the unregulated administration of numerous toxic substances to horses before slaughter. In the U.S., horses are raised and treated as companion animals, not as food-producing animals. Unlike animals raised for food, the vast majority of horses sent to 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. 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. Due to concerns about the health threats of drug-laced horsemeat, the European Union (EU), a primary importer of North American horsemeat, suspended horsemeat imports from Mexico—where 87 % of horses slaughtered for export to the EU are of U.S. origin. EU authorities made the decision after a series of scathing audits that exposed a plethora of problems, including the lack of traceability of American horses and horrific suffering on U.S. soil and in Mexico.

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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 and dangerous.

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Has ending domestic horse slaughter damaged the U.S. horse market and led to neglect and abandonment?

No. Horse neglect and abandonment cannot logically be attributed to the closure of U.S slaughter plants. The numbers of horses being sent across our borders into Canada and Mexico for slaughter has decreased significantly in the last 10 years from a high of over 166,000 in 2012 to just over 23,000 in 2021. Clearly, any increase in neglect or abandonment—as well as any downturn in the horse market—is related to the economic downturn that began the same year that the last slaughter plant closed and continues today. Horse slaughter has never been, and will never be, a solution for abuse and neglect. Rather, the continued availability of horse slaughter has only enabled and perpetuated overbreeding, neglect and irresponsibility. As long as slaughter is an outlet for breeders to sell excess horses, they will be rewarded—and continue their irresponsible behavior.

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Are there any other options for horses at risk of going to slaughter?

Yes. There are several ways to reduce the number of homeless or at-risk horses. We can curb overbreeding, educate owners about other rehoming options and expand adoption work. Thousands of American horses are sent to slaughter every year and the vast majority would be rehomed; not every horse going to slaughter needs to go to rescue. The USDA documented that 92.3 % of horses sent to slaughter are in good condition and are able to live out a productive life. These horses would be sold, donated or otherwise rehomed; however, kill buyers outbid legitimate horse owners and rescues at auctions, robbing horses of ever having a second chance at life.

The idea of slaughtering companion animals is unacceptable to the American people and will never be embraced. A 2022 national poll found that 83% of Americans support banning horse slaughter for human consumption. There are countries that consume dogs, cats and other pets as food, but we do not allow our dogs and cats to be exported for food purposes, even though there is a well-documented overpopulation issue to contend with for those animals.

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Do horse slaughter plants stimulate local economies?

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, then 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 due to the related negative stigma. Any minimal financial contributions of horse slaughter facilities are vastly outweighed by the enormous economic and development-suppressing burden they present.

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How can I help fight horse slaughter?

You can help keep cruel horse slaughter out of the U.S. and protect people from the threat of toxic horse meat with these simple steps.

Tell your legislators

Call, email and visit your legislators. Urge them to cosponsor the SAFE Act to end horse slaughter. These are the most important points to make to representatives:

  • Horse slaughter is unacceptably inhumane.
  • 83% of Americans are opposed to horse slaughter. They don't want horse meat served at the dinner table and they don't want their tax dollars spent on inspecting meat bound for foreign markets.
  • Horses are commonly exposed to drugs and other substances that are expressly forbidden for use in animals used for food, making their meat unfit for human consumption. Meat laced with toxic products such as fly sprays and de-wormers is dangerous to human health.
  • Horse slaughter plants have been linked to air and water pollution, lowered property values and increased crime rates in the areas where they're located.
  • The SAFE Act would keep U.S. horse slaughter plants shuttered and end the export of horses for human consumption.

Take your message to social media

Facebook: Post on your legislators' Facebook pages, urging cosponsorship of the SAFE Act to end horse slaughter. Already cosponsors? Thank them for their support!

Twitter: Tweet at your legislators and urge them to cosponsor the SAFE Act to end horse slaughter. Already cosponsors? Thank them for their support!

You can also use social media to share links to our investigative video, "Horse Slaughter: Cruelty Uncovered."

Speak out in the media and inform the public

Write an op-ed or letter to the editor of your local newspaper. You can present the same points listed above.

Attend Town Hall meetings

You don’t need to be an expert on slaughter or even a horse owner. You simply need to do your homework. Some town hall meetings are conducted in person, while others follow a call-in format. You can find the schedule for upcoming meetings by visiting the websites of your federal legislators or calling their offices. The U.S. Capitol switchboard’s number is 202-224-3121.

Volunteer with a horse rescue group

Help out at your local horse rescue facility. Rescue work is a demanding, round-the-clock job requiring dedication, resources and lots of hands-on help. Contact your local horse rescue and offer to lend a hand feeding, grooming, fundraising or organizing volunteers.

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