Horses, burros and other equines are iconic symbols in American life, and we regard them with the same fondness and affection as we do our other companion animals, cats and dogs. These beloved animals earn extra respect and admiration for their strength and their courage, and we owe them a debt of gratitude for their service.
If there is one thing for certain, it’s this: Americans do not see equines as food
Yet, unfortunately, a small but vocal group of greedy profiteers and their allies continue to try and sell the idea that slaughter is somehow a proper way to end a horse’s life.
They want us to allow American horses, trained to trust and depend on people, to be subjected to the chaos and confusion of kill pens and auction yards, and the terror and panic of being forced into a kill box in a slaughter plant. The anatomy of horses, including their flight response that makes them skittish by nature, renders the slaughter process particularly inhumane. It is difficult to accurately stun them during slaughter, and some horses endure repeated blows to the head, even while remaining conscious.
Congress has maintained a de facto ban on the slaughter of horses and burros in the United States, which ensures that no taxpayer dollars are spent to fund the inspectors necessary to allow the predatory horse slaughter industry to find any footing in our country. We urge Congress to maintain this ban in the FY19 Agriculture Appropriations bill, which we expect it will take up in coming weeks, until a permanent solution – the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act – is made law.
A poll by the ASPCA in 2012 found that 80 percent of Americans are opposed to the slaughter of American horses for human consumption. This popular sentiment is reflected in the laws of a number of states, including Texas, New Jersey, Illinois and California, all of which have passed laws to protect equines from the cruelty of slaughter.
When horse slaughter plants operated in the United States before they were closed in 2007, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s records documented repeated incidents of horses suffering from rampant cruelty, severe injuries, broken bones protruding from their bodies, and eye injuries that were so severe that one live horse was shown with an eyeball dangling from its head. Furthermore, the existence of horse slaughter plants in the country did not stop horses from being sent to Mexico and Canada for slaughter — thousands of horses were still transported across the border each year, and were forced to endure long journeys to domestic plants without food, water or rest along the way.
Proponents of horse slaughter like to characterize slaughter as a “necessary evil,” as if horse owners have no other options when they are no longer able or willing to care for their horses. Yet research released last year found that 2.3 million Americans are both willing and currently have the resources to rescue a horse. Responsible horse owners humanely euthanize their animals when the horse becomes old, sick or lame. If a person can no longer care for a horse, he or she has a responsibility to rehome the horse or, as a last resort, opt for humane euthanasia.
There are also important food safety concerns to consider: horses and burros are not raised as food animals in this country and are routinely administered drugs and other substances by veterinarians, trainers and private owners that are toxic to humans. Even items as routine as dewormers are not intended for use in animals raised for human consumption. Due to serious food safety and animal welfare concerns, the European Union suspended horsemeat imports from Mexico – where 87 percent of horses slaughtered for export to the EU were of U.S. origin – and tightened regulations on Canadian horsemeat imports.
The SAFE Act would end the slaughter of American equines completely by banning the transport of horses for slaughter across the border to Canada and Mexico and permanently prevent slaughter plants from opening in the United States. Urge your federal legislators to bring the SAFE Act up for a fair vote, and to maintain the ban on domestic horse slaughter and transport for that purpose via the FY19 Agriculture Appropriations bill. America’s equines deserve better than to face the terror and cruelty of being loaded into trucks, transported long distances, held in kill pens and slaughtered for someone’s dinner plate overseas.