There is simply no way to make horse slaughter humane

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

By on May 18, 2023 with 5 Comments

Update 6/16/23: The Save America’s Forgotten Equines (SAFE) Act has been introduced in the U.S. Senate (S. 2037) by Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. The U.S. still exports tens of thousands of horses to slaughter. It’s well past time we permanently ban domestic horse slaughter in the U.S. and stop the export of American horses for slaughter abroad.

Horses are celebrated in America for their beauty and athleticism, yet they are also sometimes viewed as expendable commodities. Even though horse slaughter has not occurred on U.S. soil since 2007, horses across the U.S. are still being sold and sent to slaughter abroad when no longer deemed useful or profitable by their owners who fail to seek out humane rehoming alternatives.

Speak out to end horse slaughter

We have been on the front lines fighting horse slaughter for years. Most horses slaughtered for meat come from lives shared with people, whether as beloved companions, faithful steeds at horseback riding stables, competitors in equine sports or working horses on a farm. Killing them for meat is the final betrayal of that connection. While all farmed animals killed in industrial slaughter facilities can have a flight response that would make slaughter traumatic, horses are particularly skittish which means there is simply no way to kill them humanely in a slaughterhouse. Moreover, horse slaughter poses significant food safety concerns. Many horses are treated with medications not intended for human consumption, which makes eating horse meat a bad bet for those who choose to eat it.

Now there is a chance to end the slaughter of American horses in a new Congress. This week, the Save America’s Forgotten Equines (SAFE) Act, H.R. 3475, was reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla, and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. The SAFE Act would permanently ban the domestic slaughter of American horses and their export for that purpose. We worked with anti-slaughter coalition partners to encourage and support the sponsors’ introduction of the SAFE Act and will campaign hard for its passage.

This ongoing campaign is part of our decades-long fight for at-risk horses, a methodical, strategic and determined effort to bring the curtain down on a shameful practice. Before horse slaughter plants closed in the U.S., our investigations team documented the horrors of such plants in Illinois and Texas, even tracking the fate of a former racehorse who ended up as meat. We have persistently advocated for federal legislation in successive sessions of the Congress to ensure no U.S. horse suffers that fate. And every year for more than a decade, we have worked to ensure that no taxpayer dollars are made available to re-open horse slaughterhouses in the U.S.

American horses are held in export pens in Texas and New Mexico before transported to slaughter in Mexico. Kathy Milani/The HSUS

The slaughter pipeline that now takes horses across our borders to Canada and Mexico for slaughter routinely subjects them to suffering and cruelty before their painful and terrifying deaths. At auctions, feedlots and export pens, horses are often crowded together without shelter and frequently suffer from injuries and inhumane treatment. The grueling and merciless process continues during long transports until they reach the kill box. There, equipment and practices unsuitable for rendering horses unconscious result in even more pain and suffering.

The entire horse slaughter system is convoluted and exploitative. At some horse auctions in the U.S., “kill buyers” contracted by slaughterhouses outbid legitimate horse owners and rescue organizations, robbing horses of a second chance at life. Kill buyers have even been known to pose as horse dealers and rescue advocates, tricking responsible horse owners into doing the very thing they’d hoped to avoid —consigning horses to the worst of fates.

Increased public desire for humane treatment has contributed to the growth of horse rescue charities in recent years that have greatly expanded our nation’s capacity to rehome horses, including industry-supported groups such as the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance. As a result, there has been a dramatic, 83% decline in the number of horses exported for slaughter in the last 10 years. But even one horse sent into the pipeline of death is too many. That’s why we need to end this practice once and for all. Until then, horses who deserve a chance to be rehomed will still end up in the slaughter pipeline.

You can help save America’s forgotten equines by contacting your legislators and urging them to cosponsor the SAFE Act.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

Equine, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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  1. gisele allard says:

    pleased let the beautiful horses be nature is beautiful save the land for the animal horse and bison or burro we need them to help to relax not just peoples and war

  2. Deborah S Bandzerewicz says:

    The entire horse industry needs reform starting from the beginning.

    Owners to be need to educated about the costs and what it entails to properly care for a horse.

    They also need to be educated about what will happen if they relinquish their animal.

    Finally, let’s end horse racing since the losers will often end up in slaughter houses too.

  3. Karen Ann Drennen says:

    I have been speaking with my legislators for the past 5 years to promote passage of the Save America’s Forgotten Equines banning transportation of American Horses to Canada and Mexico for slaughter. There were over20K horses sent to Mexico and Canada last year. Over 80% of the American public are against horse slaughter and all agree it is inhumane as well as the hours of travel to the slaughter house with no food and water for these poor animals. The problem that needs addressed is that the Horse Racing Industry is a big factor on numbers sent to slaughter over 18% are thoroughbreds. Also the ranchers want public lands for cattle grazing as well as other industries want land for mining and development. Recently the Bureau of Land Management wants over 1.95 million Wyoming This impacts wild horse and burros of which over 1000 were sent to slaughter last year and burros are being sold for their skins to China. This is the problem with passing the SAFE Act. The BLM is constantly increasing the number of horses being captured, not analyzing the areas for the herds as was agreed in the Wild Horse and Burro Act of1971. There are thousands in captivity and it will come in the point were there is no room for them. This is the root of the problem and needs addressed as it impacts passage of the SAFE Act.

  4. perry smolken says:

    No wonder why I hate people so much.

  5. Patricia Summers says:

    As with so many other animals, horses are dependent on humans’ good will and efforts to care for and protect them — not at all a safe bet. Too much trouble to do so? Too many other things to do? Peer pressure? Need for money? Whatever the reason, horses come to be seen as dispensible, while all consideration of re-homing them flies away. Like so many other animals, including domestic pets like cats and dogs, horses are beautiful and loved while they’re young and in good health.

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