Header graphic for print

Food Safety News

Breaking news for everyone's consumption

Americans Don’t Eat Horses

Opinion

A recent article invoked America’s cowboy culture as the only reason we don’t eat horses, but there’s much more to it than that (“Horse Slaughter Issue Won’t Go Away,” Oct. 25). While it’s true that this country was founded from the backs of horses and the image of a wild horse galloping across the plain is the greatest symbol of America’s spirit, the fact of the matter is that American horses are raised to be competitors and companions–not dinner.

 

The horse slaughter process, whether it occurs in the U.S. or across our borders, is brutal and terrifying. HSUS investigators have documented unthinkable cruelty time and again. The FDA and the European Union have banned the use of phenylbutazone in animals raised for food because of its cancer-causing properties, and the drug is as common in American horses as Aspirin is in people.

 

Americans don’t eat horses, and they don’t want them inhumanely killed and sent abroad as a high-priced appetizer. Nor should horse slaughter exist as a crutch for irresponsible owners or as a dumping ground that enables overbreeding.  The majority of owners find decent and humane outcomes for their horses, selling or leasing them, donating them to therapeutic riding or mounted police programs or relinquishing them to a rescue or sanctuary.

 

The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (S. 1176/H.R. 2966) would ban the export of American horses for slaughter and end this inhumane practice for good.

—————— 

Keith Dane is director of equine protection for The Humane Society of the United States.

© Food Safety News
  • A good book to read about horses is “Horse Watching” by Desmond Morris. It’s very readable and interesting. One of the reasons people like horses is that they like us. In fact, Morris points to this as one of their vulnerabilities.

  • desert rose

    everybody wants the horse slaughter to be banned so the “irresponsible owners/breeders don’t have a crutch to use” for disposal of unwanted horses…. come on people..wake up..get a grip… the animal welfare/humane outfits can’t even get people to spay/neuter their cats and dogs!! all you have to do is watch episodes of “Animal Cops[where ever]” to see the cruelty/abandonment to animals that ARE pets and not LIVESTOCK! A horse is alot more expensive to care/feed than a dog or cat.Granted a lot of horses have been abandoned due to the economy,but if their owners can’t afford to care for them and a suitible owner can’t be had for them, why shouldn’t they be used to feed zoo animals or exzotic animal rescues[there is another can of worms there with exzotic animal ownership!]There needs to be an “outlet” for unwanted/aged/crippled horses,espcially the feral/wild horses that BLM captures.Not everyone has money/land/equipment to bury a horse. do people think farmers and ranchers keep Ol’ Bessie to live out her days in pasture to die of old age after she no longer can produce a calf?!!?!?? Miss a year producing a calf and Boom! she’s at the sale to be your next fast food burger!! Don’t get me wrong I like horses, have an older horse, I know how much it costs to take care of one and it ain’t cheap!! Maybe if folks had to pay an extra tax for the upkeep of all those penned up mustangs they would change their mind about letting some go to slaughter[for zoos,etc]
    If Europe wants horsemeat, let them buy the live horses,ship them over there[by then any chemicals in their system should be gone]and take care of the slaughtering themselves. Personally, I think the horses had a more humane slaughter here in the US then Mexico or Canada.
    By stopping the “export” to Mexico or Canada for slaughter, there will be more horses than ever being abused and neglected for lack of owners/”sanctuaries”, the land can only support so many head before it starts getting ruined. If all these rich people/singers/activists were to take a whole bunch[not just one or two] of these unwanted/unadoptable horses and pay for the care for them themselves[not want the govt. to “reimburse” them] til they die they might change their tune on “letting them run free”. Sorry about the “ranting and raving”, but I see nothing wrong with horse slaughter,for people or pet food, just so it is humanely done and I think there is a better chance of that being regulated and proper testing done in the US.

  • Richard Ross

    You need to step out into the real world to see what is happening to horses when care and upkeep is more expensive than the horse is worth. When the law takes away a method of disposal, we interfere with the normal market events.
    The result of the law makes the result worse than the the legal slaughter.

  • Tommy Lee

    @ Richard. We all have been in the real world..Trying to fix the problems irresponsible pro slaughter advocates created. You should educate yourself before you believe any bull crap pro slaughter advocates says..
    1. Horse slaughter existed in Mexico and Canada long before the US closed illegal operated plants in Texas..(Illegal) what part do you not understand.
    2. These plants did NOT pay gross income taxes nor export tariffs as most Americans are required too.
    3. Fact is pro slaughter advocates want slaughter in the US now because of the longer travel. kill buyers are spending more fuel to plants which is hurting their pocket books.
    4.Auctioneers knows this if kill buyers drop lie flies the Auctioneer loses money.. Cars and truck sells are down. Homes and vacations are down so why should the sells of horses be any different.
    5. You should be worried about your kids and their future. The US congress is being bombarded with calls for horse slaughter which only profits irresponsible breeders and abuse and neglect always follows these morons.
    6. Haulting horse slaughter in the US has saved the tax payer over $5 Million dollars a year. Since 07 that mounts to over $25 Million dollars not to mention the vets at kill sales and boarder lines that we tax payers are still paying for.
    7.Horse slaughter rewards criminals like Leroy Baker of Sugar Creek auction in Ohio who has been fined over $162,000 and to date has not paid a single dime.
    8 According to USDA own reports obtained from a freedom of informations act clearly shows slaughter rewarded these criminals and ignore laws cramping double deckers with foals, pregant mares and stallions all mixed in with cripple and blind horses.
    9. Pro slaughter advocates have no history of promoting or donating to rescues in the US.
    10. Horses are loaded with drugs such as wormers, brute and steriods which clearly indicate NOT to be used on animals intented for humane consumption. Do the right thing Richard educate yourself to the truth stop rewarding criminals. The only jobs these plants ever offered were to illegal aliens.

  • SAM

    We do not eat our Pet dogs & Cats, and we do NOT eat our Pet Horses either! To me, IDK, “Horses are not Livestock! Remember a very special comment from a special person. 2011. Ann M. Marini, Ph.D., M.D. on October 6, 2011 at 1:37 am
    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) bans phenylbutazone in all food-producing animals, including horses. This is an ABSOLUTE ban meaning that if a horse is given one dose of phenylbutazone, that horse is NOT eligible for slaughter for human consumption.
    Joe,
    Would you like to be a human subject in a study where you are fed meat contaminated with a drug known to cause idiosyncratic bone marrow failure and cancer? If you are willing to enroll in this study, go live in a European country that sells horsemeat and eat to your heart’s content. Come back annually so that I can draw your blood for phenylbutazone levels and send you to the specialists to biopsy your kidney and liver to determine phenylbutazone residue. You will be followed for cancer of the gastrointestinal tract and you will also get an annual bone marrow biopsy for bute residue levels as it has been shown that bute interferes with DNA synthesis of cells that reside in the bone marrow that become blood elements.
    (Right on the nose!) 🙂

  • A good book to read about horses is “Horse Watching” by Desmond Morris. It’s very readable and interesting. One of the reasons people like horses is that they like us. In fact, Morris points to this as one of their vulnerabilities.

  • Ben

    It looks like in this society every animal is a pet. I’m waiting for the day where we get told we can’t eat lamb or venison, because some one keeps them as a pet. Horses belong to livestock. There are work horses and some societies raise meat horses to feed the people, just like meat goats. The reason some people have to have horse meat is, they don’t have problems with gout. Rich societies can afford to feed useless horses kept as pets and spent all the money to feed them and treat them, while people in other countries are starving to death. What a selfish, hypocritical society! Yes the Bute can cause human problems, it’s a drug of course and FDA doesn’t allow it in any animal for food.

  • Please stop using the Commercial Horse Slaughter proponent’s “talking points.” I’m getting tired of following uninspired plagiarism. Can’t you people speak for yourselves?
    First of all, you are so obvious and oblivious because of the truth of the matter. It’s been proven, time and time again, by many advocates for horses and the humane treatment of animals, investigative reporters, watchdog groups and news media that humane slaughter of horses in the US never existed.
    There was never a method used and never a model presented, ever, even now, that represents what would be deemed humane by the leaders of the USDA from the highest levels of the organization.
    “The captive bolt is not a proper instrument for the slaughter of equids, these animals regain consciousness 30 seconds after being struck, they are fully aware they are being vivisected.” ~Dr. Lester Friedlander, DVM & former Chief USDA Inspector

  • Aliases “Desert Rose” and “Richard Ross” are not representing honestly that of which they speak and I suspect they are also not who they say they are… So, “Desert Rose” how were horses killed for slaughter in the US before the last of the foreign-owned plants stopped operating in the Great State of Texas??? Since these were the very last plants to close, they were the very latest Commercial Horse Slaughter that occurred in the US. If you truly know what you are talking about and not just copying someone else’s “talking points” into your own, uninspired words, then answer me that!
    And Mr. Richard Ross: the proponents of Commercial Horse Slaughter in the US are not claiming to euthanize horses humanely, they openly are advocating for new farms to spring up to breed new horses specifically for the purpose of slaughter for human consumption. Would you like a link to the press release where Sue Wallis (Rep. WY) states this or should we just ask “Desert Rose” to respond to you directly..?

  • Unfortunately desert rose has mis-stated some important facts.
    First, slaughter has never been an outlet for “aged/crippled horses.” The slaughter quotas demand healthy, young horses – precisely the kind that with time and training could live a productive life that brought thousands of dollars of stimulus into our economy rather than a one-time $100 to $200 sale to slaughter. Even studies by Temple Grandin and the USDA showed 90 to 93% of horses going to slaughter as sound and around 7 years of age.
    Secondly, no statistical evidence has EVER shown a relationship between availability of horse slaughter and decreased equine neglect and abuse. There have in fact been statistics showing a slight increase in abuse from having slaughter available, and most definitely an increase in equine theft.
    However, animal control and rescue operators agree – the most profound impact on animal neglect – ALL animal neglect – is the economy. When the economy is depressed as severely as it is currently, you can expect to see adverse animal welfare. This correlation is proven.
    There is however, proof of non-correlation of availability of slaughter and reduced equine neglect. The U.S. saw our worst equine neglect cases in 1996, when record numbers of equines were being slaughtered right here in the U.S. In addition, Canada and other countries with slaughter plants have also seen increases in equine neglect in concert with the global economic contraction.
    And finally, it’s actually possible availability of slaughter increases neglect and abandonment. People hold on to their horses too long when they can’t afford them, and in really desperate circumstances, occasionally abandon them (although these reports have been GREATLY exaggerated) BECAUSE they are afraid of the horses going to slaughter. So in fact, having slaughter available may well increase equine neglect. We already know it does increase abuse (which anyone viewing footage of slaughterbound equines at auction, transport and slaughter plants has seen ample evidence of).

  • Elaine Nash

    I think that anyone who thinks that eating the meat of American horses is a good idea should be legally required to eat no less than 50 pounds of it a year. I think a lot of pro-slaughter singers would change their tunes very quickly- especially when their doctors give the news that they have acquired Aplastic Anemia or Cancer. “Oops! My bad.” isn’t going to save them at that point.
    The bottom line is that these pro-slaughter people are the dregs of our society. They’re not smart, they’re not kind, they’re not conscientious, and they don’t care a whit is someone in Belgium dies of cancer because of eating toxic American horse meat… as long as they make their $138.50 on that horse they discarded at the auction house. Shame on you all. I wish for each of you what you’re willing to inflict on the consumers of your deadly product.

  • Ann M. Marini, Ph.D., M.D.

    Desert Rose:
    Have seen this post from you many, many times:
    You say: “A horse is alot more expensive to care/feed than a dog or cat.Granted a lot of horses have been abandoned due to the economy,but if their owners can’t afford to care for them and a suitible owner can’t be had for them, why shouldn’t they be used to feed zoo animals or exzotic animal rescues…”
    If you can’t afford to feed a horse, DON’T OWN THE HORSE. And, why should anyone feed exotic or zoo animals CONTAMINATED horsemeat?
    You say: “There needs to be an “outlet” for unwanted/aged/crippled horses,espcially the feral/wild horses that BLM captures.Not everyone has money/land/equipment to bury a horse. do people think farmers and ranchers keep Ol’ Bessie to live out her days in pasture to die of old age after she no longer can produce a calf…”
    This is such a RAMBLING sentence with poor sentence structure and an absence of focus and poor spelling!
    The BLM needs to leave the horses on the range. Why? BECAUSE IT COSTS TAXPAYERS ZERO MONEY WHEN THE WILD HORSES AND BURROS ARE ON THE RANGE.
    Not everyone has money for equipment to bury a horse? THEN, DON’T OWN A HORSE. Are you a cattle rancher? If not, why bring up cows? The article is about horse slaughter not cow slaughter.
    You say: “Maybe if folks had to pay an extra tax for the upkeep of all those penned up mustangs they would change their mind about letting some go to slaughter…”
    WE DO PAY to for the upkeep of “all of those penned up mustangs.” But, we don’t have to pay taxes or an extra tax if the BLM left the mustangs on the range where they belong!
    You say: “If Europe wants horsemeat, let them buy the live horses,ship them over there[by then any chemicals in their system should be gone]and take care of the slaughtering themselves. Personally, I think the horses had a more humane slaughter here in the US then Mexico or Canada.”
    Do you live in a bubble? NO DRUG IS COMPLETELY ELIMINATED FROM THE BODY whether it bet horse or human. There is always drug that is deposited in organs. This is why the USDA tests carcasses for drug residue. And, horse slaughter is as cruel here in the United States as it is in Canada and Mexico.
    You are as pro-slaughter as they come. Ignorant and contemptuous.

  • Susan

    To the posters who vouch for slaughtering horses.. it would be helpful if you did your research so we could have an evidence-based debate on the facts.
    Bute and other drugs given to a horse at any time in its life make it illegal to slaughter for food, because the drugs have no legal washout period. The FDA and EU have made it abundantly clear they are serious about the regulations. Ireland has announced the microchip drug tracking system will trace banned drugs in slaughtered horses back to the prescribing veterinarians, who will be subject to prosecution.
    Inflammed tissues hold onto the Bute, and its byproducts are eliminated over an unpredictable time. Sophisticated laboratory testing shows there’s enough Bute in US horses post-slaughter to pose a serious health risk to children.
    I think the US horse owners.. we’re only talking 1% of horses .. who currently slaughter ought to be thinking about the children they are harming, because of greed, instead of doing the right thing and calling a vet.
    Second, there never was humane horse slaughter even in the US. The evidence has been public for years; some people either can’t read it or choose not to.
    Most Americans want horse slaughter stopped. The latest poll, 78% support a Federal ban.
    So for most Americans, the horse slaughter discussion is over. The only reason it persists is because of the corruption of our form of government by special interest lobby money, like the back room deal this week by the Appropriations Committee that added $5 million dollars to the Federal deficit for USDA horse inspections for offshore corporations; dismissing the wishes of millions of Americans who’d rather we spend our money on feeding our own people, or saving it and paying down our national debt.

  • J L Schöne

    “Exzotic animal”… what is that, exactly? Battle lines are drawn now. Horse slaughter CANNOT return to the United States, and the transportation of our horses to slaughter destinations MUST be made illegal. http://www2.sacurrent.com/news/story.asp?id=57194

  • cf

    First total comment I read was from desert rose, and what a scare. Then the ignorance of Richard Ross.
    Of course there is Ben who thinks folks against are ‘hypocritical’–but ends with the Bute being banned– Is THAT not ‘hypocritical? What exactly is the point here? The ‘poison’ to people being irrelevant?
    As a resident of Nevada I am appalled with the treatment by the BLM of the wild horses here and in other states. Do they belong here , in the wild, Positively they DO.
    {Let’s hear a cheer for people like Wild Horse Annie and the work she did a in the 70’s. She is still a hero to many.)
    As for the slaughter and that it is wrong, how can there be any doubt? I wish to thank the following for their wise and scientific and comprehensive information.
    I might add a warning here though– since it is always about money, [paying for lack of morals and ethics]. Read the piece on the WTO blocking country of origin labeling. This would be for our safety, yet money powers with strong lobbying have defeated the possibility of this necessity.
    How then to keep the ‘money’ interests from causing this horrible possibility?
    Thank you to Tommy Lee, Horseback America Expedition, Horse Trainer, Ann Marini PhD, MD, Susan, Elaine Nash and any and all who are working to stop this travesty against nature.

  • Linda Horn

    @ Richard & Desert Rose. Since I agree with the article and those who have made intellegent and factual arguments against horse slaughter, there’s no need for me to repeat them. However, I will call your attention to the sidebar at the right of this page, specifically the Government Newswire tabs, and Food Recalls. With all the banned substances given to almost every horse in the U.S., look for horsemeat to show up on those recalls should slaughter begin. And, please, invest your life savings in this “profitable enterprise”, and encourage those who share your positions to do so as well. I look forward to those investments tanking once toxic horsemeat is investigated by Federal agencies and exposed to the general public.

  • Ann M. Marini, Ph.D., M.D.

    Richard Ross: Are you also living in a bubble?
    You say: “When the law takes away a method of disposal, we interfere with the normal market events.”
    There already is a method of “disposal” and that is to call your vet and have the horse humanely euthanized through chemical overdose.
    Desert Rose: Horse Trainer is absolutely correct. By the USDA’s own statistics, 92% of the horses sent to slaughter are YOUNG and SOUND. Slaughter plants don’t want old, crippled or skinny horses. They want the young, fat and healthy horses.

  • D. Verret

    BTW…last I checked it, it is illegal to send crippled, infirmed and sick equines to auction wherein transport, sale to slaughter of same are required (old is a bit different, but just as dispicable). It is also illegal to sell a juiced equine for resale, misrepresenting/masking it’s true health/physical conditions. It is called FRAUD!

  • Theresa Nolet

    Canada has four operating horse slaughter plants and they are facing the same problems the US is! This last week alone I received three calls from people trying to find homes for their horses they could no longer care for. Slaughter is not the answer it is part of the problem! Stop breeding! The quarter horse industry and the throughbred industry are still producing tens of THOUSANDS of foals each year! This needs to stop! The Kentucky Derby has a twenty horse gate! Slaughter is about YOUNG HEALTHY FAT horses being purchased it is not about the thin, old sick horses! Who wants to eat old, sick horses? NO ONE! And the horses are not raised for meat! They are full of drugs that even dog food companies do not want in their product because it kills their customers, the dog! Slaughter is not the solution it is the problem that allows this insanity to continue! Here is a link to a news story from Canada http://regina.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20110119/sas-horse-110119/20110119/?hub=Regina#.Trq5yENcK6k.facebook&mid=524

  • Olivia

    I understand that horses are an extremely expensive upkeep, as I have two myself. I ride them in horse shows. They are winning competitors that are considered part of the family. To people comparing eating horses to eating lamb, it is totally different. Lamb are not used to compete, and typically are not pets. Of course it is sad for a lamb to be killed but that is what people do.
    I have had to sell one horse. But I made sure it was a good home and she is happy there. Some people may not have money to do this, but then they probably shouldn’t have a horse in the first place. There are many horse rescue sites where your horse can be HUMANELY sent to, and there are thousands of places to donate your horses to, as well as thousands of buyers out there who may be searching for a horse just like yours.
    Horse slaughter is absolutely ridiculous, inhumane, and POINTLESS. No one in America eats horses, so please don’t even consider it here. If your child was too expensive, would you kill it?

  • cf

    Olivia,
    thank you for some plain old common sense!

  • PabloG

    It is radicolous to differentiate between slotering horses and other animals. Horses are animals and they have tasty meat. The only reason you do not want to use them for meet is the amount of money you spend for training them. Horse is not more intelligent than the pig. In fact the pig is more DNA compatible with human than any other animal. Yet we eat it (Jews and Muslims excluded). I understand that there are some cultural differences between different countries eating different meats. But please do not try rationalize them. There’s NO rational explanation, just local customs.

  • Lynda

    Humane euthanisia is the answer when the horses are too old or too infirm to go on. Same with dogs and cats. People dump them as well at shelters when they are old. Grow a pair people.
    Don’t try to get the last $50 out of a horse that has served you well. Be responsible, give it an end with dignity.
    99.9% of the race horses in this country have had bute, that meat will never be safe for human consumption. Yet off they go to the cheap auction when every last race is run out of some of them.
    The most inhumane creature on the planet is the human.

  • Kristin

    I must agree with this one……….If you can’t afford to feed a horse, DON’T OWN THE HORSE. And, why should anyone feed exotic or zoo animals CONTAMINATED horsemeat?
    MANY people cant feed their children……I hope they aren’t being eaten.

  • Marie

    Footage from inside the horse slaughter facilities in the United States showed abuse and cruelty. Many horses were conscious when they were shackled and hoisted by a rear leg to have their throats cut. Horses were whipped in the face while others gave birth on the killing floors. The USDA recently released photos of horses with broken bones protruding from their bodies, eyeballs hanging by a thread of skin, and open wounds – all taken at former U.S. horse slaughterhouses. No animal, food animal or not, should be subjected to this tremendous cruelty inside – or outside – of our borders. This is not humane, but a brutal and terrifying end for horses.
    PLEASE call, email, mail, fax, not only the President, but your representatives, and ask them to co-sponser the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, H.R. 2966 / S. 1176. Send postcards to the White House, they don’t go through the weeks-long inspection regular mail goes through.

  • Marie

    The only reason for allowing horse slaughter, according to supporters, is that there are too many unwanted horses and horse slaughter is the only solution to the problem.
    In states like California, where slaughter was banned, neglect and theft actually decreased after the ban. The rate of horse theft dropped by 34% in 1998 alone when California horse slaughter. In Illinois, horse neglect and abuse decreased when the state’s horse slaughter plant closed down.
    The vast majority of horse owners, 99%, use humane euthanasia for their old or ill horses. About 900,000 horses die annually, and they’re safely disposed of by means other than slaughter.
    USDA documents state that more than 92% of horses who go to slaughter are in good condition. Slaughter houses want fat, healthy horses, not thin starving ones. The surplus, unwanted horses are thin and starving; opening slaughter houses is not addressing or solving this. Slaughter houses are creating a market for healthy, wanted horses.
    Many domestic horses are stolen every year for the horsemeat trade. Ohio newspapers reported the theft of two prized former racehorses who were sold for $250 each to an auctioneer, who then sold them to a killer buyer. Their owner had planned on retiring them at a sanctuary. Sky Dutcher came to Washington, D.C. to tell the story of how her horse, Cimmarron, was stolen from his corral on her twelfth birthday and sent to slaughter within two days.

  • Dawn

    I have horses and have never sent one to the slaughter house, but I recognize it is because of my emotional attachment not because they are morally better than other livestock that is killed for meat. People need to stop breeding irresponsibly. Until then there will be horses which will need to be killed one way or another. I have seen people breed an inferior mare to an inferior stallion only to be supprised when they get an inferior foal. And don’t fool yourself, most horses that get donated to police and therapeutic riding institutions end up at auction not being actually used.