The number of horses likely being exported for slaughter has not dropped off anywhere near enough for animal activists. It is believed that Mexican slaughter plants during 2023 took 17,997 horses from Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, according to the non-governmental organization Animal Wellness Action. The Washington D.C.-based group says: “This was the most significant annual percentage increase of live exports since 2012.”
It says final numbers are not yet available for live exports to Canada.
The horse slaughter business in the United States effectively ended in 2007. In most years since then, appropriations acts have prohibited the Department of Agriculture (USDA) from using federal funds to inspect horses before they are slaughtered for human consumption.
Therefore, there are currently no USDA-inspected horse slaughter facilities in the U.S., meaning no equine products are available for human consumption.
Animal Wellness Action is pointing to the jump in horses being exported to Mexico as the reason to halt any export of live horses and other equids to Mexico and Canada for slaughter for consumption. They argue that such language should be included in the Farm Bill or a major spending bill.
“We are sounding the alarm to Congress that healthy American horses are being butchered in a secretive, inhumane trade to Mexico,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy. “Not one more year of this trafficking of these iconic animals should be tolerated. The animal welfare community and the Thoroughbred racing industry are united in demanding an end to this archaic, miserable, sickening trade.”
In December, New York joined California, Texas, and Illinois — four of the five most significant states in the nation — in forbidding the slaughter of horses for human consumption.
However, the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act — to codify a ban on the slaughter of horses in the United States and to ban live exports has picked up a lot of co-sponsors —226 to be exact — without really moving much.
Elements of the SAFE Act include:
—Permanently prohibits the slaughter of equines (e.g., horses and mules) for human consumption. Current law prohibits the slaughter of dogs and cats for human consumption. This bill extends the prohibition to equines.
—Prohibits a person from knowingly
- slaughtering an equine for human consumption or
- shipping, transporting, possessing, purchasing, selling, or donating an equine to be slaughtered for human consumption or equine parts for human consumption.
—Violators would be subject to fines.
—The bill applies to conduct in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce or within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States. However, it does not apply to an activity carried out by an Indian for a religious ceremony.
“If it is wrong to slaughter horses in Dallas or Yuma or DeKalb, it is wrong to slaughter them in cities in Calgary or Quebec City,” added Pacelle. Congress has approved the domestic ban on horse slaughter through the appropriations process for nearly 15 consecutive years. In 2021, the House unanimously passed a ban on live exports of equines.
Testing of slaughtered horses bound for Mexico found drug residues in horse meat unfit for human consumption.
The number of horses shipped to Mexico from Texas increased from 13,081 in 2022 to 13,725 in 2023.
(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)