by Allyson Koerner
Categories: Animals
Tags: .
Photo: Flickr/Moyan_Brenn

When the news broke about President Obama signing the killing of horses for human consumption into law, it was like the law was heard around the world. Many animal activists were not happy.

The controversial law is hard for some to believe, and some are doing all they can to ban it, like The Humane Society of the United States. Michael Markarian, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund told The Washington Times that any state which allows horse-slaughter plants to open “will face pressure.”

“People will not be happy about their community potentially bringing in one of these plants,” he said. “Americans don’t eat horses, and don’t want them butchered and shrink-wrapped and sent to France or Japan as a delicacy.”

Around 138,000 horses were exported for slaughter in 2010, The Washington Times reported. Another 30,000 were shipped for other purposes.

Horse slaughter was never banned completely by Congress, but handed inspection powers over to the Agriculture Department in 1996. Then, in 2006 Congress voted to stop federal inspections, which put a stop the horse-slaughter industry.

The Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service said there are no current horse slaughterhouses operating in the U.S. that produce meat for human consumption; however according to the United Horseman, a pro-slaughter group, slaughter facilities could be opening sooner, rather than later, in Georgia, North Dakota, Nebraska, Oregon, Wyoming, Montana and even Idaho.

The Christian Science Monitor reviewed a study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and reported “that more abandoned and neglected horses in the US – which has 9 million equines – are being sold and processed for meat anyway in countries that may not have the same standard of humane euthanasia that US law requires.”

In addition, with the poor economy, horse owners haven’t had an easy road –  resulting in horse neglect and abandonment. “In Colorado alone, horse abandonment ‘increased 60 percent from 975 in 2005 to 1,588 in 2009,’” the GAO report said.

The New York Times also reported that banning the exporting and slaughtering of horses forced breeders and owners to no longer sell meat, which overall caused their businesses to go under.

As with most issues, some see good and bad in the bill. Even some animal rights groups are supporting horse slaughtering. For PETA, this jaw-dropping law can be used to fuel the fire in order to protect horses from slaughter and export.

Even though in the past five years horses have not been used for slaughtering and human consumption in the U.S., they have been exported to Mexico, Canada and other countries. The banning of exporting seems to be just as important as stopping the slaughtering.

“A law doesn’t change what’s in people’s hearts, and if business people view horses as commodities, ignoring their sensitive natures in favor of the few dollars that their flesh might bring, the horses were sunk from the start,” said David Perle, a spokesman for PETA said. “To reduce suffering, there should be a ban on the export of live horses, even if that means opening slaughterhouses in the U.S. again. But the better option is to ban slaughter in the U.S. and ban the export of live horses so that no one is slaughtering America’s horses.”

The ban against horse slaughtering and exporting seems to come down to how Americans view horses. Are they iconic and beautiful beings or do they need to be killed to prevent overpopulation? Is it better to have them slaughtered in our own country, as opposed to sending them over the border and overseas?

Let us know your thoughts.

About Allyson Koerner

Allyson Koerner first found her love of writing while attending Westminster College in Pennsylvania, and that passion evolved while she was earning her Master's in Print & Multimedia Journalism at Boston's Emerson College. She's an experienced writer dabbling in all things vegan, green, entertainment and TV-related. Feel free to keep tabs on her over at Twitter: @AllysonKoerner.

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  • http://google wild bill

    so you would rather see them starve to death get disease and neglect from undeserving so called owners as to have them put down. i am a horse owner its not cheap but with no value on them every person wants one then they find out hey this is very expensive i cant afford it. no one wants the horse so the owner dumps it or even worse starves it to death. seen it happen in the news all the time. think about it people dont be so selfish and stupid. can you afford to take in all the unwanted horses in the usa and feed them and vet them. if you can come to tennessee with about 30 tractor trailors cause i know where there are plenty that need a home to provide for them. open a slaughter house save a painful life for some poor horse.

    • K. Kenny

      As a horse owner, I have mixed feelings on this. I am against the human consumption part. For one, vaccines, medications, etc that we use on horses say “Not for use in animals intended for human consumption”. There has to be a reason for that.
      I think the horse slaughter issue is only a small tip of the bigger issue which is inhumane treatment of animals that are going to be slaughtered.

      • http://google wildbill

        well how long do they suffer…2 hrs in a slaughter line or years in an unwanted home think about it no feed no vet no nothing or a quick trip down death row.

    • Marie

      If the horses were being “put down” humanely, like a cat or dog at a veterinarian’s office, that would be one thing. But there is no such thing as “humanely” in a slaughter house. It’s a cruel death, and no animal on earth deserves that kind of treatment, especially not the gentle horses who have done no harm to humans, but have tirelessly and faithfully served them for centuries.

      • http://google wildbill

        marie think about what you are saying there are owners that are 100 times more cruel to them than a slaughter house and fyi a vet does put them down for 125.00 and the owner does the burial but most people let them suffer for years. i love my horses and could never hurt them they are my life and i give them the same respect you give any family member.

      • Anne Marie Duhon

        lets get real here given a choice horses would rather stand belly deep in grass and IGNORE humans unless we come with the bucket. Horses have served man because they had no choice. It working for us was what we chose for them. As for not harming humans snort! there are horses whos whole goal in life is to kill a person watch enough rodeos and you will see a bronc that goes after the rider once he is down and stories abound of the horse that killed its owner or is vicious. (Many of these are the poor babies in rescue taking up the place a GOOD horse could be filling!) people have become way to disconnected from the realities of farming and raising livestock to realize that horses are not pets but livestock and as such have a finite use here. all animals deserve a good life but when that life endangers others or is useless then it is time for it to go. real farmers/ranchers understand this “city” folk dont. they just see a beautiful animal.people need to get back to the real world not some dream world that everyone animal or person has to be saved. it can not be done.

    • Erin

      Dude I totally agree. I have been saying that we should slaughter children for years because far too many of them are suffering at the hands of abusive and neglectful adults. Kids are just too expensive to care for and I’d rather see them brutally killed than humanely euthanised, neutered, or rehomed. I’ve heard they taste great with the right seasonings too. Selling kids for consumption would probably boost the economy, so let’s kill them all! That will truly fix the world’s problems.

    • Katrina Kroneberg

      THERE IS NO EXCUSE!!! Leave nature alone!!! Nature will take it’s course without stupid human beings taking such evil actions against these horses. Nobody can starve if they grow their own gardens. Besides, people do not need to eat meat to survive!!! This is demonic and I am completely against the killing of all animals.

  • http://deleted rat king

    100 years backwords – I curse the responsible!

    • T Cap

      I think it’s terrible!! I too curse the responsible!

  • Marie Ewan

    Oh my what can I say, lets see, first, this whole line of BS has been a delicate plan of the proslaughter leaders, first, lets get this right out in the open, it is a violation to sell horse meat of any kind to the EU that has every had bute, in 2013 the strict rules will be in place, so for all of you that plan on having a horse that you plan to sell to slaughter, you best have a passport, the 6 month review, well, that is not gonna fly, laws will be in place by the time they get up and running that say, if you sell a horse that you knew or should have known you are crimanlly liable for it, so dont let someone feed you a line, you as a horse owner can always sign a notarized document saying you never gave it to your horse, but you know, disrupt the flow of exports for your greed of a couple hundred bucks, those penalties will be there also. So this is going to help the horses, it is going to reduce the unwanted old ones, do none of you know how to read, Dave of the UH has in a press release, yes got copies, they Mexico doesnt want the old ones, by the way, they dont want the skinny ones either. The queen of slaughter gets this, the current horses or any sport horse that has had bute is a DNK for the EU, so she goes to China, well let me tell you about China, they are none to keen on the tainted horse meet, and their ministry of food and safety, i think that is the correct name is at this moment in time deciding if to protect their people, which that is their primary job, they will adopt the same EU rules, okay so lets go to Japan, their market has reduced 12% last year for horse meat. So that leaves good old Mexico, well you know, dont drink the water dont eat the horses, if they cant sell our horses that are on ground now or will compete or race or get a SINGLE, I put that in capitals just so you got it, that is SINGLE dose of bute, between now and the moment they make it to the slaughter line, guess what they can not be sold for horse meat to anyone overseaas. So since I know the danger, do you, I would not eat horse meat. Okay so have I lost you yet, since you can’t sell the ones we have or more then likely the throw aways from tracks competitions, races, you name it, remeber the bute, what does that leave, I know it leaves the queen of slaughter out trying to round up the mustangs/burros, she is already pushing for that, but once those are gone, get this, she will breed or horse harvest as she has said, lets make this real clear, a whole new group of horses for slaughter, so while your horse, joe horse owner, is not eligble, hers will be and you joe horse owner just paid the taxes to make her rich, oh and guess what there will still be an overpopulation of horses from lottery breeders, who guess what they cant sell to slaughter either. Go read up before you comment, google has a great translator, i need it to have a speller for all these post. And their nice little company that will monitor for you, the one the newly formed IEBA, is a guy who is an IT tech for a sign making company in IL, no office, no place, just an address, and one of his Senior Technical Engineers, well lets just say he is a local carpenter, who knows jack squat about computers, so before you jump on the queens sleigh and go ride off into fairy tale land, you might want to ask her if her alladin has room on his maagic carpet, oh and by flight insurance when you do the crash is gonna hurt, you believe lies, I have truth. my name is at the top of this, it is me all of me, no screen name no crap, no secerts, so why dont you instead of being blind go to my page follow a few links, and learn about what you speak about before you make yourself look really stupid, oh and for the record, I am not a vegan, not an activist, I am a nut, I am a tax payer, I am a voter, and you queenie may have won with money falshing around, but, I will win, because what I fight for is the right thing to do!!!

    • Dawn Peterson

      RE: Marie’s comments
      I have tried to make sense of your comments, but I just can’t. I don’t know who or what Queen you are talking about. There are several sentences that seem like thay are headed for a point, but then they run into something else. I AM interested in reading your comments, but could you possibly re-read your comments and correct the stopped sentences so that I can figure out what you are saying. Also, please include a note whom you are referencing as Queen. I want to get all the information that I can, but I need to know what you are talking about Thank you

    • Anne Marie Duhon

      why marie going on and on about how bad slaughter is when YOU starved two horses yourself? Remember Dandy and BEAU? You yourself had to dump on my rescue under false pretenses 6 horses that you could not care for. i wish i knew how to post pic of them! You are right tho you are a nut

  • CanAmFam

    Unfortunately there is a great deal of misinformation in the quotes above, which isn’t surprising given the sources.

    The GAO document was fraught with controversy. Six months before it was released publicly, the chief horse meat lobbyist assured his constituents the results would be in their favor. When it did come out, it was a hatchet job not worthy of high-school level passing grade. Critics claimed it there was an “embarrassing and shocking lack of evidence for GAO’s findings,” and that the report was “filled with speculation,anecdotes, hearsay and unsupported opinions. The GAO sources appear to be
    largely known slaughter proponents.” See here:

    But what is most disturbing is the spin the horse meat lobby has created to justify their business; that they are taking care of “unwanted” and “abandoned” horses. The horse slaughter business exists because there’s demand for US horse meat by a fringe market overseas, and there’s profit to be made importing US horse meat. Full stop. This industry is not doing the US a service; they are doing nothing to alleviate neglect or abandonment of horses, and in fact, the kill buyers often bid against legitimate homes or misrepresent they are provided good homes to naive buyers.

    In addition, horses are often stolen or sent to slaughter without the owner’s consent. So much so, that in Connecticut, a bill, “Polo’s Bill,” was created to stop the routine misrepresentation to people looking for retirement homes for their horses, which were then sold to slaughter. Polo, an 11-year old horse, was sold to a slaughter dealer without his owner’s consent, for $60.

    One of the most commonly repeated myths is that horse slaughter is needed to prevent equine neglect and starvation. Horse slaughter is as widely available to Americans today as it has ever been, and yet we have record levels of neglect. I believe most of us would call that a proven failure to affect a result.

    Consider that in California, where horse slaughter was banned in 1998 – there has been no corresponding rise in cruelty and neglect cases, while horse theft dropped by 34 percent after the ban. In Illinois, when the plant was shut down for two years, horse neglect and abuse decreased in the state.

    So the fact is, after years and years of looking at availability of slaughter and equine neglect, no correlation that slaughter reduces neglect has ever been shown to exist.

    To understand neglect, one has to understand why people neglect and starve their horses. A seasoned animal control officer in Oregon talks about why neglect happens, stating, “neglect cases are often the result of owner ignorance or apathy or in some cases, divorce, family illness or physical injury, financial setback such as unemployment and other aggravated family troubles, have trickled down to impact the horses in an adverse way.” Never did he say it was because slaughter wasn’t available. One rescuer has flat out said, “These people who neglect their horses wouldn’t send their horses to slaughter if there was a plant across the street!”

    Indeed, there is anecdotal evidence that availability of slaughter increases hoarding, which increases neglect. People are so afraid of horses ending up at slaughter that they are adopting or holding on to them when they can no longer afford them or don’t have the knowledge to provide adequate care. If we didn’t have slaughter in America, these people would be less inclined to hoard, which would improve equine welfare.

    The bottom line is there’s no proof that availability of horse slaughter improves equine neglect, however, there is anecdotal evidence it increases hoarding, which actually increases neglect.

    • Anne Marie Duhon

      the effect the lack of slaughter in the us has affected horses care this way. more horses are available for sale for whatever reason and the market has become saturated with horses of all qualities and the value of the horse in general has gone down. horses that before would have gone to an auction barn and gone for over $200 are now going for $20 and people are not selling them at auction barns any longer in the numbers as before. most auctions charge to sell horses and there is a certain number (at the barn near me it is $50 to break even) so instead of running a horse thru the auction and loosing money the horse stays home UNWANTED and most likely to get neglected. no one wants to loose money on something that they paid for unless there is absolutely no choice. the choice of slaughter got rid of the unwanted horse and made more room for the horse with possibilities. slaughter is just one option in an area that needs more choices

  • CanAmFam

    Something else I think is relevant on this issue given that this is a green site is the massive carbon footprint of the horse slaughter industry, which eclipses just about any other food production.

    There has been much attention given to the fact that it takes more than 11 times as much fossil fuel to make one calorie from animal protein as it does to make one calorie from plant protein. And that would be your average livestock animal. One of the reasons horses aren’t raised for their meat is it takes years to get them to slaughter weight, unlike swine and cattle.

    In addition, there’s so marginal demand for US horse meat that only a handful of plants in North American can be sustained financially. Contrast that with food animals, which can be processed at hundreds of slaughterhouses around the country. As a result, horses – 1,200 pound animals – are trucked for days to get to a slaughterhouse.

    Before the horses are even killed, they’ve already used far more carbon that any other domestic livestock species. But once they’re butchered, the carcasses are then FLOWN overseas.

    Is this the kind of industry we want polluting our country, using our resources and subjecting our equine partners to unspeakable cruelty?

  • Tom Gaile

    One of the things you are not being told is that we will be paying for the inspection of this chemically contaminated meat these plants intend to ship to other countries with OUR tax money to the tune of upwards of 5 million dollars. Now you say, well that’s not a lot if you consider how many people live in the US who pay taxes…. really? We can’t afford to keep the foods we do eat safe and in order to fund such, our government will have to pull money from other sources like Medicare, school lunch programs, WIC etc… in order to fund new inspectors because the economy is in the tank and the reckless spending over the last 8-10 years has done more damage than anyone could ever imagine. Do you want Grandma to skip her heart meds because Medicare no longer covers that particular drug? Would you knowingly allow your child who happens to be on the school lunch program to eat toxic horse meat for lunch? Yes, that is a real concept! Rep Sue Wallis wants to feed toxic meat to our children and grandchildren through the school lunch program. She claims there is no residual chemicals in the meat. Is there proof of that? Any vets out there willing to test that theory? A simple biopsy would do the trick. There is no proof on the pro side of ‘ALL traces’ of these chemicals leaving a horses muscle tissue or bones. The FDA banned Bute for use in animals intended for human consumption because it causes serious health issues. Just to be fair, take a look at the drugs used in our equines and then take a look at the FDA’s web site to see how many of those have been banned for use in animals intended for human consumption.
    It’s not about all the pretty horses. It’s about FOOD SAFETY and ANIMAL CRUELTY.

  • Kevin

    This is a very disappointing repeat of an already flawed article. “Signing the killing of horses for human consumption into law” was not something that happened.

    Slaughtering a horse was not illegal at any point. The gov’t lacked funding to allow inspections of the horse meat resulting from slaughter to declare it fit for human consumption. Given that, it became infeasible, not illegal, to slaughter, given that one could not market meat that was gov’t approved. Marketing meat that was not gov’t approved would have been illegal.

    This new bill simply provided funding for the gov’t to resume inspections of horse meat.

  • Anne Hogan

    It is important that all of us who are angered by this news channel that energy toward gaining support for the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act. You can read more on HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle’s blog – and you can take action at

  • Dawn Peterson

    I collect older LOOK magazines and have a bunch from the WWII era. In them, they talk about how horse meat was in the butcher shops and grocery stores. I know that quite a few . American Service men and women that were stationed in Europe during and directly after the war were eating horse meat. I don’t think that too many of them complained.
    Having horses, I see others that are starved and sick. The horse auctions that we go to have stopped accepting horses that are too skinny, injured, or sick. I feel it was about time to do that. I worked for our local Humane Society and went on several calls of horses that weren’t being taken care of properly. They would be starving and I would give them some feed. When the state vet came down, he said that as long as someone was feeding them, they weren’t starving. So what are you going to do when that is the reaction you get from a paid state worker? World isn’t perfect, but it’s the only one we got. I know that I would rather see a horse go to the killers then see them with injuries, starving, in mud up to their knees, and flies covering their faces and there be no one to take care of them. It’s all about a person’s duty to do right by the animals. But we are dealing with the same people that don’t take care of their kids either. Maybe we could get the horses on welfare.

  • Angela Whiting

    How is Horse slaughter going to benefit Americans? Can some please explain.

  • Annette

    As far as I know, Americans, or people in America don’t consume horses. So why slaughter them? Why add another animal to become a victim of consumption and pain? On top of that, exporting them will reduce he number of horses existing, hence bringing them to extinction. What is the benefit of this? I don’t see any. Horses, like other animals, don’t deserve torture and to be used as if they have no emotions.