Horse Slaughter Legal Again in the U.S.

New horse slaughter laws

Horse slaughter, the practice of killing equines for horse meat, ended in the United States in 2007. A bill to end the practice passed in the House, but it never made it to the Senate for a vote. Even so, by that time, only three large horse slaughter houses were still operating in the U.S. – two in Texas and one in Illinois. In 2007, all three of these plants were shut down, largely through the efforts of the local communities. On November 18, 2011, President Obama signed into law a Department of Agriculture bill that will reinstate horse slaughter in America. How do I feel about this? If you know me and my hubs, you know I’m a lifelong horse lover. I’ve owned many equines, and I would have never even considered selling one of them for slaughter. Still, I’m a pretty practical person, so you might be surprised by my musings on the subject of horse slaughter.

A new law has once again opened the way for horse slaughter in the U.S.
A new law has once again opened the way for horse slaughter in the U.S.

Pro horse slaughter in the U.S.

Back when turning equines into horse meat was legal here, I was on the bandwagon with other horse lovers who were trying to make it illegal. I wrote letters and editorials, and I made phone calls to senators and representatives. After much public outcry, the American kill houses were finally closed. But what happened then? Horse slaughter in Mexico and Canada revved up their operations and began purchasing American horses to kill for horse meat. To be honest, I don’t know a lot about equine kill houses in Canada, but from what I’ve read, the horses are usually killed by a rifle. I know more about the horse slaughter in Mexico. There, a handful of plants are inspected by the EU, due to the fact that much of the meat is shipped to Europe for human consumption. In the rest of the kill houses in Mexico, however, there are few regulations. Conditions in some of these plants are horrendous. The way the horses are handled, the way foals are treated, the way the animals are killed – are all heartbreaking. At least here in the U.S., the slaughterhouses will be regularly inspected, and I’m certain that animal welfare groups will keep a close eye on them, too.

Horses being transported to Mexico and Canada often spend days crammed in a trailer without food or water. The horses are terrified, and some are injured in the process. If, for some reason, they can’t stand, they might be trampled by their fellow sufferers. If the horses don’t have to travel so far to the slaughterhouses, at least part of their suffering will be reduced. Also, the U.S. government or state governments will be able to inspect the shipping trailers because they’ll be within American boundaries.

Unwanted horses are a major problem in the U.S. now, as many owners simply can’t afford to feed their animals. Many equines have been found wandering on the side of the road, abandoned and starving to death. If these horses could be killed in a humane manner, perhaps that would be a kinder death.

Cons of horse slaughter in the U.S.

There are several things about legalizing horse slaughter in the U.S. that concern me. One is the easy availability of killing equines for horse meat. If someone has a horse they no longer want, would they actually even try to find the horse a good home or turn it over to a horse rescue before selling it for slaughter? If the price of horse meat is high enough, will some people start raising horses specifically for horse meat? And what about the wild mustangs that roam the American West? Are they going to be rounded up and turned into horse meat? I think it would be a real tragedy for these magnificent animals and their legacy to end because of horse slaughter.

Another thing that worries me about all this is horse theft. If horse meat is bringing enough money and kill houses are easily accessible, will people start stealing horses to sell for slaughter? This isn’t a farfetched idea. When horse slaughter was legal in California, equines were sometimes stolen and sold to slaughterhouses. In 1998, the state placed a ban on killing horses for meat, and horse theft decreased by more than a third.

My opinion

Please understand, I’m not pro horse slaughter. I would never eat a horse unless my family was starving to death and the only way we could survive was by eating horse meat. All my horses were companion animals, even though some of them did work, too. I place eating horse meat on the same level as eating dog meat. Unfortunately, diners in Belgium, France, and Japan fancy horse meat, and they’ll pay a pretty penny for it. In fact, in some places, horse meat is as expensive as veal. And by the way, I don’t eat veal, either.

If I had a horse that I couldn’t afford to feed, I would explore every avenue in finding it a home or turning it over to a horse rescue. Hopefully, someone looking for horses for adoption would give it a good home. Realistically, giving your equine to a horse rescue isn’t always possible. Most horse rescues are full. There are too many unwanted horses and too few people searching for horses for adoption. If I couldn't give my horse to a horse rescue, sell it to a good home, or give it away to a good home, I’d have the horse humanely euthanized by my veterinarian. Unfortunately, this isn’t free, and the body has to be disposed of. If I had absolutely no other option, I would shoot my horse in the forehead before I would subject it to horse slaughter. I hate horse slaughter, but if it’s going to be done, it’s better to be done here in the U.S. than in some foreign horse slaughter house where there are no regulations and no oversight.

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Comments 24 comments

ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 4 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

Not a nice subject I know. You argued it through well but for me I would be anti the slaughter. Instead of reinstating surely countries such as Canada should be lobbied to stop. So many so called civilised countries treat animals abysmally. Interesting read


habee profile image

habee 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Oh, I agree. I'm anti- horse slaughter. I'm just saying if it's going to be done, it's better done here than in Mexico.


Robin profile image

Robin 4 years ago from San Francisco

This is disturbing no matter which way it goes, but I tend to agree with you. If it has to be done, I would prefer there be regulations to decrease the suffering that has to occur. I appreciate you keeping us up on the latest legislation.


50 Caliber profile image

50 Caliber 4 years ago from Arizona

Holle, I believe the US Army fed horse meat in their chow halls at one time. I couldn't let any of my burros or horse go to a trailer and hauled packed in. I had a goose neck with living quarters up front and a 4 horse angle stall set. They were removable and I opened up the area so they could turn around and move, my Belgian would lay down and sleep along with my saddle mule when on long road trips. I found places to stop and get them out and exercise them a bit, clean the trailer and if needed bust a new 200 pound sawdust sack and provide them a clean and some what padded area to lay down. I had several horses that just freaked out on a trailer ride and once out it took some hard work and tricks to reload them then cancel the trip and take them back home and ride local and attempting to place them at a horse rental business or other horse enthusiasts at a price of free with a two year must return to me before them being sold contract drawn by an attorney and notarized.

If the only choice was a meat farm, I'd rent a back hoe and shoot them my self then with headstone and all bury them on my property in the family plot. I hope it never comes to that. Scary article but good to know.

Peace,

dusty


habee profile image

habee 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Robin, that's how I see it, too. Thanks for reading.


habee profile image

habee 4 years ago from Georgia Author

I'm with you, Dusty. When my Appy cow mare got gored by a bull, they got her on the trailer and took her to the vet's, but the vet was out of town. My ex shot her to put her out of her misery. I think a quick shot to the forehead is more humane that the treatment horses get in most horse slaughter plants. Also, the horse gets to die "at home," without being transported on a packed trailer.

If I don't talk to you next week, hope you have a blessed Christmas!


Shaddie profile image

Shaddie 4 years ago from Washington state

I'm a lover of horses just like any other girl out there, but I agree with you. Not only because of the fact that the United States will do a better job of practicing more humane treatment than Mexico, but slaughterhouses will actually be opening up a lot of new jobs for Americans - jobs that the folks down in Mexico have probably happily been taking advantage of. Voted up!


jenubouka 4 years ago

I am with you habee. I grew up out in the country and one of the neighbors had a "horse farm". One day there would be over 20 horses and the next day all gone. I can not tell you how many times their fencing was demolished and the horses would run free to the hills....or a little girl would scream from the dirt road of their cruelty among such great animals.

If this is to be apart of our culture then I think it is a must for strict regulations on the matter.


50 Caliber profile image

50 Caliber 4 years ago from Arizona

Holle, I called the Vet out to verify what I was sure of with my 27 year old Belgian and that was he had a stroke and couldn't get up with half his face down and droopy eye. Anyway I thought he'd give the horse a big shot and put him down, but he pulled a 357 magnum and shot him right between the eyes. He told me a sleeper shot big enough to put a horse down would cost 800 bucks and the shot he gave was .55 cents and acted faster than the intervienious shot, the 10 seconds on a dog turns to 20 or more minutes on large animals. He did what I doubt I could have done, me and that old horse had traveled many a mile over the 18 or so years. Great horse, blonde double mane of a full 8 inches and tail that dern near touched the ground. I used WD40 to spray on the hait to keep it brushed and slick, he could swing that tail up and smack me with it in the shoulder and I'd look back and find a big horse fly and slap it dead, they bust like a mosquito full of blood. Anyway great hub on a subject I don't care for as there are still wild horses and burros out here and I can see them rounding them up for killing to make a dime. Makes me get a knot in my stomach thinking about it.

Peace,

Dust


habee profile image

habee 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Shaddie, exactly! If it's going to be done, horse slaughter is better done on our soil.


habee profile image

habee 4 years ago from Georgia Author

jenu, some people should never be allowed to own animals! Thanks for visiting!


habee profile image

habee 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Oh, Dusty, that's so sad. I still miss my Appy mare that was ripped up by the bull, too. She was beautiful, sweet, and very athletic. She was the fastest horse I've ever ridden! I so wish she could have just died of old age, out in the pasture with her equine pals.


Angela Blair profile image

Angela Blair 4 years ago from Central Texas

Hi Habee -- think I told you we had to put our young stallion down - twisted gut. Our horse trainer shot him as he was in such pain and terrible suffering. I've witnessed bad/mean horse trainers, owners, etc. and there's been times I've stepped in and bought the animal to save it from such mistreatment. We're trying to keep the mustangs free along with a lot of other folks. I'd rather see any animal shot and killed than suffer -- and so many of them do. I guess I agree with you -- the more humane the better so that's where we are. When riding in Mexico I found few horse/mule owners there that treated their animals well -- if the critter got cut up it better be able to get well because no help was forthcoming. I don't know if this is true of all Mexico but it certainly was in the State of Chihuahua (sp). I'd take 'em all and feed 'em all if I could -- as I know you would. It's a huge dilemma -- whatever's most kind for the horse works for me -- they're truly God's creatures. Good HUB and good info -- voted UP. Best, Sis


habee profile image

habee 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Sis, I figured you'd share pretty much the same view. I wish we owned a huge island and had unlimited resourses. Think of all the horse rescues we could do - along with helping other animals, too!


Melissa McClain profile image

Melissa McClain 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

Thanks for writing this habee. I'm not well informed on the subject so the first thing I thought was "Is there really a demand for horse meat?". I guess there is. I can see both sides of the issue and it's sad that there are horse deaths either way. What was the reason for reinstating horse slaughter in the U.S.? Was it for the reasons you mentioned above or were there other factors involved (special interests, etc.)?


habee profile image

habee 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Melissa, from what I've read, it's because unwanted horses are such a problem now in the the U.S. I think money plays into the decision, also. Sad to say, but some in the horse industry know the price of horses will increase if the price of horse meat increases.


wavegirl22 profile image

wavegirl22 4 years ago from New York, NY

I am out in San Diego now staying with my cousin who rescues horses . . watching them every day and reading about this just makes me sick to my stomach. There are 2 that stay in a big coral all day (ok my city girl description may not be the best but. . ) Harmony and G - and if I tell you that after being here for 2 months when I go down near the coral, they do a dance for me. .. its as if they are talking to me. I could go on and on about the horses we have here..but I think you get the picture!

The thought of having them for dinner is positively repulsive. When I heard about this I started a thread in the forum, not many had anything to say . . actually only one person replied.. . I felt really sad, people come into the forums all day and night and they love to count or make up words or what ever those threads are where there are 1000's of replies and all the Horse thread got was one.. .

Thanks Habee for writing this. . glad to know there are others who care.


habee profile image

habee 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Dang, wavegirl - I must have missed that thread! Kudos to your horse rescue! Tell your cousin thanks from me and other horse lovers.


wavegirl22 profile image

wavegirl22 4 years ago from New York, NY

I have some great pics of the horses . its so easy these days just having my phone on me. . if you would like I can email you a few and maybe you can put them on here.. . send me an email if you want and I ll send you back some!

Funniest thing is a few weeks ago she went away for a few days and I was left alone for the morning feeding... man oh man someone should have had a camera on me, for it could have been one great 'Americas Home Video's" entry. I still laugh when I try to get a bale of hay going. .but I got it right and the horses were happy though most of the hay I think ended up on me and inside my socks my bra my ears. .you name it!

But I am loving every minute of it!


habee profile image

habee 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Wavegirl, been there, done that with hay! lol. I'd love some pics of the horse rescue. I'll send you an email. Thanks!


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 4 years ago from London, UK

Horses are highly intelligent and very sensitive. What they must be going through we only can guess. It is good that they started it agian in the USA itself. Here they still transport them all the way to Italy because these nutters have a law that it must be killed in the country.


CMerritt profile image

CMerritt 4 years ago from Pendleton, Indiana

Hi habee,

To be honest, I have never thought much about this subject. I totally see your dilemma on this subject, and I think I line up 100% with you. For most folks, horses are no different than dogs....they become part of the family. It is a shame that there is such a market for them AFTER they are dead.

I think I would favor putting a bullet in my beloved friend before I turned it over to inhumane slaughter for a few bucks.

This is a very interesting hub,and I am glad you made me aware of it.

Chris


habee profile image

habee 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Hanna, I think it's terrible that equines there have to travel all the way to Italy to become horse meat. I hope you understand my views on the topic.


habee profile image

habee 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Hi, Chris. I've had horses that followed me around like dogs! I'm glad you see where I'm coming from on the horse slaughter issue.

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