How do Americans feel about horse slaughter?
A 2012 national poll revealed that 80% of Americans favor a ban on horse slaughter. Americans recognize that we have a responsibility to protect these intelligent, sensitive animals from being butchered. Horses are our companions and a historically significant part of American culture. They deserve a more dignified end to their lives than to be inhumanely slaughtered and served up for uneducated consumers.
Is it possible to conduct commercial horse slaughter in a humane manner?
No. Horse slaughter, whether in U.S. or foreign plants, was never and cannot be humane due to the nature of the industry and the unique biology of horses. Slaughter is a brutal and terrifying end for horses and is not humane. Horses are shipped for more than 24 hours at a time without food, water, or rest in crowded trucks in which the animals are often seriously injured or killed in transit. Horses are skittish by nature due to their heightened fight or flight response. The methods used to kill horses rarely result in quick, painless deaths; they often endure repeated blows during attempts to render them unconscious and sometimes remain alive and kicking during dismemberment. Before the last domestic plant closed in 2007, the USDA documented in the slaughter pipeline rampant cruelty violations and severe injuries to horses, including broken bones protruding from their bodies, eyeballs hanging by a thread of skin, and gaping open wounds. The answer is not to return to subjecting our horses to abuse and unacceptable conditions at plants in the U.S., but to ban horse slaughter and the export of horses for slaughter altogether and provide our horses with a decent life and, when necessary, a humane death.
Is U.S. horsemeat safe for human consumption?
No. Horsemeat is not safe for human consumption because of the unregulated administration of numerous toxic substances to horses before slaughter. Horses are not raised for human consumption in this country. They are routinely given hundreds of drugs and other substances, both legal and illegal, over their lifetimes that can be toxic to humans if ingested. These substances have not been approved (and many have been specifically prohibited) by the FDA for use in animals intended for human consumption. For example, a common pain reliever routinely administered to all types of horses, Phenylbutazone, is known to cause potentially fatal human diseases. There is no known safe level for residues of these drugs in horsemeat. Horses are gathered from random sources at various stages in their life, and there is currently no system in the U.S. to track medications and veterinary treatments given to horses to ensure that their meat is safe for human consumption. Due to serious food safety concerns, the European Union suspended horsemeat imports from Mexico where 87% of horses slaughtered for export to the EU are of U.S. origin.
Will horse slaughter have a negative financial impact on American taxpayers?
Yes. Subsidizing horse slaughter cruelty will divert precious financial resources away from American products and food safety. The authority to fund horse slaughter inspections was restored last year, and the USDA has been asked to process horse slaughter applications to provide inspection of horse slaughter facilities. The many millions of tax dollars necessary to conduct horse slaughter inspections would be diverted away from food safety programs in place to protect Americans, to enable a practice that 80% of the American public opposes. The EU is on the verge of tightening requirements for lifetime regulation of horses sent to slaughter, due to overwhelming evidence that drugs administered to American horses are dangerous to humans. The EU food safety regulations would require onerous and ever-evolving USDA oversight – at additional taxpayer expense – to ensure compliance. At a time when funding for many vital programs for Americans is being cut, it is outrageous that Congress would spend tax dollars on horse slaughter.
Would horse slaughter plants stimulate the local economy?
No. Horse slaughter plants have proven to be economic and environmental nightmares for the communities that host them. These plants pollute local water, decrease property values, permeate the air with a foul stench, drain local economies, and damage the environment. The last three horse slaughter plants in the U.S. offered only a few low-income, dangerous jobs that did nothing to bolster local economies. Long before the plants closed in 2007, they had worn out their welcome. For example, in 2005, the city council of Kaufman, Texas, home to the Dallas Crown facility, voted unanimously to implement termination proceedings against the plant. Paula Bacon, mayor of Kaufman stated, “As a community leader where we are directly impacted by the horse slaughter industry, I can assure you the economic development return to our community is negative.” Attracting new business was difficult for communities burdened with the presence of a horse slaughter plant because of the related negative stigma. Real estate values also plummeted. The minimal financial contributions of horse slaughter facilities are vastly outweighed by the enormous economic and development-suppressing burden they present.
Will a ban on horse slaughter lead to an increase in unwanted horses and result in abuse and neglect?
No. A ban on horse slaughter will not lead to an increase in unwanted horses or abuse and neglect. Slaughterhouse operators want us to believe that all the horses they kill are old, injured, or unwanted with no other options. In truth, USDA statistics show that more than 92% of horses slaughtered are in good condition and able to live productive lives. 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% after the ban. In Illinois, when the plant was shut down for two years, horse neglect and abuse decreased in the state.
Allowing a horse to starve is not an option in any state – state anti-cruelty laws should prohibit such neglect. Most horses who go to slaughter are not unwanted, but rather wind up in the hands of killer buyers because they are in good health and will bring a better price per pound for their meat. Providing for a horse, including humane euthanasia when necessary, is part of responsible horse ownership and this bill will not limit owners’ rights to sell, donate, or euthanize their horses.
Are there any other ways to address an overpopulation of horses?
Yes. There are several ways to address homeless horse issues. We can limit overbreeding, provide shelter, and expand adoption work. Over 100,000 horses went to slaughter last year alone, but not every horse going to slaughter needs to go to rescue, and the vast majority would be rehomed. The USDA documented that 92.3% of horses are in good condition and are able to live out a productive life. These horses would be sold, donated, or otherwise rehomed; however, kill buyers regularly outbid legitimate horse owners and rescues at auctions. Using USDA’s own finding, less than 1% of the U.S. horse population may require the help of rescues or euthanasia. The idea of slaughtering companion animals is unacceptable to the American people and will never be embraced. A 2012 national poll found that 80% of Americans support a ban on horse slaughter for human consumption. There are countries who consume dogs, cats, and other pets as food, but we do not allow our dogs and cats to be exported for food purposes, even though there is a well-documented overpopulation issue to contend with for those animals. Horse slaughter enables and perpetuates overbreeding, neglect, and irresponsibility. As long as slaughter is an outlet for breeders to sell their excess horses, they will be rewarded – and continue. Horse slaughter is purely a function of supply and demand – not a disposal service.