Horse Slaughter Facts

Fact: Horse slaughter plants in the U.S. are not a better alternative to the foreign-owned plants over the border.

The plants in the U.S. have all been prohibited from slaughtering horses for good reason. Undercover footage from inside these horse slaughter facilities in the U.S. demonstrated how horrific these plants were—many horses were conscious when they were shackled and hoisted by a rear leg to have their throats cut. There was a history of abuse and cruelty at the U.S. plants, including employees whipping horses in the face and horses giving birth on the killing floors. 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. Slaughter is not euthanasia—it is a brutal and terrifying end for horses. We should not allow our horses to be subjected to this tremendous cruelty inside—or outside—of our borders.

Fact: A ban on horse slaughter will not lead to an increase in unwanted horses or abuse and neglect.

USDA statistics show that more than 92 percent 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 percent after the ban. In Illinois, when the plant was shut down for two years, horse neglect and abuse decreased in the state. Allowing one’s horse to starve is not an option in any state—state anti-cruelty laws 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 just part of responsible ownership and this bill will not limit owners’ rights to sell, donate, or euthanize their horses.

Fact: Horse slaughter is a far cry from humane euthanasia.

“Euthanasia” means a gentle, painless death provided in order to prevent suffering. Horse slaughter is a death fraught with terror, pain, and suffering. Horses are shipped for more than 24 hours at a time in crowded double-deck cattle trucks without food, water, or rest. Pregnant mares, foals, injured horses, and even blind horses must endure the journey. Once they arrive, their suffering intensifies—our undercover footage of horse slaughter plants in the U.S. demonstrated that conscious horses were shackled and hoisted by the rear leg and have their throats slit.

From Dr. Lester Friedlander, former USDA vet and inspections trainer of the year: “The captive bolt does not meet the humane method of slaughter, as described in the 1958 “Humane Slaughter Act.” Head restraints are not used in the slaughter of horses and therefore, does not comply with the Statute. The captive bolt is used in cattle, due to the fact the cow’s brain is more anterior than the horse’s brain and the penetration of the bolt is more effective. Horses are not, and cannot be restrained, during horse slaughter. I have seen several video tapes of horse slaughter where the horses have to be struck with the captive bolt several times. No head restraints were used; to do so would cause these flight animals to break their necks. During these multiple times of striking the horse head with the captive bolt, the horses are in pain and suffering. It is important to know that the captive bolt does not kill the horse, nor was it ever intended to. The horse must be exsanguinated (bled to death) to be suitable for human consumption. As the captive bolt is not a proper instrument for the slaughter of equids, and these animals regain consciousness thirty seconds after being struck, they are fully aware they are being vivisected. Ergo, the use of the captive bolt for equids is a violation of the Humane Slaughter Act of 1958.”

Even though all three plants in the U.S. have been prohibited from slaughtering horses, the horse slaughter industry continues to haul horses by the truckload in greater numbers than ever, where they are stabbed to death in Mexican slaughter plants. When no other option exists, unwanted horses should be humanely euthanized by a licensed veterinarian rather than placed on a truck, cruelly transported and then butchered. The vast majority of horse owners (99 percent) already use humane euthanasia for their old or ill horses.

View footage of horses being killed in the Richelieu Plant in Canada (subject matter in this video may be inappropriate for some viewers; a log in is required by YouTube™ before viewing).

Fact: Private property rights will not be compromised by a federal ban on horse slaughter.

Allowing horse slaughter facilitates violation of property rights by encouraging the conversion of private property when horses stolen and sold for a profit. Many domestic horses are stolen out of pastures and barns every year for the horsemeat trade. Ohio newspapers reported on the theft of two prized former racehorses whose owner had been planning to retire them to an equine sanctuary. Instead, two horse thieves sold the animals for $250 each to an auctioneer, who then sold them to a killer buyer employed by one of the three foreign-owned horse slaughterhouses. Sky Dutcher came to Washington, D.C. to tell the story of how her horse, Cimmarron, was stolen from his corral on her 12th birthday and sent to slaughter within two days.

When California banned horse slaughter in 1998, the horse theft rate dropped 34 percent. Further, private property rights do not grant owners the unfettered right to abuse their animals. Every state has anti-cruelty laws that mandate protections for animals. Owners will still have ample legal options of reselling, donating, or euthanizing their horse (costs approx $225—the amount of one month’s keep for a horse).

Fact: Most horses who go to slaughter are in good condition.

USDA documents that more than 92 percent of horses who go to slaughter are in good condition—they will not need to be euthanized. Some 900,000 horses die annually and are safely disposed of by means other than slaughter, and the infrastructure can easily absorb an increase in numbers. More than one million cattle die on the farm each year—with no resulting environmental hazards. Rendering, incineration and burial are all options, depending on local laws. Conversely, the operation of the horse slaughterhouses has a very real negative environmental impact, with all three in violation of local environmental laws related to the disposal of blood and other waste materials.

Fact: Horse owners, not the government, will remain responsible for the care of their horses.

This assertion rests on the false premise that all horses currently going to slaughter would become the financial responsibility of the federal government. Horse owners, not the government, will remain responsible for the care of their horses. Owners who no longer wish to keep their horses and who cannot sell or place their horses in a new home will have the option of humane euthanasia. The average cost for veterinarian-administered euthanasia and carcass disposalapproximately $225, the cost of one month’s care—is simply a part of responsible horse ownership.

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1. A recent nationwide poll conducted by Lake Research Partners confirms that 80% of Americans, regardless of their gender, political affiliation, whether they live in an urban or rural area, or their geographic location, oppose the slaughter of horses for human consumption. The poll confirms that a vast majority of horse owners are also against the slaughtering of our nation’s equines. This 2012 poll is consistent with polls taken since 2006.

2. Horses purchased for slaughter are not old, disabled or “unwanted”. The US Dept. of Agriculture has confirmed with a study performed by Dr. Temple Grandin that 92.3% of the horses sent to slaughter are healthy. They could continue to be productive.  Slaughter proponents have widely claimed that slaughter is somehow an alternative for “unwanted” horses. Nothing could be further from the truth. Slaughter actually creates a salvage or secondary market that enables overbreeding and poor breeding practices.  Slaughter and a poor economy have resulted in horses in need.  Slaughter is driven by a demand for horsemeat in some foreign countries; it is not a “service” for unwanted horses and that is why most horses are healthy when they are sent to slaughter. Kill buyers are interested in buying the healthiest horses for horsemeat that is sold as a delicacy in some foreign countries.

The rise in numbers of horses in need and drop in horse prices is a result of the worst recession in memory. In fact, if slaughter controlled numbers of horses in need, there would be none as slaughter is still available and horses are sent to slaughter in the same numbers as before the 2007 closings of the slaughterhouses that were located in the U.S. It is the availability of slaughter that actually increases the numbers of excess horses and other equines on the market. Banning slaughter would reduce the number of excess horses and other equines.

Also, slaughter accounts for only about 3 cents for every $100 of the equine industry. It makes no sense for anyone to suggest a limited salvage market could influence prices in the entire horse industry.  According to former U.S. Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS), the live horse industry is valued at $112.1 billion of gross domestic product, meaning the reabsorption of “surplus” horses not sent to slaughter would actually boost the economy.

Most horses end up at slaughter because they are purchased by kill buyers. Many horses could have easily been purchased by someone else other options include adoption programs, placing them as pasture mates/babysitters to a younger horse, donating them for use in horse therapy, or placing them in a retirement home. Also, about 900,000 horses are humanely euthanized in the U.S. The infrastructure could easily absorb those sent to slaughter. The average cost in Washington of humane euthanasia including the farm call and either burial, rendering or placement in a landfill can be as little as $50 depending on the method used, and at most $400.

3. Equine slaughter is not humane euthanasia.  The slaughter of horses and other equines simply cannot be made humane: Dr. Lester Friedlander, DVM & former Chief USDA Inspector, told Congress in 2008 that the captive bolt used to slaughter horses is simply not effective. Horses and other equines, in particular, are very sensitive about anything coming towards their heads and cannot be restrained as required for effective stunning. Dr. Friedlander stated, “These animals regain consciousness 30 seconds after being struck, they are fully aware they are being vivisected.” The Government Accountability Office and dozens of veterinarians and other witnesses have confirmed that ineffective stunning is common and animals are conscious during slaughter. It is simply not possible for USDA/APHIS to make equine slaughter humane and it is a myth to pretend otherwise.

4. Approximately $5,000,000 of American taxpayer funds, in the form of USDA meat inspectors, was spent annually to subsidize the three foreign-owned (Belgian and French) horse slaughterhouses that operated in the U.S. until 2007. Because there is no market for horsemeat in the U.S., after slaughter, the meat was shipped overseas, and there was no benefit at all to the U.S. economy. Only the foreign owners and distributors profited. If these foreign-owned horse slaughterhouses are allowed to re-open, they would again be subsidized by American taxpayer money.  Estimates are that the U.S. government would spend at least $3,000,000-5,000,000 to subsidize private horse slaughter facilities.

On top of that, the USDA could give foreign owners of U.S. horse slaughter facilities, such as Bouvry, the Canadian company that has explored the possibility of opening a horse slaughter house near Stanwood, Washington, or the Belgian company, Chevideco, which is planning to build a horse slaughter house in Oregon or Missouri, a subsidized loan of $750,000 through the RUS World Utilities Services. It is outrageous that the American taxpayer should support wealthy foreign investors in a business that profits from animal cruelty, benefits only foreign interests and wrecks the U.S. communities where the facilities are located. This money would surely be much better spent on American interests.

Chevidico which owned Dallas Crown, which operated in Kaufman, Texas until 2007 paid each year only 1/3 of 1% of revenues in taxes; on year, for example, the horse slaughter house paid a total of $5.00 in federal taxes on $12,000,000 in annual sales.

5.  Equine slaughter has been devastating to the communities where slaughtering facilities have been located, with significant negative impacts including nuisance odors that permeated the surrounding towns to chronic sewer and environmental violations. Blood literally ran in the streets and waste from the facilities clogged sewers and piled up everywhere. This predatory practice produced few very low wage jobs, meaning workers and their families overran local resources like the hospitals and government services. Horse slaughter brought in virtually no tax revenues and local governments incurred substantial enforcement costs in trying to regulate these facilities. The standard of living in these communities dropped during the time horse slaughter facilities operated. Good businesses refused to relocate there. As Paula Bacon, mayor of Kaufman, Texas during the time a horse facility operated there until 2007 said, “My community did not benefit. We paid.” 

Recently, when officials in Hardin, Montana learned of a plan to build horse facilities in that state, the town council immediately unanimously passed Ordinance No. 2010-01 that prohibits the slaughter of more than 25 animals in a seven day period. Just last month Mountain Grove, Missouri residents voted overwhelmingly against a horse slaughter plant in their community. The message is clear: Americans don’t want equine slaughter.

6. Although animal blood is often used for dry blood mill, the antibiotics given to American horses prevent blood from breaking down; therefore, horse blood cannot be used for this purpose and blood and other organs cannot be used for any purpose.  Communities will be required to find a way to dispose of horse blood, internal organs and waste. Horses have 1.74 times as much blood per pound of body weight as cows and with the drugs, it is harder to treat because the antibiotics in the blood kill bacteria used in the treatment process. This does not include the 15 million gallons of fecal material per year that must be handled. Note the Canadian horse slaughterhouse at Natural Valley Farms in Saskatchewan that was shut down in 2009 for dumping blood and tons of other waste into a local river or onto the ground.

7.  The argument that significant jobs would be created is specious.  Horse slaughter plants operating until 2007 never created more than 178 low wage jobs -and many of these were held by illegal aliens.

8. Another cost to communities is horse theft. Slaughterhouses know horses are stolen and brought to slaughter. Because horse slaughter is driven by a demand for horse meat in some foreign countries where it is a delicacy, horse slaughterers look for the healthiest horses, not abandoned, abused or neglected horses. When California banned horse slaughter in 1998, horse theft fell by 39.5% and in the years that followed, the state noted a nearly 88% decrease in horse theft. What does that tell you about this sleazy, brutal practice?

9. It is no surprise that following the closing of the horse slaughter plant, Kaufman residents enjoyed a significant decrease in virtually every type of crime.  This despite one of the worst economic recessions in memory. A recent study by a University of Windsor criminologist, Amy Fitzgerald, shows a link between slaughterhouses and violent crime. Last year the Canadian government ordered its inspectors to stay off the floor during slaughter for fear of injury from workers who were manhandling and slaughtering horses. Those who slaughter horses are so desensitized and lacking in empathy in the way they handle the animals that they actually frighten government officials.

10. The FDA does not regulate equines as food animals. Americans don’t eat horses and other equines.  American horses are not raised, fed and medicated within the FDA guidelines established for food animals, making them unfit and unsafe for human consumption. Equines are given all manner of drugs, steroids, de-wormers and ointments throughout their lives. Equines are not tracked and typically may have several owners. A kill buyer has no idea of the veterinary or drug history of a horse or other equine taken to slaughter, and many of the most dangerous drugs have no or a very long withdrawal period. A typical drug given routinely to equines like aspirin, phenylbutazone or Bute, is a carcinogen and can also cause aplastic anemia in humans. It has no withdrawal period. The FDA bans bute in all food producing animals because of this serious danger to human health. The FDA and USDA would prohibit Americans from consuming horses because of this danger. Yet, neither the FDA nor the USDA prohibits the export of American horses for slaughter for human consumption.  It is a grave risk to public health to continue to allow the export of American horses for slaughter for human consumption in other countries.

The European Union has recognized this and has initiated steps to try to stop the import into the EU of meat from American horses that may be contaminated. Kill buyers have been found to falsify veterinary and drug reports to avoid the restrictions. There is no enforcement at the borders, meaning the US continues to dump contaminated and deadly horsemeat on Europe and other countries. A petition has been filed with the USDA to stop the slaughter of many U.S. horses for this reason.

11. The 2011 GAO report confirmed that USDA/APHIS has not – and cannot – enforce humane transport regulations for equines sent to slaughter. Changing a few words here and there in the regulations will not change this. USDA/APHIS allows the kill buyers and haulers to fill out and provide the documentation – which is routinely missing, incomplete or inaccurate – relied on for enforcement. It is impossible to enforce regulations when the information to determine violations is supplied by those USDA/APHIS is supposed to be regulating.

12. Equines are in danger and equine welfare is threatened as long as slaughter remains available.

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