Current Legislation in the US Congress

Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act

Horsemeat Poses Serious Risks to Human Health


Bill Name:
Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act (S. 541)

Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA)
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

Take Action on the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act

House of Representatives

Bill Name:
Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act (H.R. 1094)

Representative Patrick Meehan (R-PA)
Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)

Take Action on the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act

FDA-prohibited drugs are universally used at racetracks. Photo by John Murrell.

“The permissive allowance of such horsemeat used for human consumption poses a serious public health risk.”1

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration currently bans the presence of 379 common equine drugs in animals slaughtered for human consumption. However, there is no procedure in place to ensure that American horses, sold to slaughterhouses and killed for human consumption, are free of these FDA-banned substances.

There is currently no means of identifying whether a horse sent to slaughter has received dangerous, prohibited substances. When a horse is sold, especially through an auction, there is no required transfer of information regarding the substances a horse received during his or her lifetime. Therefore, there is no mechanism in place to ensure horses frequently bought at auction by killer buyers have not been given dangerous substances before they become part of the food chain.

Horses are routinely given substances that are dangerous to humans. Most American horse owners do not imagine that their horses may someday be slaughtered for human consumption, and almost universally give their horses medications, antibiotics, ointments, wormers, and other substances labeled “not for animals intended for human consumption.” These substances may remain in the body for long periods of time.

Phenylbutazone (bute) can be lethal if ingested by people. A study published in May 2010 in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology found that substances routinely given to American horses cause dangerous adverse effects in humans. The most serious effect of phenylbutazone is bone-marrow toxicity, leading to agranulocytosis (failure to produce white blood cells, causing chronic infections) and aplastic anemia (insufficient production of red and white blood cells and platelets). Similar blood conditions such as leucopenia, hemolytic anemia, pancytopenia, and thrombocytopenia may also occur in people who consume bute. The National Toxicology Program has determined that bute is a carcinogen. For these reasons, the FDA bans this substance for human consumption.

FDA-prohibited drugs are universally used at racetracks. The February 28, 2010Paulick Report published a study revealing that more than 9 out of 10 racehorses are commonly administered bute before they race. Racehorses are frequently shipped to Mexico and Canada to be slaughtered for human consumption when their performance flags, often within days or weeks of receiving their last dose of bute. Any consumer of this meat, which can be ground together with beef and offered to consumers without proper identification, could be unwittingly ingesting banned substances, with potentially lethal results.

The European Union has a policy prohibiting importation of the meat of any horse who has ever received bute. Nitrofurazone, the most common wound ointment given to American horses, is also prohibited for use on any horse whose meat is shipped to the European community. The United States needs to close this loophole that currently puts consumers at risk, and ensure that meat from American horses is not jeopardizing the health and lives of consumers.

POISON: It's what's for dinner when horsemeat is on the menu
POISON: It’s what’s for dinner when horsemeat is on the menuThose promoting horsemeat consumption claim horsemeat is leaner (and therefore, supposedly, healthier) than beef. What they fail to point out is that, unlike cattle, horses are not raised for meat, and are given hundreds of legal and illegal drugs rendering their meat unsafe for human consumption in the United States and abroad. However, because of confusing and conflicting U.S. and foreign laws, horsemeat slips through the regulatory cracks and is consumed overseas by unsuspecting diners. The diagram shows just a few of the banned and dangerous drugs that consistently end up in horsemeat and on people’s plates.

1Dodman, N., et al. 2010. Association of phenylbutazone usage with horses bought for slaughter: A public health risk. Food Chem Toxicol. 48(5):1270-4. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2010.02.021

Find out more about horse slaughter.

Talking Points for Legislator Calls/Emails

Horse slaughter in the US is unacceptably inhumane

  • Industrial horse slaughter cannot be made humane.
  • Extensive footage has shown rampant abuse and suffering throughout the slaughter pipeline, from auctions to feedlots to transport, and the kill process itself.

Horses are animals that are bred and raised to serve humans

  • Sending horses to slaughter is a betrayal of an animal raised to be our partners, in recreation, sport and companionship.

Horse meat is full of substances banned from the food chain

  • Due to their roles as athletes and companion animals, common medications and products used on horses are banned from use in food animals due to debilitating health effects.
  • The U.S. should not be complicit in exporting toxic horse meat to unsuspecting foreign countries.

Taxpayers should not be funding an industry that exploits equines, their owners, and the communities hosting the plants

  • All of the states that hosted the US plants in 2006 have outlawed horse slaughter.
  • Hosting a horse slaughter plant showed evidence of increased crime rates, depressed property values, increased municipal tax burdens and environmental violations.

Institutional horse slaughter removes productive assets from the regional economy.

  • On average, LIVE horses in the U.S. inject $1,200 to $2,500 per year into their local economies through wages to caretakers, vets and farriers, and for feed, bedding, tack and supplies. Sending horses to slaughter provides a one-time fee to the owner of $10 to $200 and removes a productive asset from the local economy.

Horse slaughter does not take care of old, lame or unwanted horses

  • According to the USDA, 92% of horses going to slaughter are young, healthy and sound.
  • Kill buyers seek horses that would be candidates for good riding horses. Kill buyers do not seek out neglected horses.
  • After decades of being available as an option for American horse owners, the availability of horse slaughter has never controlled neglect. People who neglect their horses have chosen NOT to send them to slaughter.


The following is last year’s Horse Slaughter Prevention Act bills.

The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act.  Click on the links below to see a current list of co-sponsors, the bill’s full text, and to contact your representative.

House bill:
H.R. 2966: American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act of 2011

112th Congress: 2011-2012

To amend the Horse Protection Act to prohibit the shipping, transporting, moving, delivering, receiving, possessing, purchasing, selling, or donation of horses and other equines to be slaughtered for human consumption, and for other purposes.


Senate bill:
S. 1176: American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act of 2011

112th Congress: 2011-2012

A bill to amend the Horse Protection Act to prohibit the shipping, transporting, moving, delivering, receiving, possessing, purchasing, selling, or donation of horses and other equines to be slaughtered for human consumption, and for other purposes.

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