Horse Slaughter for Human Consumption in the United States

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
Outlining the issues of American horse slaughter.

Submitted: December 09, 2012

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Submitted: December 09, 2012



The American horse has been a symbol of our western heritage and has captured the fascination and admiration of many. Everyone has their own vision of the modern horse. Some minds envision the symbol of a horse running free, unrestricted by fences and enduring the summer heat. For some, it’s the chilling wind, snow, or rain on the backs of an old pastured mare or a retired race horse living out its final days in a grassy field; most fantasies however, of our equine friend are quickly turned into harsh realities.

With the vision of this great historical symbol, many Americans believe the idea of consuming horse meat to be extremely objectionable. However in many foreign countries it is considered a delicacy. The horse meat (for human consumption) industry has grown exponentially over the last several years, and meat is shipped from United States slaughter houses to countries all over Europe and Asia.

People all around the United States perceive the real issue facing the equine industry when it comes to slaughtering horses is the fact that horses are being slaughtered. However, the real issue is that slaughter-bound horses are being treated inhumanely.  Over 100,000 United States bred horses are slaughtered each year. Often times, horses that are affected are unsuccessful performance horses of most equine disciplines, school horses, mares whose foals are not economically valuable, and foals that are "byproducts" of the Pregnant Mare Urine (PMU) industry, which produces the estrogen-replacement, drug Premarin®.

Horses are shipped to various sale locations all over the United States and many times the equine donor is unknowingly tapping into the horse slaughter market place. Once at the sale barn, horses are bought by people hired by a slaughter house known as a “killer-buyer” to purchase horses at approximately their market value. Once the buyer purchases the horses, the horses are sent to a holding facility where they will be kept until there are enough horses to make a large shipment to a slaughter house.

Although this portion of the process many seem harmless, there are many unknown issues involved in these steps. For instance, horses purchased for slaughter are often transported in double-decker cattle trailers designed to transport cattle and hogs which have very low ceilings that prevent the horses from standing in their natural upright position. Also, these trailers have ventilation holes which are more often than not subject to a horse kicking one or more of their legs through these holes causing broken or seriously injured limbs. Although many states have restrictions for trailers, hauling horses in cattle trailers is only illegal in Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.

Once the horses reach the holding location, where they may be kept for days, weeks, or even months, and are often not furnished with food or water, nor are they examined for disease or gene mutations. Diseases like the West Nile Virus, whereas, studies at Colorado State University show that nine out of ten animals infected with West Nile do not show any outward signs of the disease. Additionally, although horses may arrive at the lot healthy, they are subject to contaminants and are not examined further even before they are slaughtered. Because of this, earlier this year the European Union called for a ban on imports of horse meat from the United States citing concerns over the safety of U.S. meat and their inability to guarantee the purity of the meat exported.


Once there are enough horses for a full shipment, the horses are loaded onto their designated double-decker trailer to be transported to various slaughter house locations around America. These slaughter houses may include one of the three major houses located in Fort Worth, Texas, Kaufman, Texas, and DeKalb, Illinois. When the horses arrive at the slaughter house, they are run into chutes that lead to a smaller, and more confined chute, called the “knock box.” Here horses are killed by the use of the captive bolt gun with a four inch retractable nail. The horses are hit repeatedly in the forehead with the captive bolt which is supposed to render the horse unconscious. One hind leg is then shackled and the horse is lifted into the air upside down to have its throat cut and be

bled out. However, undercover investigations have shown that horses have been hoisted into the air while still conscious. 

This issue of slaughtering horses has been debated over the last several years in both the United States Senate and the House of Representatives. House Resolution 503, The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in early September of 2006, and was reintroduced into the Senate on September 6, 2006. This bill was intended to end the slaughter of horses for human consumption and the domestic and international transport of live horses for human consumption. The House of Representatives voted 263 to 146 in favor of H.R. 503. However, because of the intense debate over illegal immigration the United States failed to act before the end of the 109th Congressional session.

More recently, in 2011, President Barack Obama signed into law a bill lifting all sanctions banning horse slaughter. In the intervening years, however, horse slaughter was only practiced in two U.S. slaughter houses. Although this is good for equine overpopulation problems and good for slaughter bound horses initially, there are many additional steps that are crucial to ensuring the humane treatment of these horses.


Although slaughter house treatment of the American horse is clearly inhumane and unethical, this issue needs to be put into prospective. The fact is, in some instances it is more humane to slaughter horses, than to subject them to the cruelties of abuse, neglect and starvation at the hands of those who no longer care for them. Without the reform of horse slaughter laws, another annual 100,000 American symbols will be tortured in their last moments, rather than being taken as nourished, maintained horses, to feed people all over the world. As well as control the overpopulation of American horses, which in turn will limit the number of annually neglected horses.



















Works Cited


Russel, Terri. "Horse Slaughter For Human Consumption Now Legal." KOLO - HomePage.N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2012.



"Just Say Whoa!! To Horse Slaughter : Articles, News, Action Alerts, Information." Just Say Whoa!! To Horse Slaughter : Articles, News, Action Alerts, Information. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2012. <>.


"" SHARK - Animal Cruelty Investigations and Campaigns. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Dec. 2012. <>.


Finch, Jerry. "Stop Horse Slaughter." Stop Horse Slaughter. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov.2012. <>.


"Equine Protection Network - Horse Slaughter FAQ's." Equine Protection Network, Horse Slaughter and Horse Welfare. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2012. <


:. "CSU studies WNV survival rate - DVM." DVM - Veterinary news, analysis, and commentary. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2012.



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