F A Q S
A: Horses are slaughtered for one reason and one reason only — to supply the demand of horse meat to consumers.
Although horse meat sales declined for a period of years, it became popular again in countries like France, Belgium, Italy and Japan.
As demand for horse meat increased, so did demand for horses to slaughter.
Horse meat consumption, however, began to decline once again when through public awareness campaigns, consumers learned of the many toxins—some carcinogenic—in horse meat.
Horses are not food animals and routinely given drugs which bar them from entering the human food chain, but alas there is no reliable oversight and horse meat has tested positive for dangerous toxic residues.
Horse meat is still viewed by many as "clean meat" and a tasty alternative to beef and other traditional meats.
Europeans and Asians who consume horse flesh are willing to pay a high price for horse meat. Butchers and purveyors describe American horse meat as the very best on the market.
"I only buy American meat, which is red and firm. In butchering terms we call it 'well-structured', the best you can get. Out of a thousand animals, only the American ones are really worth buying. But they don’t eat horse meat in America. They raise horses for foreigners."
~ Quote from a Butcher in France
Of course this butcher is wrong in the last instance. Americans do not raise horses for foreigners to eat. But there are Americans willing to sell their horses to the meat man.
People are in the horse slaughter business because there a big profits to be made from it.
People send horses to slaughter because they want a quick and easy way to get rid of them and make a bit of money at the same time.
These people are for the most part irresponsible owners who can't be bothered to (1) find another home or occupation for their horse, (2) find a rescue or sanctuary to take their horse in, or (3) have the horse euthanized and the body properly disposed of.
This group also includes breeders who have misjudged or ignored the market and now can't sell their horses because they have produced too many.
A: The three remaining horse slaughter plants operating on U.S. soil closed in 2007 according to State laws enacted banning horse slaughter for human consumption.
Initially, fewer horses were killed for their meat.
According to the USDA, however, nearly 100,000 equines were exported from the U.S. to Mexico and Canada in 2008 for slaughter. That number has steadily increased until approximately 140,000 American horses were sent across U.S. borders for slaughter in last year.
These are the horses that are recorded. Smuggling horses across U.S. borders for slaughter is common, especially to Mexico. However, this may change to some degree because the EU has banned the import of horse meat produced in Mexican slaughterhouses for the foreseeable future.
If you wish to track live horse exports for the purpose of slaughter, please go to this page (see righthand column).
A: No. In fact, 92.3 percent of horses arriving at slaughter plants in this country in recent years were deemed to be in "good" condition, according to the US Department of Agriculture's Guidelines for Handling and Transporting Equines to Slaughter.
The horse slaughter industry makes a greater profit off of healthy horses and therefore purposely seeks these type of horses out. For this reason, most slaughterhouse middlemen—called "kill buyers"—will not take horses they can't make money off of such as sick or skinny horses.
A: No. There has been no documented rise in abuse and neglect cases in California since the State banned horse slaughter for human consumption in 1998. According to numbers obtained from the California Livestock and Identification Bureau, since horse slaughter was banned in California horse theft has dropped by over 34%.
There was no documented rise in Illinois following closure of the State's only horse slaughter plant in 2002 and it’s reopening in 2004. Since closure of the domestic plants in the earlier part of 2007 there has been no correlating rise in neglect and abuse cases. Conversely, horse slaughter encourages indiscriminate breeding and neglect by providing a “dumping ground” for unscrupulous owners.
A: Approximately 920,000 horses die annually in this country (10 percent of an estimated population of 9.2 million) and the vast majority are not slaughtered, but euthanized and rendered or buried without any negative environmental impact. Just over 100,000 horses were slaughtered in the US 2008. If slaughter were no longer an option and these horses were rendered or buried instead, this would represent a small increase in the number of horses being disposed of in this manner - an increase that the current infrastructure can certainly sustain.
A: Hundreds of horse rescue organizations operate around the country, and additional facilities are being established. However, not every horse currently going to slaughter will need to be absorbed into the rescue community. Many are marketable horses who will be sold to new owners. Sick and elderly horses should be euthanized by a licensed veterinarian.
It is not now or ever will be the government's responsibility to provide for the care of horses voluntarily given up by their owners.