EQUUS Foundation
Slaughter is not Humane Euthanasia

Harsh Realities

Viewed as commodities, too many horses are regarded as disposable for profit when they no longer serve their owners’ purpose - when their owners cannot, or no longer wish to, care for them. Many are young, healthy and have untapped potential.

EQUUS Foundation

Horse Slaughter is Not Humane Euthanasia

"Horse slaughter" is defined as the killing and processing of horses for human consumption vs. "Euthanasia" which is defined as the practice of ending the horse's life painlessly to relieve suffering. The horses often suffer long journeys to slaughter plants in Canada and Mexico without adequate food, water or rest.

Some believe that horse slaughter is a "necessary evil" -- that without it, horses could face a lifetime of abuse or neglect - that slaughter is a humane solution to dispose of unwanted or dangerous horses.

How do slaughterhouses kill horses? When horse slaughter plants operated in the U.S., typically, a penetrating captive bolt gun was used to render the animal unconscious. The captive bolt was not designed for horse's anatomy or to compensate for the horse's instinctual flight response making accurate stunning very difficult resulting in the animal sustaining repeated blows or remaining conscious during the kill process. This method and other even less humane methods are used to slaughter horses across our borders.

Clarifying the Issues

The slaughter of horses commercially for the human consumption of horse meat and the transportation of horses across our borders to be slaughtered is LEGAL in the United States. The reason why America's horses are shipped across our borders and are not currently slaughtered in the United States is that there is no longer funding - at this time - for the federal inspection of US-based slaughterhouses that slaughter horses for the human consumption of horse meat. Without inspectors present, horse slaughterhouses cannot legally operate in the United States. Therefore, slaughter-bound American horses are shipped across US borders to be slaughtered to meet the demand for horse meat in other countries.

The last horses slaughtered for the human consumption of horse meat in the United States was in 2007, but the transportation of America's horses across our borders began in 2001. Since that time, over 2 million horses have been sent across our borders to be slaughtered. The most horses sent to slaughter in a given year was in 2012 when 166,572 were shipped across our borders. Since 2018, the number of horses transported across our borders annually has been declining.


Horses shipped across the border to be slaughtered in 2012 - the most horses in one year


Horses shipped across the border to be slaughtered in 2018


Horses shipped across the border to be slaughtered in 2019


Horses shipped across the border to be slaughtered in 2020

If we are to achieve a humane and sustainable environment for horses now and in the future, horse slaughter must end. While the numbers of horses being transported is declining, to offset the reduced demand for American horse meat by Mexican and Canadian slaughterhouses, "meat brokers" purchase horses sent to auctions at per pound prices and then resell them at considerably higher prices by employing a threat tactic that these horses will be sent to slaughter if not saved by a sympathetic public. Some believe that bailing out these horses only perpetuates the problem by incentivizing the "meat brokers".

It is imperative right now to focus efforts on:
   • Increasing opportunities for horses to naturally transition from one career to the next; and
   • Retraining horses in transition to prepare them for these opportunities.

It is equally imperative that there are mechanisms in place right now to:
   • Provide owners of horses who are unable to retain ownership of their horses with viable options other than sending horses to auction that are likely to be purchased by "meat brokers", and
   • Ensure, when the time comes, that all horses experience a humane and peaceful end of life.

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