Horse Slaughter in America: Cruel or Necessary?

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By: Megan Pigman, Staff Member

Debate surrounding horse slaughter in America may currently be at its pinnacle with two companies on the brink of opening the first slaughterhouses in the United States in seven years.[i] The congressional ban on the horse slaughtering for meat was lifted in 2011, but companies have not come close to opening facilities utilized for such purposes until now. Valley Meat Co. of Roswell, New Mexico and Responsible Transportation of Sigourney, Iowa received USDA permits in June to begin horse-slaughtering operations in their respective states.[ii] Valley Meat was prepared to open its doors this week, but was forced to wait when U.S. District Judge Christina Armijo issued a restraining order temporarily preventing both companies from opening their doors.[iii] The restraining order was issued as part of a case initiated by the Humane Society of the United States and other groups in opposition.[iv]

Those supporting horse slaughtering largely build their arguments by looking at the number of horses transported each year to Canada or Mexico to be slaughtered. In 2012, the total number of horses being sent to these countries for slaughter was estimated to be 123,807.[v] Slaughter supporters point to the cruel treatment horses experience in these border countries where there are no guidelines regarding how these horses lives come to an end, as well as the great cost incurred in shipping horses these long distances for them to ultimately meet the same fate.[vi]

Those opposed to horse slaughtering point out that not only is it an inherently inhumane and cruel practice, but also an expensive operation. They suggest millions of tax dollars would be necessary for the FDA to conduct horse slaughter inspections and such money would be diverted away from food safety programs currently in place to protect Americans, to enable a practice that 80% of the American public opposes.[vii] Those in opposition find hope in a bill being considered in the House, the Safeguard American Food Exports (“SAFE”) Act, which would prohibit the slaughter of horses for human consumption in the U.S. and their export for that purpose abroad.[viii] This bill, sponsored by Representative Patrick Meehan (PA), was assigned to the House Agriculture committee on March 12, 2013, which will consider it before possibly sending it on to the House or Senate as a whole.[ix]

Individuals passionate about this issue are anxious about the case brought by the Humane Society progresses and whether horse slaughtering will begin in America once again. An answer will likely come soon, as another hearing in the case took place on Monday, August 5th.[x]
[i] Judge Blocks Planned Horse Slaughter at Two Plants, (Aug. 2, 2013), (last visited Aug. 5, 2013).
[ii] Id.
[iii] Id.
[iv] Id.
[v] Horse Slaughter Statistics, Animal Welfare Institute, visited Aug. 5, 2013).
[vi] AVMA Position on Safe Act,, (last visited Aug. 5, 2013).
[vii] The Facts on Horse Slaughter, The Humane Society of the United States, (last visited Aug. 5, 2013).
[viii] Banning the Slaughter of Horses for Human Consumption,, (last visited Aug. 5, 2013).
[ix] Id.
[x] Judge Blocks Planned Horse Slaughter at Two Plants, (Aug. 2, 2013), (last visited Aug. 5, 2013).