The ending of the slaughter of America’s horses is designated as one of HSUS’s big fights. The House version of the SAFE Act was recently reintroduced in Congress and we expect a Senate version soon. Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL) are the lead House sponsors.
According to a recent survey, 80% of Americans oppose the slaughter of horses. Although they and we hold this opinion largely due to the inhumane nature of horse slaughter, SAFE also addresses the food safety aspect of consuming horse meat derived from American horses.
With some legislators, the food safety issue resonates more strongly than the animal cruelty aspect of horse slaughter.
American horses are not raised for human consumption and they are routinely given hundreds of drugs and other substances, both legal and illegal, over their lifetimes that can be toxic to humans if ingested. These substances have not been approved and many have been specifically prohibited by the FDA for use in animals intended for human consumption. Horses are gathered from random sources, and there is no system in the U.S. to track medications and veterinary treatments given to horses to ensure that their meat is safe for human consumption.
Slaughter is a brutal and terrifying end for horses and is not humane. Horses are shipped for more than 24 hours at a time without food, water, or rest in crowded trucks in which the animals are often seriously injured or killed in transit. Horses are skittish by nature due to their heightened fight or flight response. The methods used to kill horses rarely result in quick, painless deaths; they often endure repeated blows during attempts to render them unconscious and sometimes remain alive during dismemberment. Before the last domestic plant closed, the USDA documented rampant cruelty violations and severe injuries to horses. This is proof that horses slaughtered in the U.S. were subjected to severe cruelty and that domestic horse slaughter was inhumane. The last horse slaughter plant in the U.S. closed in 2007 because of the efforts of the Humane Society of the United States. These plants were proven to be economic and environmental nightmares for the communities that hosted them. They polluted local water, decreased property values, permeated the air with a foul stench, drained local economies, and damaged the environment. The last three horse slaughter plants in the U.S. offered only a few low-income, dangerous jobs that did nothing to bolster local economies, in contradiction of a common myth perpetuated by those who support slaughter.
There are several ways to reduce the number of homeless or at-risk horses. We can curb overbreeding, educate owners about other rehoming options and expand adoption work. We formed the Responsible Horse Breeders Council to address overbreeding and co-founded the Homes for Horses Coalition to empower and educate over 500 horse rescues across the U.S. and engage them in our work.
Please do not hesitate to contact Keith Dane or Valerie Pringle with any questions about horse slaughter or the SAFE Act. We have additional materials we can send to state directors and advocates.