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Frequently Asked Questions on Horse Slaughter
Warning: Photos on this page may be disturbing
What horses are slaughtered?
Any horse that falls within the profit margin for slaughter. Horses of all ages and sex are slaughtered including pregnant mares and foals. Former racehorses, show horses, pleasure horses, carriage horses, Amish work and buggy horses, summer riding camp horses, police horses, former therapeutic and handicapped riding horses, lesson horses, rodeo horses, wild mustangs, broodmares, mares used in the production of Premarin and the foals that are the byproduct of the production, and companion horses all been purchased and sent to slaughter.
Accomplishments won are no guarantee as demonstrated by the slaughter of 1986 Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand and the Hall of Famer Exceller.
Who slaughters horses and where are they slaughtered?
Horse slaughterhouses located in the United States are all foreign owned. The horsemeat is federally inspected by the United States Department of Agriculture, (USDA) with your tax dollars footing the bill*. Amendment to the House Agriculture Appropriations Bill on June 8th, 2005 prevents use of public funds. READ UPDATE Under federal law, horses cannot be slaughtered in the same slaughterhouse as cattle, hogs, sheep, or goats.
Due to the fact that horses are not raised for food or fiber in this country, and Americans do not consume horses, none of the products that we routinely use on our horses has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use on horses intended for food. Currently there are three horse slaughterhouses in the United States, two of which are located in Texas. A third slaughterhouse in DeKalb, IL owned by Cavel Int. re-opened on June 7th, 2004 after being rebuilt after a fire destroyed the plant in 2002. In 1999 Cavel had attempted to relocate to Big Foot, IL but was stopped by citizen groups who opposed horse slaughter.
In Texas there is currently a legal battle underway in federal court after the Texas Attorney General's Office issued the opinion that a 1949 Texas law prohibiting the sale and possession of horsemeat did apply to the two Texas slaughterhouses. An effort by Texas Representative Betty Brown to amend Texas law to allow the slaughter of horses for export passed the House, but HB 1324 failed in the Texas Senate after anti slaughter horse organizations hired lobbyists to Kill the Bill, Not Our Horses!
American horses are also exported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter.
Who eats horsemeat?
France, Belgium, Japan, Italy, Switzerland account for the majority of horsemeat consumed in the world.
Are horses slaughtered for pet food?
No. The pet food companies cannot compete with the price paid by the slaughterhouses for human consumption. Slaughter is for human consumption. Horses for human consumption must arrive alive at the slaughterhouse and cannot be killed using any drugs. When pet food companies were required to label the ingredients, the American public voted with their dollars and said neigh to feeding horses to their dogs.
Recent research at Colorado State University, (CSU) is revealing that animals who consume another animal infected with West Nile Virus, (WNV) can contract the disease. Horse meat is not tested for the WNV. The USDA issued a directive in April for meat inspectors to visually inspect horses at the two Texas slaughterhouses for signs of the disease. According to CSU biomedical sciences professor Rich Bowen 9 out of 10 horses infected with the WNV exhibit no signs of illness.
How are horses slaughtered?
Horses are slaughtered by the use of the captive bolt, 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. Undercover investigations have shown that horses have been hoisted into the hair while still conscious.
The terrified horses can smell the blood, can hear the horses in front of them being killed and see other horses hanging in the air. Horses shake violently in the knockbox from fear and try desperately to avoid the captive bolt, scrambling and falling on the blood and urine soaked floor of the knockbox.
How Many Horses Are Slaughtered?
In recent years the number of horses slaughtered has continued to drop since1989 when almost half a million American horses were slaughtered in the United States and Canada. In the late 1980's the tax shelters for horses disappeared and hundreds of thousands of Thoroughbreds, Standardbreds, Quarter Horses and Arabians were dumped onto the market. Killer buyers routinely attended pedigreed horse sales sitting right up front picking up any horse, including stakes winners and full term pregnant mares that sold within the profit margin for slaughter. (Note: Many sales companies specializing in pedigreed horses have now instituted a minimum bid of $1000.00 to prevent horses from being purchased by the killers.)
According to a story in the Baltimore Evening Sun at the1988 Fasig Tipton sale in Timonium, MD of the 269 Thoroughbreds, 94 sell for less than $600.00. The killer buyer sitting in the front row bought 46, including mares heavy in foal. The reporter finds the horses the next day at the infamous New Holland sale in Lancaster County, PA. The mares are beaten with whips and canes onto double deck cattle trailers and shipped to AmFram in CT. (Am Fram has since closed, as have 12 other horse slaughterhouses).
Horse slaughter numbers skyrocketed after passage of The Tax Reform Act of 1986 closed the tax-sheltering "passive investment" loophole horse breeders had used to entice wealthy investors interested in a tax shelter bursting the bubble of artificially inflated prices and flooding the market with Arabians, Thoroughbreds, Standardbreds and Quarter Horses. The opening of the floodgates resulted in a bloodbath for the horses as slaughter numbers went from 128,000 in 1985 to 345,500 with another 70,000 horses shipped to Canada in 1990.
After a steady downward trend during the late 1990's, the number of horses slaughtered in 2001 rose to 56,000 due to outbreaks of Foot and Mouth Disease and fears of Mad Cow in Europe. The number dropped to 42,300 in 2002, but a repeat of the late 1980's bloodbath is on the horizon for 2003 after Wyeth Ayerst Laboratories, the manufacturer of the estrogen-replacement drug Premarin® cancelled contracts with a third of all the Pregnant Mare Urine (PMU) farm producers and the remaining producers have been cut in half. According to the North American Equine Ranching Council, (NAERIC) there are 35,000 broodmares on the PMU farms. Various horse welfare organizations put the numbers at 50,000 - 60,000. The PMU farmers are now dumping their broodmares onto the market at the same time as the annual fall auctions of the foals that are a by-product of the industry. There is no way the horse industry and horse welfare organizations can absorb the tens of thousands of drafts and draft cross mares and foals that will flood the market.
In 2005 the numbers are again climbing in part due to the reduction of PMU herds and also due to passage of the infamous Senator Conrad Burns (MT) amendment to the Omnibus Appropriations Bill, (H.R. 4818), signed into law by President Bush on December 7, 2004 repealed the third section of The Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971, in which wild horses and burros over the age of 10 years or those that have not been successfully adopted after three adoption attempts could be sold at public auction to the highest bidder, allowing the sale of America's wild horses and burros to be sold to foreign owned slaughter houses. As predicted 41 mustangs were sent to slaughter at Cavel before the BLM put a halt to the sale of anymore mustangs while they reviewed their policy. (See Update)
How do horses end up destined for slaughter?