Horse Slaughter Houses to Resume Under New Bill

Horse meat production can resume in the U.S. after being brought to an end for inhumane practices in 2007. Do you agree with the change?

While slaughterhouses have never been illegal, the killing of horses for human consumption ended in 2006 when the federal government refused to fund USDA slaughterhouse inspectors.

But the language has been removed from Agricultural Appropriations bill, HR 2112.

That change in language is what has horse owners up in arms. 

In an e-mail to Patch, U.S. Rep Chris Murphy, D-5, reported that a 2011 non-partisan report found that the ban did not lead to a decrease in horse slaughter. Instead, the same horses were slaughtered beyond the reach of U.S. law. That report stated, "As a result, nearly the same number of U.S. horses was transported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter in 2010 - nearly 138,000 -  as was slaughtered before domestic slaughter ceased."

The congressman wrote, "Legislation signed into law in November 2011 by the President opens the door to future inspections of horse slaughter facilities in the U.S."

A congressional aid reported that nothing else was changed from the previous legislation. Only the language that denied federal funding for USDA inspectors has been removed.  That change now opens the doors for slaughterhouses for horse meat consumption to resume in the U.S. 

Connecticut is one of the most horse populated states in the country.

While the number of horses in Connecticut are estimated by the University of Connecticut to approach 50,000, there is no exact estimate of the number of horses in the region.  However, the report states that upper Fairfield County and Litchfield County have the most concentrated amount of horses in Connecticut.

"Connecticut ranks third in the density of horses nationwide  and has the greatest density of horses in New England.  Vermont and Maine are the only two New England states that place above Connecticut in number of horses per capita," the UCONN report stated.

The region's ranchers had mixed feelings about the bill change.

Sue Peterson of Woodbury has a ranch with 52 horses. She described the new language as "a can of worms." 

"It's a sad and terrible thing," Peterson said. "Since they killed the slaughterhouses, they are shipping the horses off to Mexico and Canada.  And they are doing so inhumanely. They are breaking their legs,  stuffing them into ships and trucks, falling breaking their legs, and shipping the meat off to France."

Many residents assume that the change in the legislation may be an attempt to recoup an economy that was lost when slaughtering was banned.

However, in a statement issued by Respect 4 Horses, Paula Bacon, former mayor of Kaufman, Texas, where a horse slaughter facility operated for years, is quoted as saying, "Horse slaughter means very few, very low wage jobs. This so called business brought in virtually no tax revenues and local governments incurred substantial enforcement costs in trying to regulate environmental problems with these facilities. The standard of living dropped during the time horse slaughter facilities operated. Having a horse slaughter facility drove away good businesses."

Respect 4 Horses is a coalition of nine organizations to benefit horses rights with a combined national membership of over 100,000.

Director Simone Netherlands said, "Equine slaughter has also been found to increase and abet horse theft in areas where facilities are located or horses are held for transport to slaughter."

Some states have made the slaughterhouses illegal within the state. Texas and Illinois have banned the sale of horse meat, and other states have codes that take various positions against the process, according to the ASPCA.

The Michigan State University College of Law lists statutes for various states, including Oklahoma, where it is unlawful to sell horse meat for human consumption and California, where it is illegal to kill a horse for human consumption. Violations could result in a felony conviction with a prison sentence of up to three years.

The congressmen of the Housatonic and Naugatuck valleys expressed dismay at the change in the bill.

"I have serious concerns about the language, and the minimum of debate and scrutiny it was afforded before being rolled into 'must-pass' year-end budget legislation. While I agree that there are real questions that need to answered regarding the effectiveness of the domestic slaughter ban, laying the groundwork for a renewed U.S. horse slaughter industry is deeply upsetting. Our goal should always be to minimize the suffering of horses – whether within our borders or without," Murphy wrote.

U.S. Rep. Rosa L DeLauro, D-3, was in agreement and said, "I have fought to ban the slaughter of horses by prohibiting funding for the inspection of horsemeat by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Unfortunately, the legislative language that I introduced in 2006 was not included in the final 2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill. I do not support this change, and will continue to work to protect horses."

Horse owners and animal lovers across Connecticut are having strong reactions to the bill.

Joe McAllister is the third generation owner of the Rolling M Ranch in Southbury. He felt that for people who cannot afford to keep their horse alive when the horse gets too old to be of service, it is a better alternative than letting the horse starve.

"For the people who don't have a choice, it's an out," said McAllister. "It will benefit some people and for others, it will appall."

"Some people have to save their house and lose their horse. As a horseman, I would do everything in my power to take care of a horse. A horse gets a twisted leg, if you can operate and he has 25 percent chance of making it, that's fine. But if he has no quality of life." McAllister shrugged. "I haven't met anyone who doesn't want to do whats in the best interest of the horse, but it also comes down to what people can afford."

Contrary to popular belief, not all horse owners are wealthy. The UCONN report stated: "The median income of horse-owning families is about $60,000. Horse ownership is broad based across income classes with 34 percent of the industry under $50,000 of income and 28 perent over $100,000."

"When we use the term 'horse slaughter,' we are referring exclusively to the killing and processing of horses for human consumption," said a statement prepared by ASPCA.  "To be clear: Horse slaughter is not humane euthanasia. Due to the historic role that horses have played in the development of our country and culture, the ASPCA is opposed to the slaughter of horses for human consumption."

Gordon Johnson, spokesman for the Second Company Governor's Horse Guard in Newtown, is personally against the slaughter of horses.

"I don't understand what the benefits would be," Johnson said. "You put a horse down for humane reasons, but we don't eat horse meat in this country. Horses have served mankind for many years and I don't want to see them served on a plate."

There are stables throughout the state that will allow horses to retire on their land for a cost of anywhere from $400 to $1,400 a month throughout Litchfield and Fairfield Counties, according to Southbury's McAllister, whose farm has been in existence since the late 1800s.

McAllister said that when the owners can afford it, the horses can live out their lives until they either become ill or pass peacefully.  

At a horse sanctuary in New Milford, Equine Angels Rescue Sanctuary, owner Frank Weller said that ideally, there would be a protocol for horses at the end of their lives, and it would be done under medical care.

"There needs to be an answer to putting down horses humanely, but this is not it," Weller said. "Slaughter houses are not humane.  By opening the slaughter houses, you open the market for breeding horses for meat.  They are sentient beings.  All you have to do is look in their eyes and you will find it very hard to rationalize any inhumanity to them. I would hate to see people breeding horses only to encourage the suffering of these animals."

Related Topics:Agricultural Appropriations Bill, Equine Angels Rescue Sanctuary, HR 2112, Horse Slaughterhouses, Respect 4 Horses, and Rolling M Ranch

Keith wink December 06, 2011 at 05:50 PM
Whats next ? A ban on beef or pork ? I am a horse lover and owner but i see the need for these facilities. The ban has wiped out the horse market. I think it is more humane to send them to slaughter instead of letting them suffer from lameness or be starved. As much as i wish there was not a need for a slaughterhouse, the truth is, there is !! Keith wink
East Gate Manor December 06, 2011 at 06:12 PM
look at this and decide if slaughter is humane or not. http://canadianhorsedefencecoalition.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/new-undercover-investigation-inside-quebec-slaughterhouse/
East Gate Manor December 06, 2011 at 06:13 PM
East Gate Manor December 06, 2011 at 06:18 PM
Since dogs and cats are eaten in Asian Countries...how about shipping all the strays from shelters around America to China for their meat also? That would fix the overpopulation problem!!! Horses are pets...NOT FOOD!!!
MisterSpuddy December 06, 2011 at 11:31 PM
Hear hear East Gate Manor! There are rescue groups, etc. for horses as well as other abused/neglected animals. The ban should be reinstated!
Kathe December 07, 2011 at 01:40 AM
Call your local rescue group if you think anyone has the space or feed for another welfare horse before you shoot your mouth off. Or perhaps you'd rather have the crippled, old or mean horses shipped to Canada or Mexico in a cattle truck to be slaughtered at the hands of heartless butchers. Unwanted horses won't go away until there are rules enforced regarding horse breeding practices - like they do in many European countries. Here is the US, anyone with a broke down, poorly conformed, poorly bred mare can breed her to any broke down, poorly conformed and poorly bred stallion any time they choose! And the results are often the ones who end up in the slaughter pens. No, horses should never be slaughtered - but at least in the US, there are FDA regulations and enforcement. Until there is a free place to have your unwanted horse humanely euthanized and buried or cremated, there are very few choices.
Datus December 07, 2011 at 02:53 AM
No more inhumane than farming any type of animal. All in all farming animals isn't responsible or humane. I say we should all hunt. Then we learn the responsibility of killing an animal and we aid conservation as well. I've been harassed for being a hunter, but if you eat meat and don't hunt, you're the guilty party. Also, ask yourself, does farming promote fair chase?
East Gate Manor December 07, 2011 at 04:32 AM
Hunting is actually more humane than slaughter. Hunters usually try to aim for the most accurate point to hit. Hunters eat what they kill. Hunting is regulated and only during certain seasons. Although there are those hunters that hunt just for the kill and thrill, like the hunters who kill the wolves for the fun and sport. But hunting is not the issue here.
East Gate Manor December 07, 2011 at 04:32 AM
Horses are not raised for food. Cattle are raised for food and usually slaughtered by the time they are 2 years. Horses are slaughtered mostly at around 10 years, they are full of toxic meds, they have been handled by humans, trained, vetted, groomed and have learned to trust the humans who have cared for them and trained them.
East Gate Manor December 07, 2011 at 04:33 AM
40% of slaughtered horses are TB's from race tracks. 95% of horses sent to auction are purchased by kill buyers and sent to slaughter. 90% of the horses slaughtered are viable. The slaughter plants in Canada are designed for cattle not horses the horses are hit with a captive bolt repeatedly until they fall. The slaughter in Mexico is done primitively and savagely with a knife stabbing the neck repeatedly until those horses fall. None of the above should be the fate any American horse meets. An experienced hunter with a trained eye and accurate rifle would allow for a more humane end for the unwanted horses of America. Ideally though, euthanasia is really the only dignified death for a horse that has given it's best to humans either through plowing fields, running on the track for a cheering crowd, navigating it's way around the polo field to get the goal, jumping the hurdles, circling the barrels, pulling the carriages, walking the mountain trails, standing pregnant for years on end for their urine, or simply being a little girls dream come true, Our horses should be honored for their existence and contributions to our society. If the French want horse meat...let them butcher their own children's horses. If the Japanese want to dine on horses let them eat their own horses, if the Mexicans want to eat horses...let them stab their own horses to death from their own fields. Our horses are part of the fiber of our Country.
sandra December 07, 2011 at 10:03 AM
Let me start by saying you should be calling your congressman/woman to cosponosr HR2966. Cong. Himes and Courtney have already done so and should be thanked for doing so. Cong. DeLauro and Cong. Larsen who have cosponsored before have not yet done so in this congress but I certainly hope they will. Chris Murphy who seems so committed in this article has never cosponsored this legislation on "principal" meaning he doesn't cosponsor any legislation. The only reason a politician does not cosponsor is he does not want to commit until he absolutely has to if it ever gets to a vote. You would be well advised to remember that stance when he runs for senator. Congressman Murphy, you have been asked repeatedly by many of your constituents to cosponsor this legislation. Don't you think it is time you actually committed to something you purport to believe in? As for our senators, Senator Lieberman has always cosponsored this important legislation in the senate (S1176) and I am happy to say Senator Blumenthal promised even before he was elected that he would do so and he kept his promise as soon as S1176 came out. They both need thank you calls. If you care, make your calls. It takes 3 minutes tops.
sandra December 07, 2011 at 10:24 AM
As for why this exists: It comes down to irresponsibility. There are some good breeders who breed with standards but most are simply throwing darts. So they breed 100 to find 5 good ones. The breed registries use the horses like a pyramid scheme registering for money and the offspring bring in money and their offspring bring in money. Horse owners who cannot afford to spend the equivalent of one month's board to put their horse down humanely should not own a horse. And I am the example of how the show horses, like mine, end up in slaughter. He was no longer able to compete at the same level. My vet suggested someone to place him in an appropriate home having used this woman to place other horses. Within a month he was gone to slaughter. It took me 6 month's but I found out he did not go to the nice girl down the street or to Vermont as a companion but rather to a killbuyer in PA. So people like me, in the equestrian world, are also a part of the problem. When you purchase a horse, you absolutely must include in a contract to sale or adoption a residual ownership or right of first refusal to prevent your horse from ever going to slaughter. For those that really do come upon hard times, the vet they have always used who has received their livelihood from this animal should be helping to end that horse's life by euthanasia. So there is blame abundant. But the horses should not be tortured because we choose to ignore our responsibilities.
sandra December 07, 2011 at 10:32 AM
There is no reason that CT cannot pass its own ban which would mimick HR2966 and S1176 which would prevent the sale and transport of a horse for the purposes of slaughter for human consumption. That would mean however our Ct state representatives would need to decide they will take this seriously and introduce a bill. THIS YEAR.
sandra December 07, 2011 at 10:39 AM
And finally, it is pure bunk that it will be more humane here than in Canada. It was never humane here when there was slaughter..in our own Connecticut plant. There is no method yet to devised because a horse is not like a cattle. The brain is located further back, the neck is long allowing wild movement, the flight instinct kicks in as they smell the fear from the other horses. The only humane death is by euthanasia. If you do not care about humane death, consider we are sending meat that is filled with drugs labelled not for human consumption, in fact deemed by the FDA as having toxicity and cancer causing, to other countries. Dumping toxic waste in other countries is not who we are, or is it?
jk December 07, 2011 at 11:33 AM
There are millions of dollars being spent feeding livestock (horses) of yours and mine tax money other culturs eat horses it is a fact why not bring proffitt into our own country and put that money toward helping people in need not animals that are only feeding other countries no different to them than you eating cattle. The slaughter houses are made out to be alot worse than they are, it is mostly not understanding and listening to rumors of only opinions not facts. There is a need for slaughter houses and no matter how well breed a horse is there are still bad horses, horse that become lame sick and no normal income person can afford to pay $400 to $1400 dollars to have a horse in a retirement farm. Get realistic.
sandra December 07, 2011 at 12:21 PM
What has wiped out the horse market has nothing to do with the ban which took effect only 5 years ago. It has to do with over breeding. Too much supply to enough demand. And the economic downturn exacerbated the problem. No different than the housing market. To suggest we need slaughter to correct an over supply problem of horses is like saying burn the overage of housing down. When the breeding cuts back to sustainable levels, then the demand will catch up and we won't need to throw them away like disposable cups. Also, horses are not raised as food animals. Pork and beef are. Horses have a lifetime of toxic drugs..dewormers, vaccination, steroids and phenylbutzaone, a carcinogen. A lame horse should be put down, a starving horse should have the owner arrested for animal cruelty. If you can't afford the horse don't buy the horse.
sandra December 07, 2011 at 12:35 PM
Rescues were set up initially to deal with abuse and neglect cases. Instead, everyone who wants a new horse or can't afford the horse when they see the costs affiliated are trying to offload their responsibility. And yes there are choices. I am so tired of people crying there is no choice and it is a necessary evil which just deflects responsibility. Nobody makes anyone buy a horse. When you buy a horse, put aside a month's board for euthanasia and burial. You have no right to own a horse if you are willing to knowingly send a horse to torture because you don't want to spend the money. If you can't afford to buy a horse, lease a horse. It would help cut your costs and also help the owner to cut their costs. If your horse is "mean" which reflects human error in training by the way, put it down. The regulations in the US did nothing more for the horses tortured slaughter than what the regulations in Canada do. Outside of a shorter transport, it is the same process. You are right however that the breeding practices must change. It is largely the problem. BUT. if you stop the slaughter, the breeders will be forced to reevaluate their business model. The good ones will survive and the bad ones will go out of business because there will be no where to get rid of their merchandise.
Diana B December 07, 2011 at 01:44 PM
If you can't afford to put a horse down when it's time, how can you afford to own one? What are you going to do if your horse breaks a leg? Here is a report on horse slaughter conditions at one of the newest, state-of-the-art, Temple Grandin designed plants. What is going on is not humane by US or Canadian standards. http://www.defendhorsescanada.org/dr_dodman_report.pdf
Diana B December 07, 2011 at 02:04 PM
Horse slaughter is not like beef slaughter. Cattle are handled in groups their entire life. They are driven through lanes into chutes for processing many times during their life. They have their head and neck restrained for a quick vaccination, fly tag, implant, de-worming, weighing, ultrasound etc. They are used to putting up with a little unpleasantness then being released. The lane to the kill box is very familiar to cattle and not frightening. Horses are taught from birth to trust humans and to be lead. Horses are flight animals that can be very spooky, but learn to trust a human and follow them. Horses are never pushed into a scary place. Being pushed down the lane to the kill box is terrifying to a horse. Horses are head shy and try to avoid the captive bolt. Due to the long flexible neck a horse's head cannot be restrained like cattle. If the moving target of a horse's head causes a poor shot on the first try with the captive bolt the second and further shots are even harder to place on the firightened horse who is now in terrible pain. Often times it takes multiple shots with the captive bolt to stun the horse and many times they are not stunned, but in so much pain that they quit fighting and drop in agony. USDA and Canadian standards say a humane kill requires stunning on the first shot with immediate bleed out so the horse does not come to. Regulations say this must be acheived 95% of them time or the plant's process is not humane.
Ashley December 07, 2011 at 03:17 PM
I'm appalled and disgusted that this bill has been passed and signed by the president that I voted for. What the general public does not understand is the slaughter of horses can NEVER be humane. The fact that the horse has an acute and high sense of fear attributes to the low level of success by any slaughter methods and the high level of long drawn out cruelty. Studies and investigations show that the horse will move at the exact moment that the bolt or gun is about to hit him in the head, making it near impossible for the worker to render the horse unconscious the first time. The bolt ends up in their eye or cheek and many videos prove that horses have to be hit approximately 5 to 10 times before they go down, even in the former U.S. facilities. These facts prove that there is no such thing as "humane" horse slaughter. Pro horse slaughter people want the general public to stay in the dark about the truth for one reason and one reason only: money. I am deeply saddened by this bill and I will never consume horse meat. And for those who are uneducated and believe that horse slaughter is a "necessary evil" this is not so. Over 90% of horses that are sent to slaughter are NOT malnourished, sick, or starving.
Suzanne Moore December 08, 2011 at 12:54 AM
Keith, there has never been a ban on horse slaughter - either for human or non-human use. In fact, neither this legislation nor the proposed ban has ANY effect on horse slaughter for non-human uses. That is perfectly legal and always has been. This entire controversy is about horse slaughter for HUMAN consumption ONLY. But, in fact, slaughter for human consumption was never illegal. You were perfectly free to slaughter a horse that you owned. You could eat him, share him with family and friends, whatever. The only thing you couldn't do was SELL the meat across state lines for use as human food. We have been sending more horses across borders to Mexico and Canada since the domestic plants were closed than we were when they were open. Now, pray tell, HOW did the lack of domestic slaughter plants affect the horse business in ANY WAY? Answer - it didn't. We are in the worst recession since the Great Depression. Hadn't you noticed? Didn't the price for everything you own drop out the bottom? Why would you expect horses to be any different? There was never any breech in the slaughter pipeline, so the economy is the only possible answer. Something else you don't know. Since horses are categorized as companion animals, many horse products have ingredients that are totally banned for use in food animals. Our horses are not safe to eat. Some ingredients are very toxic to humans. Check it out.
pat December 10, 2011 at 02:58 AM
Someone who commented before me used the word,"trust". Well, a horse is an animal who trusts humans very easily. They learn to love us, trust us, and welcome our appearance on the scene. There is no valid reason to change that. If you think you would like to own a horse, do so, but provide for it. Get information from experienced horsemen. Have a good vet and a good horse shoer (blacksmith, farrier.). Follow the schedhules they recommend for the horse's care. Feed your horse CLEAN hay and keep his water fresh. GROOM him. Horses love to be brushed. Protect him from flies. Keep him warm in winter and cool in summer - always plenty of water, clean hay, good bedding (golden straw, wood shavings, etc.) Brush him daily with a curry comb and a nice brush from a tack shop. Use a hoof pick to clean his feet, and be gentle. Make sure he has attention from a blacksmith (even if he has no shoes) at least every 6-8 weeks - but get advice from your vet for that.) Be sure to have a vet see him as often as the vet thinks is necessary. Love your horse. There is nothing like that "nicker" when he knows you are coming to see him! Be careful of stallions. Most are kind, but some are not. Mares are unpredictable. Geldings ( neutered males) are kind and gentle - almost always. Remember they weigh from 1200 to over 2000 pounds. Use your head.
pat January 15, 2012 at 08:24 PM
Intelligent and informed comment, Ashley. Thank you!
pat January 15, 2012 at 08:27 PM
jk - get a grip. You are without compassion for one of earth's most sensitive and trusting animals. Please do not comment where your remarks can lead to animal cruelty.
Linda Horn May 24, 2013 at 04:25 AM
I wonder what specific 2006 language the aide is talking about. It's impossible to understand the objection and how it could be remedied without knowing what it was. I also wonder how many horses in the State of Connecticut are in peril and owners in distress. If each state would take care of its own using a combination of solutions, we could get a handle on this sad situation. As for the bills stuck in House and Senate Committees (often called the "graveyards" of legislation), they're about food safety. It's hard to believe legislators aren't tripping over themselves to co-sponsor. Do they really want to send meat from horses who've been given banned substances that would prohibit human consumption in the U.S. for consumption overseas? Doesn't say much for their ethics. Frank Weller hit the nail on the head. If the plants open, horses will be bred "clean" for meat. Some people say its impractical, but it's been done for years in Canada and France. Russia and Kazakhstan are gearing up to breed "clean" to fill the void in the EU market. The key is to breed docile horses of uniform size who reach meat weight at about the same time as cattle. If Connecticut want's to pursue something that will benefit end-of-life for horses by whatever means (including chemical euthanasia), it should consider a few anaerobic digesters rather than slaughterhouses. They would not only provide carcass disposal, but also transform just about anything biologic (including manure) into something useful, including fertilizer and electric generation from methane. Digesters keep unrecyclable matter out of landfills as well. The USDA provides guidance and partial grants for digesters under the Clean & Green Energy Program. Some states also provide grants. They're part of what Secretary Vilsak calls "a third way". The solution to this dilemma requires "outside the box" thinking ... something we humans are supposed to be good at.


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