Here in the U.S. we used to slaughter horses for export to worldwide markets that crave equine flesh. Sounds horrific. But sometimes the alternatives are just as brutal.

Then, a few years back, we stopped the practice of equine butchering in this country. We deemed horses too precious ... too pet-like ... too dear. Horses are undoubtedly majestic creatures deeply entrenched in our American history that undoubtedly deserve a fate far better than the dinner plate. 

But that’s just not so elsewhere. The rest of the world is content to dine on horses. In fact, it’s a socially acceptable delicacy in many countries and for many ethnic groups.

Given that horses are expensive to euthanize and their remains difficult to "dispose of," and given that any animal protein on a planet of limited resources may be well-utilized, it seems unconscionable to many to throw away such a valuable source of food.

OK, I'll be the first to admit that I don’t know the economics and environmental politics behind slaughtering horses in the U.S. and transporting them elsewhere, but I do know a thing or two about what happens to some horses when they’re not slaughtered for food. 

  1. They get shipped over the border to Mexico or Canada where they’re sold to slaughterhouses. According to HSUS and ASPCA reports, the state of Mexican slaughterhouses is a disgrace––far less humane than the USDA-overseen versions we used to have here.
  2. In this age of skyrocketing feed costs and rampant unemployment, many horses die out in the fields (from malnutrition and/or starvation) when owners abandon them to a life of not-so-lush pastures.
  3. They get "poached" by bandits (yes, really) and/or sold to illegal slaughterhouse facilities (here in Miami, both of these issues have been in the news lately). And I can assure you that neither scenario complies with the regulations of the U.S.’s "Humane Slaughter Act."

Like so many of you, I used to abhor the concept of U.S. slaughterhouses for horses. Track horses or those that have lived well in the company of humans who love them shouldn’t have to be slaughtered. They deserve a more dignified end than the dinner plate. But given the state of affairs we find ourselves in, I just can’t get behind our current laws banning it.

Dr. Patty Khuly