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The Daily Vet by petMD

The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.

The Horse Slaughter Debate

Horse slaughter in the U.S. has been an extremely hot button topic over the past five or six years, and with another bill in Congress that is attempting to outlaw horse slaughter, people on both sides of the fence get very emotional. Let’s take a deeper look at this debate.

Horse slaughter in the U.S. is currently legal. This is an on-going battle as various bills make their way around Congress but are never passed into law. In 2006, such a bill made its way through the House of Representatives and passed, but then died on the Senate floor. Multiple times since then such a bill has been tried but has always floundered somewhere in Congress.The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act of 2011 is the most current form of this bill that’s now making its travels around Capitol Hill.

However, even though horse slaughter is legal in this country, there are no slaughter plants open in the U.S. now that will do it. There used to be three such plants in the U.S. — two in Texas and one in Illinois. All three closed in 2007 due to various issues with their local and state laws. As such, there’s actually nowhere currently in the U.S. for horses to be slaughtered. This means they get shipped outside of the U.S. to Canada and Mexico.

The biggest reason why there are people against horse slaughter is because horses in this country are strictly companion animals — they are our beloved pets and comrades and no one wants to see or think about an old friend (or other animal that reminds them of an old friend) having his fate sealed on the killing floor of a slaughter plant. I completely understand this. Do I like the thought of my favorite equine patients being shipping off to slaughter? Of course not. Worse yet, could I ever envision my beloved old pony Wimpy being sent off in the same manner? Hell no! But there’s more to this issue than this purely gut-wrenching reaction. The bigger issue is unwanted horses.

Here are some points to consider:

1. All slaughter plants in the U.S. are open for inspection by the USDA. They are required to uphold a certain level of cleanliness for human food safety standards, and there are humane laws that have to be followed under the Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act, 1958. Slaughter plants found in violation get fined, or worse. Obviously, the USDA doesn’t monitor plants in Canada and Mexico. In my mind, I’d rather an animal be slaughtered somewhere locally where there are standards in place than be shipped over country lines where it may be a free-for-all. Granted, there are holes in this logic. No governmental agricultural agency has enough field agents to inspect all plants at all times. In fact, the Food Safety and Inspection Service, the branch of the USDA that sends out veterinary inspectors to slaughter plants, is grossly understaffed (and underpaid), so it’s not a perfect system and it never will be. But at least it’s something.

2. Horses are expensive. They eat a lot, take up space, and, well, mostly they eat a lot. Add veterinary bills on top of feed bills for a horse and there’s even more money out of your pocket. With the economic depression this country has been going through, people have been forced to make tough decisions about their animals. Selling a horse for slaughter is, for most people, the worst-case scenario. If slaughter were outlawed, these unwanted horses have few other options:

  1. Donation to a rescue group. The Unwanted Horse Coalition’s 2009 survey reported 39 percent of rescues were at max capacity and another 30 percent were at near capacity. That was three years ago and I can’t believe that things have gotten better since then.
  2. Euthanasia by veterinarian. This costs money. Again, the Unwanted Horse Coalition’s 2009 survey reported the average cost of euthanasia and carcass disposal was $385 per horse. As a vet, that sounds about right to me.
  3. Neglect. Over the past few years there have been increasing reports by humane groups regarding neglect and equine abandonment cases. Is this due to bad economic times, the lack of U.S. slaughterhouses, and/or other factors? I’m not sure. But I do know that letting a horse starve to death in a barren field is a worse fate than one in a slaughter plant.

Please let me emphasize: I am not pro-slaughter. But banning slaughter does not make the unwanted horse issue in this country better; it just ignores the problem. We need long-term solutions that will help decrease the unwanted horse population. If there were no unwanted horses, there would be no need for slaughter in the first place. I firmly agree with the Unwanted Horse Coalition’s motto (which is also supported by the AVMA) on this issue: "Own responsibly."

So, that’s where I stand. What do you guys think?

Dr. Anna O’Brien

Image: Frank Kovalchek / via Flickr

Comments  25

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  • Missouri
    06/22/2012 11:20am

    There's been a lot in the news lately about a horse slaughter plant going to open in Missouri. I suspect we, the reading public, isn't getting the whole story because the news articles talk about how thrilled the small town is to be getting a new business that will create a few jobs.

    Both sides of the story are not being presented.

  • 06/30/2012 12:35am

    Missouri - Why don't you talk to the people of Mountain Grove about who isn't telling the truth. Wallis went to them first. Claimed she and Chevedico were bringing millions in investment money and 40 or 50 jobs and they would all go to locals. Every bit of this was completely untrue.

    At a meeting with people they were trying to recruit as investors, Chevedico was quite upfront about everything. First, they were investing NO money - and neither was Wallis, by the way - they only wanted to lease the plant AFTER it was built. They weren't investing one red cent. As to the jobs, Chevedico said that fully 95% of the jobs would go to Hispanic workers that they would bring in. Chevedico is the same company that owned the plant in Kaufman, Texas - Dallas Crown.

    I lived 30 miles away. I saw Dallas Crown. I saw what they did to Kaufman. Wallis is lying again when she claims that the environmental damage to Kaufman is a cooked up story by ex-Mayor Paula Bacon. Not only is this an insult to Paula, it's a lie. I and my horses lived near this place for 15 years.

    Wallis would say anything to get her way. The people of Mountain Grove literally ran her and her lies out of their town. You folks should to the same.

  • 09/17/2012 08:02pm


    We the U.S. TAXPAYER cannot afford to fund the USDA EQUINE INSPECTIONS of equines intended for live slaughter for human consumption, all for foreign profit, all on our U.S. TAXPAYER MEAL TICKET. Please urge the USDA to ADD THE RIDER to HR2112, FY2012, DEFUNDING the USDA EQUINE INSPECTIONS for equines inteneded for human consumption. PRIVATE funding (ie: the foreign multi-billion-dollar horse slaughter owner, who is NOT a U.S. CITIZEN, nor a U.S. TAXPAYER, nor even a U.S. RESIDENT) is acceptable. The money saved by the U.S. TAXPAYER in not paying for this foreign profit scam upon the U.S. CITIZEN, can be applied to U.S. FOOD PANTRIES, U.S. SOUP KITCHENS, U.S. PUBLIC SCHOOL LUNCHES, and U.S. EQUINE RESCUES, so we the People can start adopting out the equines to GOOD FOREVER HOMES, as U.S. PETS and companion animals, and start taking care of our own, instead of buying lunch for Europe, on our meal ticket, while our U.S. kids go hungry. TIME FOR AMERICA to LOOK AFTER HER OWN. We the People are NOT buying lunch FOR EUROPE, USDA. Please quit trying to rip us off. Where's the USDA BEEF??? Please call Congress now (202) 224-3121 to urge the USDA Agricultural Appropriations Committee to ADD THE RIDER to HR2112, Defunding Public funds for this U.S. CITIZEN SCAM. THANKS!

  • always two sides
    06/22/2012 03:08pm

    You hit the nail on the head with this story. While no one wants to "kill" a pet, the reality is, horses are very costly to maintain. Only in dire situations should " humane" killing be considered. Abandoning horses is a worst fate. This past year in Miami, emaciated horses, bones visible, were found wandering. The images were painful to watch. humane slaughter may be the answer. We have to consider the entire scenario as presented in this post otherwise we may be hurting more than helping horses.

  • 06/30/2012 12:48am

    First, slaughter is in no way, shape, form, or fashion "humane." I have SEEN it, and it's cruel in the extreme. They are using equipment and techniques designed for cattle, and these do NOT work acceptably for horses. Horse slaughter is so cruel it is not in compliance with the Humane Slaughter regulations in more than one way. Horses are high-strung prey animals - creatures of flight. When they can't run, they panic making the mandatory SINGLE SHOT with the captive-bolt pistol all but impossible. Also, the mandatory head restraints cannot be used with horses either. There is simply NO humane way to commercially slaughter horses. Period.

    If people are starving their horses, they should be charged with the crime that it is. In any event, no human consumption horse slaughter plant will take starved horses. Neither will they accept old, sick, lame, unwanted, abused horses. They need the very BEST to make human food, and that's the only kind of horses they will accept. This has nothing to do with horse welfare and never did. It's about money and ONLY money.

    Being unregulated, non-food animals, our horses have had banned substances used on them because there are banned substances in so many horse medications and other very common over the counter products. Our horses are not safe for humans to eat. It is absolutely chilling to see Wallis and her minions completely ignore this very real danger to the people who will end up eating this stuff - especially children.

  • 07/01/2012 05:19pm

    Miami, slaughter has never been and will never be humane. Slaughtering horses will not reduce the amount of unwanted or abandoned horses in this country. If this were so, we wouldn't have stray dogs and cats roaming the streets. Prior to 2005, when slaughter was still legal in this country, horses were still abandoned, starved and abused. What was different during that time was the increasing incidents of horse theft wherein horses were stolen from pastures and sold to slaughter. No. Slaughter won't help.

  • 07/01/2012 05:36pm

    Honestly I cringed at typing "humane slaughter". It is an oxymoron. But alas I'm no expert and appreciate your opinion.

    What do you think is the solution?

    I can only think of more sanctuaries and shelters but then funding is the other challenge.

    It's an epidemic all the way around in Miami between homeless dogs, cats, horses...But I'm doing my best to start a nonprofit and get to the root of the problem--Education.

  • 07/02/2012 12:38am

    No, slaughter doesn't help. Think about it. We have had uninterrupted slaughter for 30 YEARS. Has it solved the problem of overpopulation? Obviously not, although there isn't a shred of actual evidence that there has been an explosion of "unwanted" horses since the domestic plants closed.

    I'm sure the economy and the high price of hay has made it more difficult for some people to keep their horses, but there IS help out there and it has nothing to do with "lack of the slaughter option" because there has NEVER been a lack of the slaughter option.

    In fact, slaughter has caused the problem of over breeding and the throw-away mentality. If these people who are breeding horses they know they can't sell - like the AQHA - do you think they would continue if they didn't have this convenient dump-off? Neither would owners be so irresponsible if there were no place to toss their horses when they are done with them.

    Statistics have shown that abuse and neglect of horses actually increased in the areas around our domestic plants. So did crime. Probably because these plants create an atmosphere of cruelty and lack of caring.

  • 09/17/2012 08:31pm


    We the U.S. TAXPAYER cannot afford to fund the USDA EQUINE INSPECTIONS of equines intended for live slaughter for human consumption, all for foreign profit, all on our U.S. TAXPAYER MEAL TICKET. Please urge the USDA to ADD THE RIDER to HR2112, FY2012, DEFUNDING the USDA EQUINE INSPECTIONS for equines inteneded for human consumption. PRIVATE funding (ie: the foreign multi-billion-dollar horse slaughter owner, who is NOT a U.S. CITIZEN, nor a U.S. TAXPAYER, nor even a U.S. RESIDENT) is acceptable. The money saved by the U.S. TAXPAYER in not paying for this foreign profit scam upon the U.S. CITIZEN, can be applied to U.S. FOOD PANTRIES, U.S. SOUP KITCHENS, U.S. PUBLIC SCHOOL LUNCHES, and U.S. EQUINE RESCUES, so we the People can start adopting out the equines to GOOD FOREVER HOMES, as U.S. PETS and companion animals, and start taking care of our own, instead of buying lunch for Europe, on our meal ticket, while our U.S. kids go hungry. TIME FOR AMERICA to LOOK AFTER HER OWN. We the People are NOT buying lunch FOR EUROPE, USDA. Please quit trying to rip us off. Where's the USDA BEEF??? Please call Congress now (202) 224-3121 to urge the USDA Agricultural Appropriations Committee to ADD THE RIDER to HR2112, Defunding Public funds for this U.S. CITIZEN SCAM. THANKS!

    Furthermore: researching GOOGLE, 'PHOTOS/ARTICLES OF HORSE SLAUGHTER FEED LOTS' will reveal that it is common for equines in feed lots to STARVE to DEATH, suffer without any medical help whatsoever, die of THIRST, etc. As a professional horseman, and a research writer and editor, I can attest to the facts...ALL the facts: and I would rather see the lesser of the two evils: If Satan rose up and gave me a choice, if I'd rather see a horse left to fend for its self, just like horses in Natural Disasters, left out in the wilderness to live or die, on it's own and POSSIBLY STARVE...or not...OR: STARVE that horse in a horse slaughter feed lot, and if it is UNLUCKY ENOUGH to actually live through that long, gruesome torture, then be electric-cattle-prodded or whipped or hit with a two-by-four (these are all common practices with the kill-buyer: research: 'common practices of equine kill-buyer), then over-loaded and squished into a double-decker cattle truck (holds more, but the ceiling is too low, as it's made for shorter animals, such as CATTLE), and therefor: the horse keeps banging it's head on the low ceiling until blood usually flows from it's head and sometimes (often) one or both of it's eye's is also gauged out, due to the dangerous cattle truck, and THEN, after being shipped THOUSANDS of miles, or HUNDREDS...is cattle prodded OFF the dangerous low-ceilinged CATTLE TRUCK, then made to stand in the wait line, or KILL line at the HORSE SLAUGHTER PLANT, foreign owned for foreign profit, all paid for by the U.S. TAXPAYER, while our own KIDS go hungry because we the People bought Europe LUNCH (150,000 equines per year, times a 40-hour work week for the USDA, that we FUNDED...and WE don't see a dime. Not even one red cent goes to help us out. Meanwhile: the tortured equine is surrounded by the smell of BLOOD, FEAR, PAIN, even DEATH, then it's FINALLY, after WEEKS OR MONTHS of this long, grueling torture of a scammed and/or stolen U.S. PET of FEDERALLY PROTECTED FREE-ROAMING WILD MUSTANG, the poor animal is FINALLY in the 'kill-box'...and shying away from the BOLT-GUN, while it stands in another horse's POOL OF BLOOD, and is in full view of horses being hung upside down while merely stunned, yet still alive and it's throat slit and the pet bleeds out and the one right next to it, also dangling by one hind leg from a chain, is SKINNED ALIVE. These are the last things experienced by these scammed U.S. PETS who were promised a good home to the naive American owners by the swindling cut-throat kill-buyer who has convinced the TAXPAYER that 'this horse will be in Heaven, where I'm takin' him!" (a common line by the swindler to the American owner). Please do your RESEARCH and get your facts....ALL your facts STRAIGHT. Once we ban HORSE SLAUGHTER AGAIN, as ruled by a Supreme Court JUDGE, we U.S. TAXPAYERS can de-fund the taxpayer from paying for this crime upon us AND our animals....WE THE PEOPLE are NOT buying a horse-burger for Europe. WHERE'S THE BEEF? I can't even afford a My Little Pony HAPPY MEAL. I am NOT buying for EUROPE. NO AMERICAN SHALL PAY FOR THIS. It is the Will of the People to ADD THE RIDER to HR2112, DE-FUNDING OUR U.S. TAXES FROM PAYING for the USDA INSPCECTIONS OF EQUINES for foreign human consumption. Those are ALL the facts, and nothing BUT the facts. I'd rather see my horse starved to death out in a quiet glen somewhere, slipping into an altered state where in it has no appetite, nor thirst, nor fear, nor pain then letting it suffer through the atrocities of HORSE SLAUGHTER. Please call Congress now to remind them to ADD THE RIDER to HR2112. How dare our own COUNTRY try to rip us off! Shame on those scam-artists. I am not buying lunch. Please urge Congress to add the rider to HR2112, now. Thanks,
    Julian St.John
    Dekalb, IL.

  • Humane Option?
    06/22/2012 06:42pm

    "If slaughter were outlawed, these unwanted horses have few other options"

    I'm not a horse, but if I was I doubt if I'd consider being slaughtered as an option.

    I took a tour of a slaughter house, in Cincinnati, in 1969 (long after the Humane Act of 1958, referenced in the article), and if the mass slaughter of cattle, and the method involved, that I witnessed was humane...

    MASS slaughter of any form, even under so-called humane conditions, is NOT humane; i.e., calling a pile of crap a rose doesn't make it a rose.

    I don't know what the answer is. Maybe it's too easy for me to say, since I don't have the expense of caring for a horse, but, nevertheless, to slaughter domesticated horses, or wild horses, seems to me a huge betrayal.

    Yeah, it would be painful to watch an animal starve to death, but before anyone determines for themselves that mass slaughter is a humane option, I suggest they first witness a mass slaughter.

  • 07/02/2012 12:48am

    I absolutely agree. I HAVE seen horse slaughter and there is nothing humane about it. It's horrific. They use equipment and techniques that were designed for cattle and are totally unsuitable for horses - a very different species.

    An affidavit from Dr. Lester Friedlander, DVM & former Chief USDA Inspector, was presented to the Members of Congress on February 29, 2008, urging them to support HR 503 and S311. He stated, "The captive bolt is not a proper instrument for the slaughter of equids, these animals regain consciousness 30 seconds after being struck, they are fully aware they are being vivisected."

    If a former Chief USDA Inspector doesn't know, who would? Other former USDA Inspectors have said the same thing.

    About those "unwanted" horses. These slaughter plants are making HUMAN FOOD. They do NOT accept old, sick, abused, injured, lame, starved horses. Only the very best is all they accept. USDA records show that 92% of the horses that have gone to slaughter were young - usually between 6 and 10 - in good flesh, sound and perfectly healthy. These horses almost certainly would have found good homes if the kill buyers hadn't gotten them first. It's just SO heartbreaking.

    I've owned horses for 35 years, 15 of those in Texas 30 miles from Dallas Crown in Kaufman. My horse missed being stolen by a hair's breadth, but several of my friends in the same barn weren't so lucky. Horses are NOT the only victims!

  • Other Countries
    06/23/2012 03:53pm

    Can we be absolutely sure that these beautiful animals are treated with utmost respect when shipped to Mexico or elsewhere?

    Are they allowed food and water on the journey?

    Do these countries have regulations that force them to treat the animals well until death?

    Until something is figured out I am afraid that many horses will be subjected to many hours (if not days of travel) without food or water to end up at a place that looks at them as dog food rather than an animal. Many horses will continue to die from infection or heat exhaustion on the way.

    Is there a way for the farmer that will be able to afford? This is why I am afraid long term solutions will never come.

    So, we are left with trying to decide what the most humane will be. Kill here and regulate or send to other countries that may not care to (some will never) regulate the humane treatment of animals.

  • horse slaughter
    06/24/2012 11:57pm

    It’s a myth that horses will be treated more humanely in the US than Mexico or Canada. The plants that take US horses are all EU regulated as were the former US plants. None of them are humane. For the former US plants, just pull a few FOIAs or the GAO reports. They were horrific. The countries that slaughter horses have a passport system that requires vets to record all medication given to the horse during the horse’s lifetime. No passports are issued to horses over six month of age. In the US, we have no such system. Our horses are not raised or regulated as food animals with no way to ensure food safety. There is no traceability in US horses. Slaughter is for food production, not a disposal service.

    The long hauls over the borders are nothing new. Horses have endured the same long hauls within the US when the plants were open not to mention hundreds of thousands of horses exported for slaughter. Having slaughter on US soil will not stop exports. The haulers have agreements with both countries. The transport program doesn’t exist. It will take millions to fix it. The kill buyers run the program including slapping the USDA stickers on the horses. This has always been the case and not something that happened after the plants closed. The most horrific cruelty during transport occurred within our borders and continues to this day. Again, pull a few FOIAs.

    There have always been excess horses and abuse. Slaughter encourages overbreeding because there is no consequence. The same amount of horses are being slaughtered as when the US plants were open proving it doesn’t control the population or prevent excess horses or abuse or you wouldn’t be seeing any now. The only way to control the population is to address what is causing it and it sure isn’t the lack of slaughter.

  • 09/17/2012 08:49pm

    Vicki, you have done your research! Thank you.

  • Issues
    06/26/2012 02:35pm

    I'm shocked that, as a veterinarian, you seem to be unaware of the serious food safety issues involved in eating an unregulated, non-food animal, especially one whose medications and numerous other widely used products are known to contain banned substances - bute, clenbuterol, steroids and many others clearly labeled "not for use in horses intended for food purposes."

    Since we have no traceability system for horses at all, we have no way of identifying these horses or removing them from the human food chain. Even for products that DO have withdrawal times, again, we have no way of knowing what substances any given horses has been exposed to or whether the withdrawal time has been met. To continue to knowingly sell contaminated meat to consumers overseas is illegal, unethical, a black-eye on our entire meat industry and totally unacceptable.

    Since the slaughter plants in Mexico and Canada are owned and regulated by the same people that owned and regulated our domestic plants they all operate in the same way with identical regulations. Our plants were NOT humane! I know. The two Texas plants were less than 70 miles apart, and I lived right between them in Dallas. For those of us who owned horses, it was an absolute nightmare. I've been there, done that for 15 years, and believe me, you DO NOT want this back!!

    In fact, there is no humane way to slaughter horses. Horses are high-strung prey animals - creatures of flight. They panic and toss their heads making proper use of the captive-bolt impossible. The captive bolt was designed for cattle anyway and is completely unsuitable for any equid.

    See http://vetsforequinewelfare.org

    Yes, horses ARE expensive. So what? If you choose to own a horse, you find that our quickly. If you don't want to take responsibility for your horse, well, you should have thought of that a little sooner, right? So, do the right thing by your horse in life AND death and NEVER GET ANOTHER HORSE!! Abuse and neglect are crimes. Arrest these criminals and call a shelter. They are NOT full. Just ask around.

    The only legitimate argument for horse slaughter is to make $$$$$ off the summering of horses, their owners, and the people who eat the meat from American horses.

  • What about the method???
    06/28/2012 04:59pm

    Dr. Anna O’Brien,

    You, as a vet, should understand the science behind Commercial Horse Slaughter better than you let on in this article and I struggle to understand why.

    We both know that what the proponents of Commercial Horse Slaugther in the U.S. are doing is trying to create a new industry, where we raise horses specifically for human consumption. Anyone who knows anything about commercial slaughter of any kind knows that the animals used are not out of peoples' back yards.

    As to USDA standards: Why are the standards of quality averted for Commercial Horse Slaughter in the US? The USDA tests stringently for levels of Adrenaline and Cortisol in the end product when a "dark cut" specimen is identified on the beef slaughter line. Higher than legal amounts of Adrenaline and Cortisol in commercially slaughtered beef cause that industry their largest financial losses every year.

    Are you a large animal vet? If you are, you are most certainly aware that the Adrenaline and Cortisol production in equines is many times higher than bovines. Why is nobody concerned at all with the head-shot method in commercial slaughter that is causing Colorectal Cancer to be so significantly on the rise in the US?

    An offer by the United Horsemen's Front in 2010 for me to take a small business loan to raise horses strictly for human consumption prompted me to study this issue thoroughly. I've spent nearly 3 years learning about all forms of slaughter, commercial and otherwise, and long-observed hunting methods. What I found is very interesting and very evident in the head-shot kills of equines on commercial slaughter lines. You and I both know that the pulsing observed after the shot to the head indicates that all of the available production of adrenaline and cortisol is being delivered to the muscular flesh of the animal, the most expensive cuts.

    Many vets, due to their education and experience, understand the biological functions of the equines endocrine system. Temple Grandin is far from understanding or caring about what is really happening to the equine body with relation to what is actually being delivered to consumers in the flesh of the animal. Why then, do we have a large body of professionals endorsing Commercial Horse Slaughter?

    I feel the decision is more political than based upon the knowledge and experience contained in the body of the organization.

    Test any Commercially Slaughtered cuts of horse meat for levels of Adrenaline and Cortisol contained per USDA standards of beef---what will we find? I already know, and I suspect so do you.

    I learned that in addition to the cruelty and end-of-life respect issues we are dealing with in this issue, we are also dealing with a very serious Human Health Issue for those who consume this tainted meat. How can that be justified?

    Please respond.

  • 06/29/2012 04:34pm

    The captive-bolt isn't meant to kill, only to stun. With horses, it barely does that. It's obvious that many are being bled-out while at least semi-conscious.

    What effect does this have on the production of stress hormones you were discussing? I must admit, this is a new issue to me, because I know nothing about slaughtering cattle except that the captive-bolt was designed for them and works a lot better on cattle than it does with horses.

    Do you know where I can find some documentation on this? You are the only one I've seen bringing up this extremely important point, and it's definitely something we anti-slaughter advocates need to publicize.

  • 06/30/2012 11:59pm

    I don't think she's going to respond

  • Horses are CAPTIVE BRED
    06/28/2012 05:14pm

    Additionally, as we all know, horses are captive bred animals. We don't have stallions running around loose breeding peoples' mares in civilization, as we do dogs and cats!!! This responsiblility issue of breeders needs to be focused on to place the blame for any perceived domestic horse "overpopulation" problem exactly where it needs to be---with the breeders who would get $500 for an "off" rather than put it down chemically and humanely for less than that if they determine the animal is not viable.

    Same with the still existing greedy racehorse owners who would send an animal who made them thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands to the worst possible end imaginable.

    I was forced to sit in a semi delivering hydraulic parts outside Dallas Crown one hot summer afternoon in 2005. What I heard with my own ears was NOT humane "processing."

    I suspect strongly that any facility that is built on US soil to "process" horses for human consumption will be completely contained, like McDonald's facilities (wherever they are.) Nobody will see in, nobody will hear what is really going on inside what sounded to me like a literal Hell on Earth.

  • Hell On Earth
    06/29/2012 03:07am

    As I mentioned in my earlier post, I and my horses lived in Dallas, just 30 miles from Kaufman, for 15 years.

    I had occasion to visit Dallas Crown while helping my friends in their frantic search for their stolen horses. This was in 1991, but what I saw and heard that day is still as vivid and horrible as it was on that Saturday afternoon.

    Absolutely Hell on Earth.

    06/29/2012 06:18pm

    What kind of vet are you? Have you not heard of "putting the horse down peacefully with a shot of barbs then call the rendering truck? Why mass the horses together and terrorize, butcher and murder the animal? If the horse is at the side of the road, water, feed, pet and gently give a pain killer and then call the rendering truck.

    Why let Sue Wallis with Chinese money invade a small naive desperate town with the seduction of "Many jobs" when in fact China is going to make millions shipping meat back to China and Belgium? Say NO to any part of this.

    By the way there are thousands of Vets AGAINST Horse Slaughter!

  • Dear readers:
    07/01/2012 03:03pm

    I appreciate all your comments and debate. The horse slaughter debate is like talking politics or religion - everyone has his/her own strong opinions. To respond to some items mentioned above:
    1. I am not familiar with Sue Wallis.
    2. No form of slaughter is pretty. Even using IV injections of euthanasia drugs occasionally cause less than instaneous death. I agree that horses are much more highly strung than cattle and therefore mass slaughter at a plant is traumatic and dangerous - both to the horses and to the workers as well. Captive bolt is considered a humane form of euthanasia, as is a bullet... IF done properly. A challange is placing the bolt correctly and an unproperly restrained, frightened horse is a hard target. Squeeze chutes and other forms of restaint tend to cause more panic in horses. If a slaughter plant for horses were to ever open again in the US, this is one of many issues that would need to be seriously re-evaluated.
    3. Horses in the US are classified by the USDA and FDA as companion animals, meaning "non-food". Therefore, the drugs given to them do not have withdrawal times since no horses slaughtered in the US go into the US human food chain. I don't believe the US has jurisdiction over other countries that import horse meat from the US into foreign food markets. You are absolutely correct that horses slaughtered in the US could/would have drug residues from all sorts of things: bute, clenbuterol, sulfa drugs, and more. This appears to be a hole in the US regulations: horses are non-food in the US but can be sold as food elsewhere. I'm not sure how countries like France, Belguim, and Japan dealt with this when those US plants were still open.
    4. As a culture (and a generality), Americans do not eat horse meat. I do not believe there is any underlying plan to create an industry within this country to raise horses specifically for human consumption. If the outcry simply against horse slaughter is this loud, I don't think such a plan would even get off the ground here.
    5. I cannot quote the differences in cattle cortisol levels versus equine levels at times of slaughter, though I venture to guess they are physiologically similar; both are prey species but cattle are more stoic by nature. This does not mean that internally they are not stressed. Studies in dairies show that yelling at the cows during milking increases cortisol and decreases milk production. This goes back to Point #2: no slaughter is nice, nor without stress regardless of species. I am not familiar with cortisol's effect on carcass quality but it's an interesting topic and I'll have to do further research.
    6. Help support and educate people about responsible horse ownership, along the lines of, "A horse is for life, not just summer trail rides."

    As an end note, I would say the most productive way to get your voice heard (no matter what side of the debate you are on), is to contact your local Congressman/woman. Ultimately, this debate will come to a legal conclusion on the floor of Congress.

    Dr. O'Brien

  • 07/02/2012 03:02am

    Dr. O'Brien ~ If you only KNEW how many times I've been in touch with not only my own Representatives and Senators, but ALL of Congress. I've spent YEARS. It does NO good. Some are pro-slaughter because they have been heavily lobbied - read into that what you will - and these few have managed to block anti-slaughter bills for years. There are anti-slaughter bills right now, languishing in Committees in both Chambers where they will likely die, just like so many before them.

    The reason our domestic plants closed in 2007, was because Congress made an end run and prohibited funding of the USDA inspections of the plants. After much ranging in courts, the plants finally closed. Last year, in a mini-Conference Committee composed of four members, that funding was restored by three of those four in a last minute, behind-closed-doors session.

    In a survey by a very distinguished polling firm, a full 80% of Americans expressed strong opposition to horse slaughter. Yet, the funding was restored anyway. This entire issue has nothing to do with equine welfare or what the people want. This is all about Big Ag, foreign corporations, Big Pharma and the money they think they will make slaughtering our horses for human consumption. It's dirty politics and dirty money.

    Sue Wallis is the "face" for all this. To read her incomprehensible rants and denial of basic facts, you would think she was a raving maniac. Maybe she is, but she takes the spotlight off the real movers and shakers of this undercover enterprise and the millions they are spending to get their way. If you're going to express an opinion about horse slaughter, you really should get up to speed on what's actually going on.

    As for what the people who were eating our horses before, well, they're still eating them. The same Belgian/Dutch consortium that owned our plants owns five commercial plants in Mexico - where our horses go - all four of the Canadian plants, and, as I said, all three of our domestic plants. The current plants are also regulated by the same people - inspectors from the European Union. The consumers overseas have been lied to all this time. They are only now realizing what they've been eating and are quite upset, as you might imagine.

    The EU has been tightening the rules for the last two years, but our kill buyers have ignored it all. They forge documentation - even Coggins tests! - have no idea what the horses they are selling might have been exposed to and don't care. The horse slaughter "business" has more in common with organized crime that the slaughter of food animals.

    The EU has found banned substances in our horses in their plants in both Mexico and Canada.
    FVO Inspection of Mexican Plant OFFICIAL: https://www.box.com/s/bgsda62zd15xh4r8bs27
    FVO Inspection Report Canada: https://www.box.com/s/horrns3xsr50th1f0dct
    Canadian Response To FVO Inspections: http://www.box.com/s/aos488pdftk07bnvxmzf

    The EU has stated that as of July 1, 2013 they will no longer accept our horses unless we have implemented a costly, elaborate and burdensome traceability system comparable to the one they use called a passport system. The USDA doesn't have the funds to properly inspect OUR food, let alone inspect horse slaughter plants - about 5 million dollars per year - and certainly not to scrap all the rules and start over from scratch - with all this coming out of the taxes of 80% of Americans who hate this and do NOT want it.

    I really don't know how this will turn out, but the facts are the facts, and our horses are not safe for humans to eat, especially children. Horse slaughter is more cruel than you can imagine unless you have seen it. There is NO comparison to cattle slaughter at all. Horse slaughter does NOT comply with the humane slaughter regulations and never will. There is simply no way to humanely slaughter a flight animal in the fast moving, assembly-line of the commercial slaughter plant.

    I must say, you seem remarkably unconcerned about both the cruelty and the danger to foreign consumers. Even the smallest amount of bute residue in horse meat can cause children to develop aplastic anemia. The European Union takes this VERY seriously, I promise you.

    Unfortunately, the Big Money behind this doesn't care either, and they have ways of getting what they want no matter now unpopular or destructive.

    We are fighting as hard as we can, but there's no way we can match the lure of Big Ag's big money.

  • 09/17/2012 09:32pm

    I do not agree with this statement, Ms. Moore. Once We the People ban together and flood CONGRESS with calls to declare our will, just like last time, it shall be done. I have great faith in our nation and in the politicians we hire and can fire. WE THE PEOPLE.

  • 09/17/2012 09:23pm

    It is the WILL OF THE PEOPLE to BAN U.S. HORSE SLAUGHTER now and forever. We are broke. We the People refuse to pay the USDA to 'inspect' these animals for live slaughter for human consumption for foreign profit. Please support the Will of the People to ADD THE RIDER to HR2112, FY 2012, DEFUNDING Public Funding for USDA EQUINE INSPECTIONS. Luc Van Damme (non-U.S. citizen of the three FORMER U.S. horse-slaughter plants) can pay for the USDA inspections, if he wants to vote us out, pay the USDA, to rake in his foreign profit on our NATIVE SOIL. Also, when he owned and operated CAVEL International horse slaughter plant in my little ag town/college town of DEKALB, IL, there were multiple health issues and lawsuits involving his plant and the DEKALB, IL citizens...to the point that We the People had to vote down the Mayor (he tried bribing, er, I mean 'generous campaign contributions); Gross much, probably horse goo and blood leaked out of the plant, numerous times, and leaked into our ground water, our drinking water, our soil that feeds the world, our river, our wild life, our pets, our kids. And WE THE PEOPLE paid the USDA FUNDING for this civil crime upon our U.S. TAXPAYER. Meanwhile: The U.S. citizen, voter, taxpayer stood in the bread line and some of us even begged on the streets, we were so broke. If Luc Van Dammed and Co. want to kill our pets and Federally Protected WILDLIFE (THE FREE-ROAMING MUSTANG)...which we ALSO pay to take care of, through our TAXES,...then, sadly, I suppose he will have to fund this drama all by his multi-billion-dollar non-U.S.-TAXPAYING SELF.

    See, if we let ONE creepy villain into our country to do whatever they want to our animals that are not bred and regulated specifically for the purpose of slaughter...then there is NOTHING to stop some OTHER country from slithering into our back yard and opening up a DOG or CAT slaughtering plant, which we the People will ALSO have to fund. Uh, no, we won't. It is the Will of the People of the United States to de-fund our taxes from paying for these USDA inspections of equines. I'd like to see that money saved from adding the rider to HR2112, GO TOWARDS the U.S. citizen: Food. Our food. Food the We voters can eat in our own country, such as beef, chicken, pork, even goat or lamb.
    I'd like to see our corset strings loosened, so to speak and the money saved from this de-funding, go towards FEDERAL EQUINE RESCUES, wherein we can rehabilitate these animals, and thus, open up U.S. JOBS, such as barn help and horse trainers; and THEN adopt out these animals to U.S. HOMES, furthering our U.S. INCOME (HORSES ARE EXPENSIVE. We need U.S. dollars to pay for these animals); JOBS. FOOD.SPIRIT. We can have all that and more as a Nation, merely by adding the rider to HR2112, creating EQUINE REHABILITATION Federal jobs...we need to start taking care of the U.S. now, and educating our Voters and future voters. Thanks, Dr. O'Brien, for engaging in this important topic for the People of the United States. When U.S. horse slaughter is once again BANNED, or rather: when our U.S. funding of it is de-funded: we open up the way for us to make more money...by FEDERAL EQUINE RESCUES, so we can continue to open up those EQUINE INDUSTRY JOBS, including making money off of adopting out these pets. Federal Equine Rescues/Adoption works: Nation-wide. For the People. For the Animals they truly care about. Federal Equine Rescues just makes good horse sense!

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