Due to the commitment Animals' Angels has made to educate the public about the reality of horse slaughter, more is known about this horrific industry than ever before. Through years of intensive field work and in-depth investigations, our archive of documentation continues to grow with crucial information and hard facts about the horse slaughter process. Our efforts have also resulted in the compilation of an extensive database of kill buyers across the United States that is utilized by organizations and individuals nationwide. Our research has been used to raise awareness amongst the general public as well as legislators here in the U.S. and abroad. We’re gratified to know that our research has been able to help this worthy cause in such a broad-reaching manner and that our findings are being shared on a international level by so many.
To further increase the accessibility of this information, we have compiled the most important facts and links on this page.
- Approximately 50,000 American horses are sent to slaughter each year.
While it is true that there are no horse slaughter plants in the U.S. (the last three U.S. horse slaughter facilities, which were in Texas and Illinois, closed in 2007), our horses are still transported over the borders to slaughtering facilities in Mexico and Canada. The number of American horses sent to slaughter has been greatly reduced since 2015 due to an EU ban on horsemeat in Mexico, recent implementation of stringent restrictions in Canada, and a waning demand for horsemeat in Europe - but still, more than 60% of the horses slaughtered in Canada and Mexico originate from the U.S. The conditions at Mexican and Canadian plants are extremely poor. AA investigations have documented horrific neglect and abuse time and time again. Among other issues noted, horses have been left to die in pens without assistance, the handling is cruel and inhumane, transport conditions are not acceptable and horses suffer through severe weather.
Do Americans eat horse meat?
As we all know, Americans traditionally do not eat horse meat, therefore all of the meat is shipped overseas. The European Union is the primary consumer of horsemeat from the Americas, followed by Russia, Switzerland and Japan.
- Why are horses slaughtered?
Horses are slaughtered for one reason — to supply the demand of horse meat to consumers. While AA’s EU Campaign is creating awareness amongst the primary consumers and the demand has since declined, horse meat is still popular abroad – this demand drives the industry.
Our in-depth EU Campaign, which began in 2013 and still continues, documented the stark realities behind the horrendous business of horse slaughter in Mexico, Canada and Argentina. These findings were presented to the EU Commission in July 2014. In December 2014, the EU Commission banned all horse meat imports from Mexico and stopped accepting horse meat shipments on March 1, 2015.The formal EU decision can be found in the Official Journal.
- Where do most of these horses come from?
They come from race tracks, farms, Amish and Mennonite communities, riding academies or private owners and are sold at auctions all over the country where they spend hours and even days in overcrowded pens, often without access to food and water. Irresponsible breeders continue to saturate the horse market in search of that one champion or specific color combination causing too many horses to end up as so-called “unprofitable byproducts” of the industry. According to the USDA, 70% of horses slaughtered are Quarter Horses.
- Has ending horse slaughter in the U.S. led to fewer options for the disposal of horses, causing neglect and abandonment?
Absolutely not. Horse neglect and abandonment can in no way be attributed to the closure of U.S slaughter plants. The number of horses sent to slaughter has not changed significantly since domestic slaughter ceased in 2007. Since the slaughter option still exists, any increase in neglect or abandonment can only be attributed to other factors – the main one being irresponsible ownership. An economic downturn in someone’s living status is also known to cause someone to neglect their animals.
We need to advocate for limitations on breeding, provide assistance to owners in true distress, and expand adoption work. It should also be remembered that neglecting and/or abandoning any animal, including a horse, is a crime in every US state and these violators need to be held accountable for their actions. It is on all of us to keep our eyes open and to report offenders to local law enforcement agencies. Taking proper care of a horse at all times during its lifetime and providing a humane end to its life when necessary is a part of responsible ownership, no different than owning a dog or a cat. There is simply never an excuse for neglecting, abusing, or abandoning any animal.
- Horse slaughter is NOT a humane death or euthanasia.
Slaughter should in no way be equated with humane euthanasia. Nothing about the process is humane.
It has been our experience that upon their arrival at the slaughter plant, some horses will be already “down,” unable to rise due to exhaustion, dehydration or injuries. These horses are supposed to be euthanized immediately. However, our investigations and research show that this is usually not the case. Regulations require that horses must be rendered unconscious prior to slaughter, usually by a captive bolt. However, due to horses’ natural aversion of anything approaching their foreheads, some horses, even after multiple attempts, are improperly stunned. They remain conscious as they are hung up by their rear leg and their throat is cut.
At slaughter, humane treatment is superseded by economics. Profitability requires speed. But as speed and the rate of slaughter increase, errors and horses’ suffering increase. Holding up the kill line is frowned on. Video footage recorded at a Canadian slaughter plant confirms that operators are pressured to kill faster, egged on with, ‘Hurry it up, guys!’, ‘What’s the hold up?!’, ‘One more!’, and just plain ‘Hurry up, kill her!'
a. Investigation at the Camargo Horse Slaughter Plant (WARNING! GRAPHIC VIDEO!)
- How do horses end up at a horse slaughter plant?
This is a two-step process. The first step is acquiring the horse, most commonly at auction. The second step is transport.
- Auctions: Every week, there are hundreds of horse auctions all across the United States. These auctions are often frequented by known “kill buyers” who buy horses for the sole purpose of providing a steady supply to the slaughter plants in Mexico and Canada – many with direct contracts to fulfill. Some horses are purchased by horse traders who act as middlemen for the kill buyers. These individuals take horses home or to feedlots, fatten them up, and then send them on to the kill buyers at a later date. Conditions at horse auctions vary greatly. Some cater solely to kill buyers with loose horse sales. At these sales, horses are usually kept under deplorable conditions in overcrowded pens with no food or water and the handling by auction employees is abusive. At other auctions, while conditions may appear better and more private buyers might be in attendance, no horse is truly safe. Kill buyers are known to frequent all sorts of auctions and there is no guarantee the winning bidder does not intend to send the horse to slaughter.AA has compiled the most complete list available of horse slaughter auctions across the country with detailed descriptions of conditions and handling. We urge you to review the reports in our Investigations Archive and use them for research, sharing and raising awareness.
- Horse Transport: After being bought by a "kill buyer" horses are loaded onto a single deck trailer and transported to either a feedlot/collecting station or their final destination, one of the slaughter plants in Canada or Mexico.
- What is the procedure for shipping a slaughter horse?
Please see our paper “How does a Slaughter Horse Cross the Border?” for the detailed protocols behind transporting horses across the border to Mexico or Canada for slaughter.
- What is the procedure for shipping a slaughter horse?
- There are USDA regulations in place specifically dealing with slaughter horses and their transport. Doesn’t that protect our horses?
In a word, no. While the Commercial Transport to Slaughter Regulations would offer minimum standards of protection for slaughter horses, the regulation is useless due to the fact that there is little to no enforcement. Drastic budget cuts have left the USDA Slaughter Horse Transport Program with less than a handful of employees in charge of enforcement for the entire United States.
As a result, slaughter horses are basically left with no protection. Transports times are often longer than 28 hours and the weakened animals inside the trailer never receive water, food or rest. Tragically, oftentimes at least one horse will go down inside the trailer and will then be trampled to death by the others. Trailers are all too often overcrowded, with 35-38 horses of all sizes and genders, including stallions (it is illegal to transport unsegregated stallions). As well, trailers are frequently inadequate and holes in the trailers’ sides can cause legs to get stuck and either break or sever completely. The widely used open roof trailers offer absolutely no protection from the elements, and broken pipes and exposed nails found inside many of the more rundown trailers cause some of the worst injuries imaginable.
- Below are our reports detailing the truth behind slaughter horse transport and the lack of accountability and repercussions for violators:
- How do kill buyers treat the horses they acquire?
Naturally kill buyers are only interested in their profit and the price per pound that they are able to receive per horse. To maximize their bottom line, the horses in their possession will often receive minimal amounts of food and water and no veterinary care. Injuries and illness are left untreated and often grow worse. Strangles, a highly infectious disease, is common. Conditions at the feedlots are usually poor with horses crammed into overcrowded, barren lots constructed of barbed wire fencing and often left standing in deep mud while exposed to the elements.
Animals’ Angels has visited all of the well-known, large scale kill buyers and their feedlots over the last 8 years and we encourage you to check out our investigations which detail our findings.
- Horse slaughter was more humane and better regulated on US soil.
This is a myth propagated by the pro-slaughter supporters. In fact, this has been proven over and over to be a complete falsehood. AA has acquired proof directly from the USDA, the agency that was in charge of monitoring the horse slaughter plants in the US, refuting this myth. Documented in the information Animals' Angels received were well over 100 incidents; each individual case detailing a multitude of violations involving the transport of horses for slaughter to the Illinois plant from 2004 to 2007. More than 1,000 pictures with the worst injuries imaginable, taken by USDA inspectors at the Cavel horse slaughter plant in Illinois and the Beltex plant in Texas, are proof that being on US soil was never a guarantee for humane treatment. The photographs brought to light by our FOIA investigation demonstrate the true horrors of slaughter and transport as it took place in the U.S.
- Is horsemeat safe for human consumption?
No. In the United States, horses are raised as companion animals, for sport (such as racing, endurance, rodeo) and for work (carriage horses, farms, etc.), not as livestock meant for the food supply. They are routinely given numerous pharmaceuticals throughout their lives that are prohibited for human consumption – drugs that are in fact prohibited for livestock meant for human consumption. A common drug routinely given to horses is phenylbutazone or “Bute,” a carcinogen which can also cause aplastic anemia in humans. It has no known withdrawal period.
- What can be done to stop this cruel and predatory industry?
In May 2021, a new bill (The Save America's Forgotten Equines H.R. 3355) designed to protect our horses from slaughter was introduced to the U.S House of Representatives by Representatives Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL). We ask everyone to contact their representatives and urge them support this legislation. We must continue to push for this much needed change!
It is equally imperative to continue reducing the demand for horse meat among the primary consumers overseas. The Mexico ban was an important step in the process – Canada is next. Animals’ Angels continues to provide the EU Commission with first hand documentation into the brutality of the Canadian slaughter industry and the fraudulent nature of the kill buyers who supply the plants with their horses with the hopes that the EU legislators will make the only logical decision possible: ban all imports of horse meats from the Americas, period.
- What else can you do?
It is on all of us to speak up when we observe abuse or neglect. Do not remain silent if you witness cruelty to animals. Contact your local law enforcement agency and report any incident. Be as precise as possible – make note of the date, time, the offender, and exactly what happened. Take photos of the animal and the area if you can. Be polite at all times with law enforcement agencies, but be persistent! Unfortunately, the enforcement of animal protection laws is not usually a priority among many law enforcement officers.