Wednesday, December 28, 2011

138,000 Horses Sentenced to Slaughter Death in 2012

Wednesday December 28 2011

If we can go by last year's statistics from the US Government Accountability Office report*, which estimated 138,000 US horses were transported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter, we can expect the same number of horses to go to slaughter in 2012.

But that won't happen in this country, because even though our government just paved the way for the return of US horse slaughter by lifting the ban on funding horse meat inspections, it likely won't happen any time soon.

But is this a victory or defeat? I suggest we ask one of the 138,000 horses that will, next year, be stuffed into an overcrowded, undersized double decker that's too small for the horse to stand upright, and shipped two thousand miles with no stops for food or water, unloaded at a Mexican slaughter plant, where his spine will be stabbed with ice-picks till a near-death state, and then ultimately cut up for meat once he dies.

From 2006 through 2010, U.S. horse exports for slaughter increased by 148 percent to Canada and 660 percent to Mexico. This is approximately the same number that were slaughtered in the US before it was banned here. Do the math again: the same number of horses are now slaughtered annually in Canada and (the majority) in Mexico as were slaughtered before slaughter was banned in the US in 2007. From the same report, horse neglect and abandonment has increased since 2007.*

I don't believe that anti-slaughter people favor this slaughter option in Canada and Mexico for all these horses every year; yet I have not heard this addressed by any of the anti-slaughter groups. If you are anti-slaughter in the US, do you consider yourself pro-slaughter in Canada and Mexico? That's how it sometimes comes across. (The cruelty of the some of the horse slaughter-in-Mexico debacle has been well documented - the brutal transportation to slaughter, the agonizing deaths many horses go through - look it up on the internet, I'm not providing the links here).

The concern for slaughtered horses only seems to come up when there's a possibility of it happening here in our back yard. NIMBY - Not In My Back Yard - does this apply to our unwanted horses? We don't want to deal with the problem? By not having horse slaughter plants in the US since 2007, the problem has been out of sight and out of mind, but it still happens. Is this what we want? It seems like that is the opposite of what we want.

I ask the anti-slaughter people: do you really consider this lifting of the slaughter ban a defeat? Or is the lifting of this ban on horse slaughter an opportunity, putting in your hands the power to push for humane slaughter for over a hundred thousand horses a year?

Read this sentence: there has always been horse slaughter, and there will always be horse slaughter for over 130,000 U.S. horses a year. You can choose to not like the statement, and you can choose to ignore it if you wish, but the fact does not go away. Horse slaughter still exists.

Read it again: Over 130,000 U.S. horses a year are slaughtered and will be slaughtered, either here in the US, or in Canada and Mexico.

Personally, I would like a happy fluffy ending for every one of the excess, unwanted 138,000 horses every year year, to be cared for comfortably the rest of their lives by somebody, but it's not happening. I would like excess breeding to stop, but it's not happening. I would like all people who own horses to humanely put their horses down when the time comes, but it doesn't happen.

The Thoroughbred industry has come a long way in finally recognizing the annual plight of thousands of unwanted racehorses after their racing careers are over, and actually doing something about it, because of the hard work of so many individuals and groups advocating for the racing industry to start taking some responsibility for the horses who work so hard to make the sport and who ARE the sport.

If all well-meaning anti-slaughter groups and anti-suffering groups put as much energy into providing a real alternative solution to the 138,000 horses going to slaughter in Canada and Mexico every year - such as the passage of laws and their enforcement for humane transportation to slaughter in the US, and the funding and passage of laws and their enforcement of slaughter inspectors in the US (to make sure stolen horses are not slaughtered and that the process is indeed conducted humanely) - as they do into being against slaughter but offering no viable alternative - 138,000 horses a year would face a more humane option of death. If the pro-slaughter groups would put their efforts into better US slaughterhouse solutions and the enforcement of the laws involving them (and some of these groups are doing just that), we would all accomplish something.

Will we let this opportunity to lessen the suffering, and sometimes torture of horses go? Do we prefer to continue ignoring the plight of 138,000 horses a year that will be slaughtered no matter where? Is it easier and more satisfying just to be angry and not look for a solution?

Whether we are anti-slaughter, or pro-slaughter, I believe we are ALL united in our desire to alleviate suffering for the horses we love. If horses must be slaughtered - and there will ALWAYS be horse slaughter - it is better that it is controlled and regulated and made more humane in our backyard, which we now once again have the power to implement, instead of in another country, where we have no say, or where we can look away, turn our backs and pretend it does not exist, or affect us.

By conveniently ignoring the hundred thousand horses a year dying in Canadian or Mexican slaughterhouses, by closing our minds to the chance to provide and enforce humane, regulated slaughter here in the US, we are doing the opposite of what we really want: providing a compassionate ending to the lives of our wonderful friends.


Also see my other two posts relating to this:
You Can Lead a Horse To Slaughter

Out of Sight, Out of Mind


  1. Better by far to work on enforceable guidelines for acceptable conditions,humane handling and significant penalties for non-compliance.

  2. Well written post, Merri. I hope that the governments- yours and mine- make and enforce laws regarding transportation of horses to the slaughter plants, and handling and care of the horses once they are there- as well as humane termination for them. All horses die sometime, it's up to humans to see to it that those in our care receive proper treatment in life and in death.

  3. Not an answer, but at least PART of an attempt towards a solution: the United States Trotting Association (Standardbred/harness racing registry):

    The Full Circle program allows, at no charge, anyone with interest in a horse or horses, to record their name and contact information in the USTA record of that horse. If that horse should ever become unwanted, the individual with custody of the horse at that time can contact the USTA Member Services Department to see if the horse has been enrolled in Full Circle.

    more details:

    My hope/wish/dearest desire is that ALL registries AND organizations would establish a similar registry. Cost to establish/upkeep is minimal. Ellen Harvey of the USTA is willing to talk to organizations about creating a similar program on her own dime. Contact her:

    AERC, I'm lookin' at you....

  4. We probably cannot save every horse, therefore the key is to enforce, on all levels humane treatment from shipping to final end. If that means slaughter plants in the US--strictly controlled--then perhaps a ban on export for slaughter might be an answer.

    I hate the concept, but do not honestly know a better alternative to the overpopulation of unwanted horses here in the US.

  5. Merri, thank you for posting this article. The message it presents is very clear. About time someone told it like it is.

  6. Really great post.

    You should put this over on Fugly's blog

    It would be very appropriate in the comments.

  7. Well written and thank you for putting it out there. I have been a long time advocate of regulating slaughter because you're correct ... slaughter will not stop, but it can be controlled.

  8. Yes, thank you. I really wish more people understood the back side reslts of their "cause". It would be so much better to regulate slaughter here.

    And a viable, humane slaughter in the US would help in more areas. A horse has a large body, why should it be dumped in a landfill after a vet puts him down? There are valid uses for a horse that has reached the end of his life.

    And the biggest argument of all, since we clearly can't stop slaughter nor immediately stop over breeding - how many horses are starving to death because there isn't an acceptable alternative.

    Rather than stick our heads in the sand and say "we don't slaughter horses" we should accept the reality of the entire situation and change it from within.

  9. Horse slaughter and transport of slaughter horses in the US was NOT humane! I think a majority of anti-slaughter folks would love to see a viable, humane way to deal with their transport and slaughter. But NOBODY has done that. I also think most anti-slaughter folks realize and are tormented by what's going on in Mexico and Canada as well, but sometimes you can only win a war 1 battle at a time. I do agree there will always be folks who don't do the right thing by their horses, but we don't have to make that easier for them and give them an easy out with slaughter

  10. Way to go Merri. Tell it like it is. I got lot of flack from my own post, but I hope your post is a more successful wake up call for those who choose to tuck their heads in the and and do nothing but complain and offer unreasonable solutions.

    I hope the anti-slaughter folks start waking up and realizing that this issue is not about ending horse slaughter because, like you said, it has, it is and it will always be going on. The choice we are confronted with is that we have the option to have full control of how the horses are treated by keeping slaughter houses legal and under full supervision by our own US Govt. and all of us who care about these beautiful animals.


  11. Thanks for this post, it is an excact mirror of my thoughts on this subject. You did a great job of spelling it all out clearly and concisely.

  12. Very well put. Slaughter of horses is an ugly reality that has not gone away by closing down the facilities in the U.S. It just made the plight of the unwanted horse worse.

  13. My sentiments exactly. I think you and I are of one mind on this subject. You expressed the issues beautifully, now how can we get the anti-slaughter people to LISTEN??

  14. I have just found your blog and will recommend it because of this great post. I agree with you whole-heartedly, and still know people in my area STILL breeding because "the market will come back up". I feel like shaking them by the shoulders and telling them to wake UP. We have humanely euthanized two elderly equines, and would never, ever ship to slaughter, but it must be done HUMANELY, as you write.

  15. Even at the most high-tech slaughterhouse in Canada, La Petite Nation, there were gross violations. This despite the fact that the plant was given a loan of $2 million for improving and modernizing slaughter capacity, resulting in the trademark Temple Grandin designed walkway for cattle. One horse received 11 shots to the head by captive bolt.

    Let me ask pro-slaughters this - "How much money do you think should be invested in these plants, when it is clear that the desired outcome - an effort to humanize slaughter, remains elusive?"

  16. Merri-I appreciate your holistic thoughts on this complex issue. Can you direct me to an address to support humane slaughter in the US? I believe this is better for horses, for other animals and our environment.

  17. Hi mischa,

    I haven't studied them so I don't know much about the group, but I I believe supports horse slaughter.

    Concerning such a passionate issue, it's often hard to find the non-radical groups, (both pro-slaughter and anti-slaughter). Rhetoric and pointing fingers and name-calling on both sides is detrimental to working on providing solutions.


  18. Yes and a portion of those are BLM mustangs standing in holding pens, theyw ill be some of the first to go. I have opposed much of this for years, written congress etc but as they push their pencil around ona desk, they do not care about anything other than themselves


  20. We need to start breeding responsible people. Idiocracy is on its way. And we are getting more and more stupid politicians.

  21. take back the control of how our (US) horses that ARE going to slaughter are treated. That's what we should do about it, IMO.

  22. You are forgetting that a lot of the BLM wild horses being rounded up and sent to slaughter are due to the fact that ranchers are paying the BLM under the table to get the horses off the grazing land for them ( the ranchers) to put their cattle on the land. One cow does the same amount of damage of 3 horses on the land. They are putting 3-4 time more cattle on the range then the horses they pull off. So why does the BLM allow that much damage? Oh wait they get their under the table payment. It all comes down to money and who can make the most of it at the cost of the horse.

  23. So are horses the only stock animals that feel pain? Ever spend much time around the dairy or pork industries? The only time I'll take any of this arguing seriously is when people start coming to the realization that we are all responsible for animals and that it is a moral duty to minimize suffering. All beings must die. It's easy to say let's just pass a law to prohibit this or that. Hope you can find the funding to enforce such laws when there aren't enough FDA inspectors to make sure that animals are slaughtered humanely or the meat you are eating is even fit to eat. Think people are going to care about the Feds spending millions to manage mustanges when the 60 year old bridge they have to drive over every day is structurally deficient? You can't fix stupid with a law and you can't turn a blind eye to evil either. People in the west are so far removed from death and dying that they are unaware of what really happens to animals. Kids don't learn empathy. Heck, most adults can't even define the meaning of the word. There is hardly any general social styma for someone who mistreats a dog or a horse let alone someone to beats/kills a child. There's always an excuse to tolerate evil. About the only long term thing that can be done is to educate children on where their food comes from and what animals have to go through to die. You can write letters to companies and tell them that you won't buy their products. You can spend more (a lot more) on meat, eggs, and dairy products that respect their animals. But writing your congressman is not going to change very much unless YOU have billions to back it up with.