After a six-year ban and numerous attempts by activists to stop it, horse slaughter returns to the United States next month. A horse slaughterhouse is slated to open for the first time since 2007 in New Mexico. As a horse community that knows the wonders of equestrianism — whether it’s having horses as elite competitors or family pets — now is the time to take action and stop this process.
Actor Robert Redford and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson have said they plan to join a lawsuit filed by the Humane Society seeking a block on horse slaughter. And several members of the United States Senate have filed the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act which, if passed, would ban horse slaughter as well as the export of horses to other countries to be slaughtered for human consumption.
A similar ban on the practice was lifted in 2011 as part of an agricultural spending bill, though the Obama administration is now seeking to reinstate it the ban. Iowa is the next state that has been approved to open a horse slaughterhouse. And prospective investors in a Wyoming horse slaughterhouse are watching the New Mexico case closely.
Florida has seen firsthand the results of horse slaughter. Several years ago, illegal slaughter operations were uncovered in Miami, and many horses were stolen and killed for their meat. If it becomes lucrative to sell horses for slaughter, this could be more prevalent — and by the time you realize your horse has been stolen, it’s too late.
We, more than many communities, understand the special connection one can have with a horse, more than just a vehicle for sport. It is sad to think the inhumane cruelty a horse must endure, often traveling for days in a truck packed to the brim with other horses. Many of them end up severely injured on the ride. Then there is the issue of sedating a horse for the slaughter process.
Chemicals and drugs cannot be used, so the animals must be stunned. Unfortunately, this is not always accurate, and many horses are conscious during the dismemberment process. This cruelty is one of the reasons that horse slaughter should be banned, but there are also issues of safety.
Horses are not tracked to be certain they are eligible for consumption, and as we know, there are many medications — both legal and illegal — put into a horse’s system. Many of the commonly used, legal medicines such as ivermectin, a wormer, and painkillers like phenylbutazone (bute) are all banned in food-producing animals by the FDA.
Though some of the meat from the new slaughterhouse will go to animal consumption, some of the meat will be shipped to other countries for human consumption. While other countries do eat horse meat, horses in the U.S. are not regulated enough to be declared safe to eat. In the European Union and the United Kingdom, horses are given “equine passports,” which declare them eligible or ineligible for slaughter as human food, with any horse that has ever received banned medications prohibited from being eaten. The U.S. has no such system.
You can help by writing to your representatives in Congress and telling them to support the SAFE Act, as well as any other measure to ban horse slaughter.