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The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (H.R. 857)

by Anne Russek

Most Americans are shocked to learn that tens of thousands of our horses are slaughtered annually for human consumption abroad. USDA statistics show that 42,312 equines were slaughtered last year at three American-based, Belgian-owned slaughterhouses for human consumption in Europe, Asia and elsewhere. Tens of thousands more were shipped live to Canada and Mexico for slaughter there. This is a purely export-driven market.

Pet horses, work horses, race horses, Premarin foals and wild horses go to slaughter. Quarter horses make up about 25% of all horses ending up in slaughter. Thoroughbreds comprise 16%. Most horses arrive at the slaughterhouse via livestock auctions where, often unknown to the seller, they are bought by middlemen working for the slaughter plants. These “killer buyers” travel from one auction to the next collecting young, old, sick and healthy animals. Some are shipped straight to slaughter, others are fattened up on despicably overcrowded feedlots before being shipped to slaughter.

Organizations opposed to this bill deliberately fail to inform their members that “humane” federal regulations concerning the transport of horses to slaughter allow for horses to be shipped on double-deck trailers designed for smaller livestock. This practice is permitted until 2007. Present laws also permit shippers to travel for over 24 hours without stops for food, water or rest.

Upon arrival at the slaughterhouse, horses are callously herded into kill shoots where they are stunned using the captive-bolt method. This procedure includes driving a four-inch nail into the horse’s skull. If done improperly, the conscious horse continues through the remaining stages of slaughter, which includes slitting their throats.

A bill has been introduced in the United States Congress that would outlaw this practice. The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (H.R. 857) would:

* ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption

* ban the trade and transport of horsemeat and live horses for human consumption

* prohibit the export of live horses for slaughter in other countries

*encourage more responsible horse ownership

The bill would not deny an owner the right to humanely euthanize a horse.

Many industry associations including the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, the Virginia Thoroughbred Association, The Breeders Cup, Fasig-Tipton and The Jockey Club support H.R. 857.

Other groups claiming to represent large sectors of the horse community, the American Horse Council, the American Association for Equine Practitioners and the American Quarter Horse Association, either have taken a “neutral “ stance or blatantly oppose this legislation on false grounds. Ending equine slaughter will reduce animal suffering, not increase it, as detractors of the bill would have you believe.

It is time that horse enthusiasts everywhere speak out on this issue. You can help pass the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act by contacting your Congressman in Washington and making them aware of your views. Please tell them if you are a horse owner, breeder, rider, etc. For further information on this bill and how to contact you representative, visit or call Anne Russek at 540-291-2772.

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