Animal Rights

What's Worse than Horse Slaughter?

When it comes to government action, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.


When it comes to government action, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Hold down gasoline prices to help motorists, and you create shortages. Punish landlords to protect tenants, and apartments get harder to find. Invade Iraq to spread freedom, and you get civil war.

Likewise, a change that may look harmful can serve benevolent purposes. Take the law just signed in Oklahoma to legalize the slaughter of horses for food. Counterintuitive though it may be, it will probably work to the ultimate benefit of horses.

Starting in 2006, Congress tried to end the killing of horses in the United States for meat by barring funds for federal inspection of the facilities where they were processed. The following year, Texas and Illinois forced the closing of the last plants doing this sort of work.

@Doug88888 / photo on flickr

The motivating sentiments were obvious. Americans have had a longstanding romance with horses, even if most of us never ride. We don't eat them, and we don't understand foreigners who do—I'm looking at you, France. We prefer that these noble beasts be treated with respect and affection. Killing them for the platter is as repugnant as dining on roast beagle.

But improving the welfare of these animals is not as easy as passing laws. By effectively outlawing slaughterhouses, our governments actually induced more mistreatment of horses.

How so? Horses don't live forever, and they rarely have the luxury of expiring in their sleep, surrounded by their loved ones. When one is old or injured or ill-tempered, the proprietor may not want the expense of feeding, housing and medicating it.

Owners can turn their livestock over to horse rescue operations, which will take care of them. But these services have trouble keeping up with the need. Horses can also be professionally euthanized, but that can cost upward of $200 each, not to mention more hundreds to dispose of the carcass.

Selling the beasts at auction—often to buyers who will send them to slaughter—used to be an option, allowing owners to turn a cost into a few hundred dollars in income. But the demise of slaughterhouses reduced the demand for low-quality horses, cutting the price sellers could get.

It would be nice if owners would either keep their old nags or have them put down. But that isn't always how things go. Horses are still being sold to be converted to table fare.

The number of horses destined for this fate, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, was about the same in 2010 as it was before the ban. It's just that the slaughterhouses are now in Mexico or Canada, which still allow them.

What difference did the ban make? In 2006, the average horse traveled 550 miles on its way to the last corral. Today, it can expect to journey 753 miles—an increase of 203 miles. As GAO put it, "Horses are traveling farther to meet the same end in foreign horse-slaughtering facilities where U.S. humane slaughtering protections do not apply."

The horses spared this fate are not necessarily luckier. When 17 state veterinarians were polled on horse welfare, all said it's gotten worse since the slaughter ban. According to the National Association of Counties, the number of abandoned horses has risen—just as opponents warned it would. If an owner can't sell the horse for a decent sum and lacks the money to have it euthanized, he may leave it somewhere to meet death by starvation, disease or predators.

The Humane Society of the United States—which, for the record, does invaluable work to make factory farms more humane—wants to solve the problem by banning the export of live horses to become food. But that would only promote more neglect and abandonment. Domestic processing, subject to strong anti-cruelty laws, would offer a better outcome.

Rescue operations would be a more congenial answer, but they can't do enough. They currently care for only about 6,000 horses nationwide, and most are at capacity. They couldn't possibly accommodate the 166,000 shipped for slaughter each year. Those unwanted animals have to go somewhere.

That's why it made sense for Congress to restore funds for inspecting horse slaughterhouses and for Oklahoma to allow them. It was always apparent the ban was bad for owners. Now we know it's no favor to horses.

NEXT: Al Qaeda Chief Urges Rebels in Syria to Establish an Islamic State

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. If it wasn’t for my horse, I wouldn’t have spent that year in college.

    1. *brain essplode*

      1. Ashlyn. I see what you mean… Earn 10 to 50$/hr working from home with Google! I work two shifts 2 hours in the day and 2 in the evening. And whats awesome is Im working from home so I get more time with my kids I follow this great link,

    2. “weren’t”, not “wasn’t”, and “never would”, not “wouldn’t”

  2. Is is there there an an echo echo in in here here?

  3. Shut up woman and get on my horse.

  4. as long as the ponies are safe

  5. The cultural aversion to eating horsemeat is just another hold over of pre-industrial Christian bigotry. I don’t understand why a Reason writer would keep the kid gloves on, and treat such an attitude so congenially. When was the last time you called homosexuality “repugnant”?

    1. Considering Chapman insulted the entire populations of China, Korea, and Vietnam, I think he can only fit one foot in his mouth at a time.

    2. Clearly, your personal anger or angst over your own existence has left you with this attitude. The article has nothing to do with Christianity and says nothing of any bigotry.

      Let me guess, your an angry atheist hiding in anonymity so you can spew your vile attitude online. Reason is about thoughtful inquiry, even on perceived sacred issues. If you have an agenda, say so, or leave. Otherwise, make a meaningful comment or at least be funny. Feigned indignation is boring and transparent.

      As to the article, this is another example of an unnecessary or unwanted piece of legislation that the dolts in Washington did for popularity. Waste of time, loss of jobs, lower quality of life.

  6. dining on roast beagle.

    Better than listening to them barking all the time.


      1. Also, NSFW.

        1. Hey, some people work in a forensic science lab or something similar….

          1. Very well, NSFMW.

    2. raiding Warty’s private stash again, eh?

      1. Raiding? I’m his dealer!

    3. I wonder if the guy got a Darwin award for that? I hope so.

    4. What the hell, man.

  7. We don’t eat them, and we don’t understand foreigners who do — I’m looking at you, France. We prefer that these noble beasts be treated with respect and affection.

    If Chapman loves horses so much why doesn’t he marry one?

  8. I have to admit, I like what he is thinking .Wow.

  9. Hay burners are 1500 lb of muscle with brains the size of walnuts. They will kick your ass or kill you for a handful of oats. In the pre-car era every family had at least one family member who sat in the corner and drooled all day because they had been kicked in the head by a horse. My friend Flicka….my ass.

    I live in a rural parish with lots of livestock. I know one person whose arm is atrophied and nearly useless because she was bitten by a horse when she was 12 resulting in severe nerve damage and one person whose face is bizarrely crooked. The horse that kicked him was renamed picasso after he rearranged the guys face.

    There is reason for the American romance with the horse, but lets keep things in perspective. They arent beagles. Make dogfood out of ’em.


    Here is the sort of parish I live in. Yesterday I was sitting on the back porch watching the humming birds and out of nowhere a suckling calf ran across my yard. I called the sheriff and reported it. He said he had gotten one report already about the calf and had already called the owner. He already knew who in the parish had had a calf born in the last two weeks.

    The owner showed up at my house and I showed him where the calf went. He went back home to get his two sons to help him look as the calf had wandered into an area with no access for five miles south of my place.

    About two hours later the sheriff called me back to let me know they had found the calf.

    1. And then you ate some delicious fried veal grenadines?

      1. Heh, I believe you meant to say griods.

        Actually I fried some chicken livers. Yum.
        I guess I could have had veal…..

    2. I got kicked and became a demented libertarian.

    3. He already knew who in the parish had had a calf born in the last two weeks.

      The parish sounds like the ultimate surveillance society.

      1. True. In rural places you have no privacy.

        1. It couldn’t get more rural than here, but folks around here prefer people mind their own business and that law enforcement not be seen unless they’re called on. Which is why I chose this place live. It’s kind of a hillbilly libertarian heaven.

      2. Either that or there’s so few people there that it’s easy for the local sherriffs busybodies to know everyone and everything that goes on.

  10. And the moral of this story is, of course:
    Don’t love your mother, pardner, save it for your horse.

  11. Although I would have never allowed my horses to be harvested for meat, and would never knowingly eat horse flesh myself, I have no problem with other owners doing so.

    There’s probably little doubt my dogs have eaten the earthly remains of some other people’s horses. They didn’t seem to mind.

  12. Something something A Horse With No Name. You’re welcome.

    1. That’s not what I needed to stay awake this morning.

  13. One of my liberal friends was all up in arms because Oklahoma is trying to allow horse slaughter. I can’t eat horse for religious reasons, but I don’t see why they are protected by law. Pigs are eaten all the time, so why not horse?

    1. Would that be the Trojan religion?

    2. Pigs are eaten all the time, so why not horse?

      And horses are probably a lot better to eat than pigs. Horses at least have enough sense to disregard their own feces. /Jules

      1. Pigs are greener,they recycle.

      2. What if they have a good personality?

  14. I was watching a documentary on the Galapagos tortoises recently, which talked about how many were eaten and how the people who ate them raved about how good the meat was. Then they talked about the efforts to preserve the multiple species (there are several). I suppose that it takes too long for the animals to reach maturity for it to be practical to farm them, but the documentary never mentioned it. I find that significant.

    Similarly, an episode of the British quiz show Q. I. mentioned that there are more tigers in private hinds in the United States than there are thought to be living in the wild. No judgement was passed, but I had to think “I’ll bet the wildlife preservers are horrified.”.

    1. I kind of want to open a tortoise farm now, but I don’t know if I would have the heart to eat them. They’re such loveable monsters.

  15. whats the REASON to slaughter horses and introduce that toxic meat into our food chain. The stuff was banned from dog food back in the 70’s because it was killing dogs but it’s okay to stick it in our food? The EU is banning our horse meat, Russia already has. Who wants to eat it? NO ONE! Putting carcinogenic drugs out for the consumer and cost taxpayers 5 million for USDA inspections just so a few of the horse owners save the cost of euthanasia. Why should we foot their bill?? Let them take care of their own horses. Sounds like a Cash for Clunkers program for greedy horse owners to me. Support the SAFE Act S541 and HR1094) and stop the thought of funding this crap!

    1. WTF? You left your tin foil hat off. The mind control waves are getting through!

      1. Horses are not food animals, and that means a lot more than “cultural aversion.”

        Food And Toxicology Report:
        Drugs In Horse Meat: http://habitatforhorses.wordpr…..and-drugs/

        The European Union – 80& of the market – will not accept meat from any domestic horse slaughter plant in the US, and at the end of July we won’t have the option of sending them to Canada or Mexico either. All the commercial slaughter plants in those countries are certified EU plants, and our horses will not be accepted by ANY of them. Why? Contamination with substances that are expressly banned for any use in any food animal at any time during their lives. That means ONE exposure and that animal can NEVER enter the human food chain. NO withdrawal period for banned substances We have no traceability system for horses at all. We can’t separate horses that can be slaughtered for food from those that can’t – if there are any, which is doubtful.

      2. He’s right. We do NOT used horse meat in dog food anymore. Toxic.

    2. Can you say activist ? All horse meat is not toxic. I don’t know this for sure, but the only people that use ridiculous absolutes like that are people trying to instill fear so that they can further agenda.

      Consider yourself busted jdokie.

      USDA inspectors used to inspect horse meat all the time. The issue with any meat or produce is the farming and harvesting to the public. If you gave a damn about the horses you would be spending your own money to let them die naturally. Your just an activist that wants more of our tax money to do what you want.

      This is Reason. If your point of view doesn’t past muster, you will be verbally flogged and thown out.

      Go away.

      1. Please note! I hope next time you write an opinion piece, you will listen to BOTH sides of the story! As a horse owner for 35 years and who lived in the shadow of the horse slaughter plants that were in Texas for 15 nightmarish years before being forced to leave – as had many horse owners before me – because it was the only way I could protect my horse from being stolen and butchered like the horses of four of my personal friends, I’m telling you you are totally, absolutely wrong to promote the propaganda of those whose only interest in horses is how much blood money they can make off them.

        How the GAO Deceived Congress About Horse Welfare After Closing of US Slaughter Plants:

        White Paper: How the GAO Deceived Congress About Horse Welfare After Domestic Horse Slaughter Plant Closings:

      2. Yes, they inspected horse meat and allowed banned substances like phehylbutazone through all the time. Didn’t you even READ that link to the Toxicology study? You should.

        Now, they say they will check horses with the frequency with which they check show cattle. Wonderful – still ignoring the fact that the owners of show cattle STILL plan to sell their animals for slaughter so would NOT use the substances that are used in horses. They probably do use growth hormones and such in show cattle more than in other cattle, BUT those are NOT the same substances that are used in horses. Growth hormones are not used in horses, so whet the HECK good is it going to do to check for them?

        Not only that, they are going to test muscle tissue just like before – and, IF you had read the toxicology study, you would know that muscle tissue is NOT the place to check for bute residue. As the report says, the FSIS discovered this in a pilot program where proper testing DID find bute residue in horses that tested clean before. They did away with the pilot program and covered the entire thing up. Check the link and see. The truth shall make you wiser – I hope.

        I’m not an activist, I don’t believe animals have rights. As a horse owner, I DO know all about horse slaughter having lived near the plants that operated in Texas. Animals may not have rights, but humans DO have responsibilities.

        1. More about the GAO fraud:

          GAO Accused Of Fraud As Horse Slaughter Plants Fight To Open:…..t-to-open/

          The Fuzzy Math Being Used to Justify Horse Slaughter in the United States:…..ter-64336/

          1. One more:

            GAO on Horse Abuse:

            You people who don’t know SQUAT about horses – including the author of this piece of shameless pro-slaughter propaganda – really should read the links posted here from the people who actually OWN horses. There are just too many things about horses themselves and the corrupt, criminal international horse slaughter trade that you do not know.

            1. Are you off your meds today?

  16. I really don’t know why I am bothering but I guess I just need to set a few things straight not that anyone probably care’s!! Horses by the way have paved this nation for century’s just in case you have forgotten they have helped the farmers the soldiers, the disable, the showman, the police I mean I could go on and on and on, so I don’t believe I have ever seen any pig or chicken or cow working along side us so see they are NOT LIVESTOCK!!! HUGE difference! They deserve our respect and they have earned it!! Slaughter is a foul business and I beleive we have enough animals in the slaughter business for OUR pleasure!!! THis horse slaughter if anybody did their homework is NOT to help the poor abandoned horses or the people they take young healthy horses for god sake it is MONEY GREED, so what, BREEDERS can breed more and just dump them, were animal owners can dump them!!! You know if we have an animal we need to be held accountable! And by the way our tax dollar will be paying for the inspections and many are Foreign company’s I DON”T WANT TO PAY FOR FOREIGN INTEREST’s what are you crazy!!!! Just a BAD BAD IDEA all the way around!!!

    1. Are you channeling Misty of Chincoteague?

    2. You are totally correct. Please see my posts above.

      You and others who are truly informed might also be interested in this: Boycott Beef Until the SAFE Act is Passed

      The answer to what is worse than slaughter is – nothing!

  17. I want to know what’s wrong with eating dogs.
    Seriously. All they do is shit and bark.
    What fkn good are they, anyway?
    At least cows give us milk and you can ride a horse. And chickens give us delicious eggs.
    But dogs?

    1. Well, isn’t that all YOU do?

  18. I worked in Animal Control in a rural state. As a result of the slaughterhouse ban and increased feed prices, we saw increases in starvation cases for horses. Instead of selling older horses for slaughter, poor owners were stuck with their animals even when they couldn’t afford hay. I’d rather have horses humanely euthanized in a slaughterhouse than slowly starving to death, especially since our county had limited funds for rescue cases. In the winter, disposing of carcasses is incredibly expensive since an owner can’t dig a grave when the ground’s frozen (and even in the summer, owners had to either break the law and bury a horse on their own land for free or pay a high fee to get land inspected before being allowed to bury a horse).

  19. Excuse me, but what you posted simply is not the truth. There was never a ban, there was never a time when slaughter wasn’t as close as your local auction just like it is now. There was NO reason in the world for your “pore ole foks” not to take their horses to slaughter IF that’s what they wanted to do. You are hallucinating or lying. Which is it?

    Horses are NOT euthanized at a slaughter plant!! They are slaughtered in a slaughter plant! They are euthanized by a well placed bullet or an injection by a veterinarian.

    Which state did you say you were in? What land had to be inspected – their own? But you said it was breaking the law to bury a horse on their own land. What do you mean and what state are you talking about? I know the rules in a lot of states, and I never heard of anything remotely resembling what you posted. And, yes, you CAN do it in the winter if you can do it at all because a backhoe is perfectly capable of digging in winter unless you live in Alaska. What state was that again?

    Don’t you pro-slaughter parrots ever get tired of posting such obvious disinformation? Don’t you ever get tired of lying? Or don’t you know the truth from a lie? Either way, it’s getting VERY OLD.

    1. Seriously, please zip it psycho. You are about the least informed person posting on here.

  20. If you want to save the horses then spend your money buying and feeding them all. In general, mind your own business. No one cares what you think. Stop trying to impose your will on other people that didn’t ask for your opinion.

    If you want to discuss the merits of the article, fine. Otherwise, stop blathering on a subject you know nothing about. Or, if you have a meaningful alternative idea, put it out there and tell people why your right. But brace yourself, your comments were less than thoughtful to say the least. If your dogma cannot stand up to the light of inquiry, you may not enjoy your time at Reason.

  21. You are very misinformed. Statistics prove abuse and neglect cases neither decreased or increased and horses are still slaughtered but not in the US. It makes no sense to punish an animal because of defective human conscience. A person that abuses horses, animals, people, or themselves do not consider the ramifications of their actions. Saying that a person would decide to slaughter their horse instead of abusing it is pretty ridiculous. A woman was recently found in OK with tons of starving, dead, and sick horses on her property. She had previously had run ins with the law and animal abuse yet why was she able to keep such a large quantity of animals and have no supervision? The welfare of animals requires stricter laws and the actual enforcement of such. But THIS IS NOT A HORSE WELFARE ISSUE! This is about a select group raking in the money while tax payers fork it out to inspect these slaughter houses and meat. Now in Canada and Mexico they have these places and most citizens are not happy about the way the horses are treated even though some eat them. Here in this country we don’t eat horse and whether you like that or not that won’t be changing any time soon. They would have to slip it in to lasagne and burger king like they did in the UK which I’m sure they would be planning.

  22. If you are interested in ensuring that horses are no longer transported across the borders or slaughtered in this country sign the safeguard american food act (link below). Let our govt. know that we want our taxpayer dollars going to inspect and continue the search for humane treatment of cattle, pigs, chickens, and other animals that are BRED FOR CONSUMPTION. Let them know that we as a people don’t take pleasure eating our pet cats, dogs, and horses. And although we have an abundance of cats and dogs we will not be setting up a slaughter house to send their meat to China where they are consumed on a regular basis. Let them know that the lie of mustangs overrunning pastures has brought our wild horse population from 2 million down to 30,000 and nearly an endangered species. Let them know the 5 million tax payer dollars it would cost to inspect is better funded on food we consume, assisting horse rescue organizations, and putting licensing and restrictions on animal breeding to ensure population control.…..s-safe-act


    This is the link to safeguard the american food industry!!! Sign if you don’t want to hear they found horse DNA at Burger King, Nestle Butoni pasta, Taco Bell, Ikea, Aldi grocery in the US like they did in the UK. Its bad enough theres GMO SOY and CORN in EVERYTHING so they can make an extra buck while sacrificing our health. Don’t let them add the rabies vaccine, bute, narcotics, steroids and the myriad of other drugs given to race horses and AQHA among other large breeders. This is about YOUR safety and your willingness to want to help the rich get richer. Its up to you because slaughter will NOT benefit you!

  24. Abuse and neglect happen. Cases have increased due to the poor economy. Should we reward abusers by paying them money for their horses? That makes no sense. Abuse and neglect cases are on the rise partly due to awareness and the availability of camera phones. We need stiffer punishments for these offenders and more prosecution. States should step up as New Mexico recently did, and lend a small helping hand to rescues and free/cheap gelding (neutering) services.

    Also, most people who abuse or neglect their horses are NOT the type to sell them to slaughter or auctions. They don’t care about their animals, so they let them rot. The reason behind passing bills to allow horse slaughter is to give farmers one more animal that they can commercially grow and factory farm. Greed, plain and simple.

    Slaughter is NOT an alternative to humane euthanasia. Studies have shown that the methods most commonly used do not adequately render the horse unconscious before the horse is bled out and cut up. Do we really want our food cut apart while they’re still aware? That is just beyond cruel.

    Take a look at the European horse meat scandal. Do we want that to happen here? Horse meat mixed in or flat out sold as beef? With the fact that horse meat often contains banned drugs, I certainly wouldn’t want to take the risk of eating it.

  25. Ive sat here banging my head against the wall choking on this horribly researched article and the responses by the recently released mental patients.
    Just out of curiosity, of all of the posters on here, how many of you are: at least 100lbs overweight, have mostly grey hair, refer to every animal acquisition as a “rescue”, are post menopausal, ride western, wear knee length jean shorts, use a cane, and have more then once in your life said: We prefer that these noble beasts be treated with respect and affection.
    Yep, that what I thought. You all may be excused now, as statistically, you are several cans short of a six pack.

    1. So here are the facts from someone whose family has been in the business of horses from every angle for over 150 years.

      The state that I live in, horses are considered “companion animals” not livestock. They equal a cat or dog. It is legal to shoot them with a gun as a form of humane euthanasia. You can not bury them if your property contains well water for any purpose. The cost of a rendering service to remove a body is over $300. The majority of horses being shipped to slaughter are not old backyard pets, they are actually young or crippled. The thoroughbred industry use to be one of the BIGGEST suppliers of horses being shipped to slaughter… wait for it…….but…….because of the EXCESSIVE USE OF DRUGS in the racing industry, the meat was turning up TOXIC. Most slaughter houses in Canada DO NOT except thoroughbreds for exactly this reason. Animal rescues are overwhelmed with horses because they feel the need to “RESCUE” EVERYTHING. Horses that are grossly unadoptable and should, common sense applied, be humanely euthanized. But that doesnt rake in donations. The Humane Society of the United States is actually a PR firm for awareness and only spends less then 1% of its MILLIONS of dollars banked, on area shelters and support. (

      So would you be shocked that there is an agenda here?

      1. For years now the animal industry has been a multibillion dollar business. Our cats rule the internet, our dogs wear nicer clothes then our children and all are toted around in designer handbags. How exactly could this possibly be going on without our government wanting a larger piece of the pie?

        I give you….dun dun duuuuuuuu……out of control Animal Control. These local dog catchers, aspiring to be at least a rent-a-cop, dont often have a facility capable of taking in horses, and have now teamed up with the area equine rescue groups and the party has started. Backed by local police and sheriff officers, you to can now be an animal abuser for any reason they see fit. And before you have even figured out what the hell has happened, you are deeply in debt in court cost, attorneys fees, and the highly inflated cost of “the state” caring for your neglected beasts. And when you lose, and of course you will, not only will you never see your pet again, but the government will charge you thousands for nearly 2 years worth of wasting their time. oh yeah, and a criminal record as an animal abuser. Most rapist are charged with battery, but animal abuser stays with you for life!

        1. What does all this have to do with the statistic of animal abuse and reopening slaughterhouses? REVENUE!!!!!

          These beautiful, elegant creatures, fit for worship come with there own instant criminal and your government loves it. Why in Gods green earth would they want to reopen slaughter houses when they can create an endless stream of losing paying defendants? Yes, animal neglect is effected by a down economy and harsh climate change but abuse cases are up up up because it has proven to be a very lucrative business.

          People such as your many charming posters above, who most likely, *scoff* board their horses, and have never ACTUALLY provide their own care, see a horse even blink the wrong way, and OMG it must be abused. And in one simple phone call, someones life is ruined and the horse has been saved…..from blinking! All of their friends will see them as heros, there self esteem is thru the roof. All of their social media sites have been updated to reflect this heinous injustice that has been put to rest because of them. Hooray for your ego, which is now equal in size to your ass.

          I will leave you off with this stunning piece of literature written by Don Henneke PHd (RIP) im sure most of you have seen it, in regards to the state of abuse and neglect cases in the past couple of years.


          Please address any of your questions or comments to my Wonder Woman bullet proof bracelets.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.