Food Policy

The Case for Legalizing Horse Meat

The return of domestic horse slaughterhouses will be good for ranchers, butchers, chefs, consumers, and horses.


The USDA has approved the first domestic horse slaughter facility in the United States since Congress lifted a five-year ban on such facilities in late 2011.

The facility, located in Roswell, New Mexico, has already been inspected, one of the last hurdles before it can open.

Four other horse slaughterhouses are also in line to open.

Last week, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack indicated the agency will grant the necessary permits so the Roswell facility can soon open.

"We are going to do this, and I would imagine that it would be done relatively soon," Vilsack told NBC News.

The ban was always controversial. And its terrible unintended consequences were both predictable and predicted.

As I noted in a 2011 post at Hit & Run, a 2006 report, The Unintended Consequences of a Ban on the Humane Slaughter (Processing) of Horses in the United States, predicted that "[t]he potential for a large number of abandoned or unwanted horses is substantial" under the ban.

That's exactly what happened almost immediately after the ban went into effect.

A June 2011 GAO report, Horse Welfare: Action Needed to Address Unintended Consequences from Cessation of Domestic Slaughter, revealed that "state, local government, and animal welfare organizations report a rise in investigations for horse neglect and more abandoned horses since 2007[.]"

The report "recommend[ed] that Congress reconsider the ban."

A few months later, Congress did just that.

The main arguments against domestic horse slaughter, as I described in another Hit & Run post in 2011, are that it's somehow inherently cruel to kill horses for food and that Americans don't and won't eat horsemeat.

Neither argument holds up to scrutiny.

"To be clear: Horse slaughter is NOT humane euthanasia," claims the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

But the group's rationale to support its arguments quickly veers from the humane to the irrelevant. The group justifies its support of a ban because previous "slaughtering plants paid no export taxes and little in income taxes… [and t]he slaughterhouses themselves were not clean/green enterprises[.]"

Even if that's all true, it's got nothing to do with horse slaughter.

And then there's this: "Horse slaughter can be done humanely in a well designed facility that has good management," writes Temple Grandin, often hailed as the leading authority on compassionate animal slaughter.

On the issue of an American appetite for horsemeat, there does appear to be a demand.

For every news story that begins with "Americans don't want to eat horse meat…," it's none too difficult to find another news story that lays waste to that claim.

The ASPCA argues, though, that some animals are more equal than others.

"Due to the historic role that horses have played in the development of our country and culture, the ASPCA is opposed to the slaughter of horses for human consumption," says the group.

But in the American melting pot, culture cuts (and cooks) in innumerable ways.

"Horse has a long and proud culinary tradition, and is eaten all around the world," writes celebrity chef, author, and television personality Andrew Zimmern, who supported an end to the ban. "I happen to think horse meat is not only delicious, but also a great alternative protein."

Before you rush on down to your local butcher seeking a cut of said alternative protein, though, bear in mind that the Roswell facility may still face some roadblocks before it opens.

Just this week, a Colorado horse rights group announced it may sue to put the skids on the Roswell facility.

And New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall and Virginia Rep. Jim Moran are among those in Congress who would like to maintain a ban on horse slaughter.

I hope for the sake of chefs, butchers, ranchers, consumers, and horses alike that neither the courts nor Congress ever saddle this country with another horsemeat ban.

NEXT: White House Denies Misleading Public on Benghazi

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. The facility, located in Roswell, New Mexico

    Its a cookbook!

    1. Are you talking Taos or something. You are mixed up.

    2. my best friend’s sister-in-law makes $66/hr on the computer. She has been out of a job for 5 months but last month her payment was $21303 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more here


    Iron Maiden is making beer now. Is this gimmick? Yes. Do I want one? Also yes.

    1. I never could get into their music although my friends who loved them, really loved them. Every chord progression they do sounds the same: E–D–C–D–E–D–C and so on into infinity. I like the Metallica’s Garage Days take on Run to the Hills though.

      1. The E-D-C thing was from Piece of Mind on. Listen to their first 2 albums.

        1. I probably should have included Number of the Beast in there. Also, I like Piece of Mind and Powerslave, both of which had the E-D-C thing going on. By Seventh Son, however, it had gotten old.

      2. my neighbor’s mom makes $66 an hour on the internet. She has been without work for 5 months but last month her income was $16989 just working on the internet for a few hours. Read more on this site
        (Go to site and open “Home” for details)

  3. If you don’t have to transport the horses as far, they’re less likely to get burned to death on the way to the rendering plant.

    Unsurprisingly, the legislators’ reaction is to want to ban people from transporting the horses through New York, making the trip longer and making the horses more likely to die of something else along the way.

    1. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job Ive had. Last Monday I got a new Alfa Romeo from bringing in $7778. I started this 9 months ago and practically straight away started making more than $83 per hour. I work through this link,

  4. Relaxing laws that limit the consumption of meat could have also solved the Tamerlan Tsarnaev burial problem.

    1. A 2006 report, The Unintended Consequences of a Ban on the Humane Slaughter (Processing) of Horses in the United States, predicted that “[t]he potential for a large number of abandoned or unwanted horses is substantial” under the ban.

      Yep, the analogy is clear.


      Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill now includes biometric ID database.

      1. What could be more libertarian that that?

      2. Cato is pleased. Shikha Dalmia orgasms.

    3. Ptooih! Aaaghh! Aaagh!

    4. “Relaxing laws that limit the consumption of meat could have also solved the Tamerlan Tsarnaev burial problem.”

      Yes, we should be fattening up prisoners on death row and with life sentances.

  5. Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill now includes biometric ID database.…..-dossiers/

  6. I’m confused about why we need a “case for” legalization when the only case against it is “that it’s somehow inherently cruel to kill horses for food and that Americans don’t and won’t eat horsemeat.” Grow up, slavers.

    1. Horsies!!! Don’t you love horsies????

      Last weekend, I met a horse that is larger than a normal horse. His name is Big Ben, obviously.

      1. This had a lot less horse cock than I was expecting.

        1. I bet you never saw Big Sam, the giant bull. He had a salami.

    2. Most of us who are against horse consumption realize the line
      between what’s ok and not ok to eat arbitrary. We eat cattle so why not horses? Thing is setting up moral boundaries does not reflect a lack of maturity, its just a part of being human, a quality not everyone possesses obviously. We just feel it when something is right and when something is wrong, our reasons don’t need to be perfectly logical nor should they have to be. The case of eating the same animal that most associate as a companion is no different. Really aren’t all moral judgments subjective?

    3. You are misinformed. This article is incomplete. Please do some research before you comment. Or even, read the other comments.

  7. Horses are not slaughtered humanely. Horse Slaughterhouse Investigation Sounds Food Safety and Cruelty Alarms…..ty-alarms/

    1. The body text above faults the ASPCA for badly structuring their argument. This chilling sentence says volumes:

      The methods used to kill horses rarely resulted in quick deaths: They often endured repeated stuns or blows, and sometimes remained conscious during their slaughter.

      This is a situation where there are no winners, I think. Further, I have been thinking a great deal lately about the way the FDA has forced us into industrial meat processing with its inspection regimen. Joel Salatin, the libertarian-minded owner of Polyface Farms, recently published something of a short form manifesto on slaughter and why killing all day, every day, is soul destroying. It abets cruelty, which is something I expect that faces a horse who doesn’t go down on the first blow.

    2. Why should killing a horse humanely be any more difficult than killing a cow or pig humanely?

      Jeffrey Steingarten once did a piece on trying to make the best possible French fries, and IIRC the best ones were cooked in horse fat.

      1. Because a horse’s skull has a different anatomy than a cow or pig. It is much more difficult to penetrate the skull and reach the brain. Also, the horse’s nature makes it more difficult to lead it to slaughter. They are very flighty. They are much more difficult to slaughter, and very unsafe. If you compare the difference in injuries between horse slaughter plants and other species you will see that the injuries with other species is almost non-existent. With horses, it is EVERY SINGLE DAY. In part, that is because they aren’t stunned, they come to while they are being hung and gutted, and they fight back.

  8. It’s much better to keep old emaciated lame horses around than to ship them off to horsie heaven.

  9. I was just hearing pants shitting about lion meat on the radio yesterday.

    1. While I don’t have a problem with this and would like to try a lion taco, the idea of “farm-raised” lions is kind of sad to me.

      1. Sad, but it beats a steady diet of ant lion tacos.

    2. Doesn’t the meat of most predators taste horrible?

        1. The fish are fine– the penguins that eat them are bloody inedible.

      1. BakedPenguin| 5.11.13 @ 2:39PM |#
        “Doesn’t the meat of most predators taste horrible?”

        Snake and alligator are good. Bear is supposedly good, depending on the time of year and the diet.
        But we don’t eat carnivores because of econ; who want’s to raise the crop to feed to the prey to feed to the carnivore?

  10. Aside from the “ewww horsie?” argument, the one I’ve heard is that horses are pumped full of various dangerous-to-humans drugs that cows aren’t given. Solution would be to raise horses for human consumption that aren’t given these questionable drugs.

    1. …”horses are pumped full of various dangerous-to-humans drugs that cows aren’t given.”…
      I’ve heard this, but have never seen any evidence.

      1. I’m sure the “not given to cows” part is correct for race horses (what tiny percentage are they?), but “dangerous” does seem somewhat questionable.

        1. Exactly. Don’t know a lot about raising beef cows, but my horses as a kid got nothing besides dewormer and basic vaccinations. They’d be practically organic. There’s no reason to bother with it for trail horses or show horses.

          Incidentally, this is why the alien species that secretly controls the planet and has been covertly harvesting humans for meat discourages PEDs. Lance Armstrong may have far more meat on him, but they won’t be able to sell him as organic. That’s why they invented yoga and Crossfit.

          1. Crossfit? PED free? C’mon, dude.

            1. Seems to me like the typical Select to Choice grade Crossfitter is anti-PED. Obviously, the pros are juicing. With no offseason testing, they’d be idiots not to.

              Our secret overlords are as disappointed as anyone about the Crossfit Games.

        2. So no eating the Kentucky Derby winner? I’m OK with that. Prolly tough and not enough fat anyhow.

      2. I can’t speak to horses specifically bred for food purposes, but horses used for recreation very definitely are. For example, there are quite a few non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that are not approved for use in humans (usually due to side effects like liver damage, bone marrow suppression or aplastic anemia), but are very widely used for horses. Phenylbutazone (“bute”) is probably the most popular example.

        If you spend any time in the recreational horse world you will hear about buyers who misrepresent their purposes and buy horses with the intent of taking them to slaughter. To the extent that constitutes fraud or jeopardizes the food supply, it strikes me as reprehensible.

        I believe the vast majority of opposition in the U.S. is largely sentimental, but there’s clearly a huge market for horse meat for humans in Europe. Some of the legislation proposed to date is clearly more emotional than logical, but I confess to being a little spooked that dirtbag buyers/slaughterhouses won’t be careful about which horse gets sold where.

  11. I vote “Neigh!, Neigh!

  12. Man: “All our horses are 100% horse-fed for that double-horse “juiced-in” goodness.”
    Leela: “I’ll have the cholesterol-free omelet with horse-beaters.”
    Man: “And you, Sir? How can I horse you?”
    Hermes: “I’ll have a horse Coke.”
    Man: “Horse Pepsi okay?”
    Hermes: “Nay.”

  13. I honestly WISH when someone reports about horse slaughter that they REALLY had ALL the news about it…

    You really SHOULD read up on the drugs our horses have and what it can HONESTLY do to so many people, it’s NOT made up it’s real folks, Plain and simple our horses are NOT BREED from the very beginning for food!!

    Please take the time and research this HUGE issue so you can educate yourself and others, you have the tool use it respectfully, with knowledge..

    IT is also a fact BY the USDA when we had slaughter that the horses where NOT humanly being slaughtered, cause you see there is NO WAY to slaughter a horse humanly, that was written in the USDA reports on the slaughters that where open years ago…ALSO was written how the environmental effects of such slaughter where NOT being addressed…

    SOOOOOOO we want to go down the same road instead of moving forward we are going to make the same mistakes AGAIN…. RIGHT, now that is progress..

    IT ALL needs to stop once and for all, all of it cause if we don’t stop it NOW the BREEDERS will continue to over breed like AQHA and others and continue to use the slaughter pipeline which is just unacceptable… This business is all about monetary gain for the few and has no economic value to this country, NONE….

    I DO NOT want MY TAX dollar paying for this slaughter so Foreign country’s can eat OUR HORSES. Honest to GOD it’s crazy

    1. CAPS are the WAY to show you ARE serious ABOU the issues.

    2. We can still use the horse hides for upholstery.

    3. NO, i WILl NOT reSEARch whAt yoU ClAIM is true.
      Screw you; you cot evidence? Link it, or STFU.

    4. I cannot help but see these reasonings as supplemental arguments to the “don’t kill horsies” sentiment.

      They seem exaggerated, as do many other weak arguments.

      Has no-one heard of the guillotine? that takes care of the humaneity.

      This is especially evident by your statement: “This business is all about monetary gain for the few and has no economic value to this country, NONE….” All business is about monetary gain. Good for them. Who cares and it’s none of your business. Drop the hate, please.

      On the drugs, just set the horses out to pasture for a month or so until it is all out of their system.

      Sounds like you are interested in pushing your ideas on the subject, not solutions to any perceived problems.

      1. Do you know anything about slaughter or food production? They don’t use guillotines to slaughter any animal. How would they get it to stick it’s head out and hold still?

        On the drugs, the dangerous drugs that are given to horses do not ever, ever, ever, no never, never never leave their system. When they get into the human body, they are stored in the bone marrow, from where they can cause all kinds of blood disorders, including cancer. The solution to this problem is to not eat horses. You could also breed and raise them for slaughter, but almost no one is willing to do that because cattle are much more efficient at converting grass and grain into meat.

  14. It is unethical to dump horses with legal and illegal drugs BANNED by the FDA into the human food chain. Horses are raised for sport and performance receiving drugs that you cannot give to cattle or other food sources. You can’t have them as a food source since drugs are not tracked in horses. Can’t have it both ways folks. Do not eat horse meat!!

    1. BANNED by the FDA

      No BAN the FDA! Then sit down in celebration to a hearty plate of grilled cheval w/ potatoes fried in horse fat.

      1. Or move to Canada.

    2. Wild Mustangs aren’t raised for sport.

    3. …”receiving drugs that you cannot give to cattle or other food sources.”…

      Bullshit? Until evidence, why yes it is.
      Evidence or STFU.

      1. Go to any feed store and read the labels on Nitrofurazone and horse wormers. Call you vet and as him to read you the label on bute and banamine, or just google, research, read, and use the cells between your ears or STFU. You are a low-information commenter.

  15. Would this enable Mayor Bloombergen to donate his rump steaks to a school lunch program ?

  16. 108 year old Kazahk woman attributes her longevity to horse consumption. The Horsemeat Diet: The Brazilian supermodel secret to a great butt! Horsemeat cured my child’s autism, now he’s going to MIT.Give her and her girlfriend every inch they crave with patented horsemeat enhancement pills, you’re hung like you eat. Quit your job and earn $10k a week with our foolproof horsemeat commodity trading system.

    1. OK, that’s FUNNY!

    2. Well done sir!

  17. I’ve sadly had to participate in several search warrants recently for people who neglect/don’t properly feed/care for their horses and it’s heart wrenching to see these animals suffer. There absolutely should be an option for humane slaughter and there’s no reason why the animals can’t be slaughtered humanely

    Horses are beautiful animals and it hurts to think of them being slaughtered for food, but the pragmatist in me recognizes that’s the harsh reality and it should be supported, and it’s certainly FAR superior to a ban on slaughter, in terms of horse welfare.

    1. ” there’s no reason why the animals can’t be slaughtered humanely”

      It probably costs a little more and that is enough for most people to stop caring.

    2. The humane part is the problem, and the fact that most of it is unfit for human consumption.

  18. In my life I’ve eaten a turtle, a sparrow (possibly a magpie) dogs and water eels. Deeee-licious. Grilled pig or cow intestine (called gopchang) just melt in your mouth. I’ve never tried horse meat, though.

    If you can marry your mom and smoke dope, then I get to get eat horse meat and shark fin soup. That’s the deal, I don’t know want to hear liberals grumbling about not eating noble animals. Don’t shove your morality down my throat.

    1. “a sparrow (possibly a magpie)”

      Sparrow = 3″ long, Magpie = easily 5-6″ long (and this is de-feathered).
      Snapping turtle soup? YUM!

      1. I’m with you on the turtle.

        The sparrow is too small to be worth trying unless the host is serving a big pile of them.

        Magpie, one of my live in girlfriends owned one. They can be very intelligent. Her’s was. Missed my chance to eat one.

    2. And they won’t allow you to pray for forgiveness for these sins you just confessed either.

    3. Here in the USA we call pig or cow intestine chitlins. I tried one bite of pig chitlins one time and that was one time too many. It tastes like shit smells.

      1. You need to rinse the inside with Coke (the cola kind).

  19. There isn’t a market for horsemeat any more than there is for dog meat. I’ve eaten dog. How bout cat? Maybe theirs a market for human flesh too, what about that? No bounds?

    1. Many years ago I spoke with a missionary who had unknowingly been served human meat by some remote tribe, the name and location of which I’ve long forgotten. I can’t recall if he told me it tasted like chicken, pork or some other meat, but he did say it didn’t taste bad.

  20. my neighbor’s half-sister makes $85 every hour on the laptop. She has been without work for seven months but last month her ine was $14043 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Read more on this site go to this site home tab for more detail— http://WWW.JOBS34.COM

  21. If snapping turtles are criminalized , only terrapinists will have gums.

    1. Ha, ha, ha!

  22. “Goodbye Old Paint, I’m eating you now.”

    1. Wilbur, please no o o.

  23. Sometimes man you jsut have to roll with it dude.

  24. Udall and Moran would rather allow horses to starve and suffer terrible disease and experience suffering deaths rather than upset their moonbat constituents. Sometimes it takes honor and integrity to be a politician but I haven’t seen it yet from a loony pot smoking moonbat politician.

  25. Thankfully Mr Ed by now has completely rotted into dust or the Reason staff would be serving him at their next barbecue.

    1. Maybe he turned into jerky. We should dig him up and see.

  26. Let’s just ban the FDA and let local jurisdictions decide for themselves how to dispose of the horse meat.

  27. Horse tastes good and horsehide is far superior to leather when it comes to belts, pants, shirts, whips…uh, jackets?

    I’ll get my coat.

  28. Horse Welfare: Action Needed to Address Unintended Consequences from Cessation of Domestic…..y-c-1.html Slaughter, revealed that “state, local government, and animal welfare organizations report a rise in investigations for horse neglect and more abandoned horses since 2007[.]”

    The report “recommend[ed] that Congress reconsider the ban.”

    A few months later, Congress

  29. Baylen Linnekin like so many other greedy people don’t care how many children are poisoned with tainted horse meat as long as they make a buck.

    Horse meat is unfit for humans to eat. Food and Chemical Toxicology, Volume 48, Issue 5, May 2010, Pages 1270-1274
    Association of phenylbutazone usage with horses bought for slaughter: A public health risk
    Nicholas Dodman, Nicolas Blondeau, Ann M. Marini
    I have always said they don’t care how many people they poison as long as they make a buck.
    Here is the first warning to a horse killer from the FDA for falsified EID and the horse was positive for bute.…..313462.htm
    Horse Owner Survey Shows NSAID Use Trends
    In a recent survey, 96% of respondents said they used nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to control the joint pain and inflammation in horses, and 82% administer them without always consulting their veterinarian. More than 1,400 horse owners and trainers were surveyed to better understand attitudes toward NSAIDs, in a project sponsored by Merial, the maker of Equioxx (firocoxib).

  30. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs – prohibited as well Phenylbutazone, known as “bute,” is a veterinary drug only label-approved by the Food & Drug Administration for use by veterinarians in dogs and horses. It has been associated with debilitating conditions in humans and it is absolutely not permitted for use in food-producing animals. USDA/FSIS has conducted a special project to for this drug in selected bovine slaughter plants under federal inspection. An earlier pilot project by FSIS found traces less than 3% of the livestock selected for testing, sufficient cause for this special project. There is no tolerance for this drug in food-producing livestock, and they and their by-products are condemned when it is detected. Dairy producers must not use this drug in food-producing livestock and if it is found, those producers will be subject to FDA investigation and possible prosecution.
    99 percent of horses that started in California last year raced on bute, according to Daily Racing Form. Bute is banned in the United States and Canada for horses intended for the food chain. That’s a permanent ban.

  31. like Francis replied I am impressed that a single mom able to get paid $5984 in 4 weeks on the internet. have you read this site…

  32. Horse like dogs, cats and other domestic animals is not meant for human consumption. IMHO.

  33. before I saw the check which had said 4615, I didn’t believe that my mother in law had been actualy bringing home money parttime on their computer.. there friends cousin has done this for under 21 months and at present repaid the mortgage on their appartment and purchased a new Lancia Straton. this is where I went, …………

  34. First, you can now legally slaughter and eat a horse you own. If that’s what you want to do, no one will stop you.

    Second, you don’t address the problem of US horsemeat being tainted. Many drugs used on horses are not safe for slaughter animals, the EU and Japan have announced they will no longer accept US horse meat.

    Third, the stories you mention in your article were fictional, put out by lobbyists who were hired by the foreign-owned slaughter plants. None of those stories of abandoned herds of horses is true, every one of them has been debunked. In fact, the “herds” of horses found near the southern borders turned out to be horses who had been turned loose by killer buyers after being rejected for slaughter. So you see, slaughter does not help old, sick, or unwanted horses in any way. They want the young, fat, healthy ones. Even the pro slaughter horse eaters in the US don’t eat sick or old ones, they want yearlings and 2 year olds. Someone is NOT TELLING THE TRUTH.

    Last, you did not address the environmental issues going on at this plant in Roswell. This man has been notorious for environmental pollution when his plant was slaughtering cattle. Horse slaughterhouses have even bigger environmental problems, in part because there is less edible meat available on each horse carcass than there is on cattle. There is about 50% more blood and guts to be disposed of. This man has no plan for disposal. His disposal of the cattle blood and guts was appalling.

  35. upto I saw the paycheck ov $7368, I have faith …that…my sister was like actualie receiving money in their spare time online.. there neighbour had bean doing this 4 less than eighteen months and recently cleared the dept on their home and purchased a top of the range Lancia. this is where I went,

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.