Horses: Love Them or Eat Them?

The United States is a nation of horse lovers, and the majority of the population wouldn’t even dream of eating them, but despite this, every year an estimated 130,000 horses are sent to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico where they are harvested for their meat, which then gets shipped to European and Asian markets.

This issue has created a definite divide: those who view horses as pets and those who view them as products.

Reviving Slaughterhouses in the United States

Sue Wallis, a Wyoming lawmaker, is spearheading the revival of U.S. horse slaughterhouses as she argues that not only would it be better for business, it is more humane than long, harsh trips across borders.

Other arguments put forth to support their position include the claim that domestic slaughterhouses provide a ready market for old, hobbled and unruly horses, making them more valuable, and since shutting down, there has been a glut of unwanted and neglected steeds that end up dying a slow and painful death.

Proponents for horse slaughter hide behind the guise that by reopening slaughterhouse plants in the United States, they will be doing the horses a favor, but it is clear to see that lurking just beneath the superficial claims of improved welfare lies the main agenda of lining their pockets and increasing their bottom line. The reality is simple: these long hauls to Canadian and Mexican slaughterhouses burn up the sellers profits, making the business a whole lot less attractive.

The Truth Behind the Horse Meat Industry

When you look at the facts, the slaughter of horses for meat is unnecessary, inhumane and harmful in many ways.

Regardless of whether the horses are shipped to foreign plants or killed in the United States, it is a brutal and terrifying end and is in no way humane. Horses are sensitive creatures with a heightened fight or flight response, making accurate stunning extremely difficult. As a result, horses often have to endure repeated blows and some even remain conscious during dismemberment, resulting in the exact opposite of a quick and painless death.

There is also no proven connection between the closure of U.S. horse slaughterhouses and an increase in unwanted or abandoned equines. In fact, when horse slaughter was banned in California in 1998, there was no reported rise and when the only plant in Illinois shut down for two years, horse abuse and neglect actually decreased.

In terms of the benefits to the local economy, there really isn’t any. These plants pose an environmental and economical nightmare, polluting water, permeating the air with a foul stench and decreasing property values. The low income and dangerous jobs offered do nothing to bolster local communities, and the minimal financial contribution they may make is far outweighed by the immense development suppressing burden they bring along with their presence.

Then, of course, there is the issue of whether horse meat is even safe for human consumption. Horses aren’t raised as food animals and thus are routinely treated with chemicals, most popularly phenylbutazone (aka Bute), which is a known carcinogenic to humans.

Animals and Compartmentalization

For most people, the thought of killing horses is akin to that of killing their own dog or cat, and an idea that will never be embraced. How would the public feel if the United States were to start opening puppy mills to breed dogs to ship to China for meat? There would be an outcry, so why should it be any different with horses?

In a recent interview Sue Wallis said “Chickens for eggs, lambs for wool, cows for milk, horses for work, and when their useful, productive life has passed, then you turn them into meat.” From her point of view, horses are livestock first and companions second. The problem is that when you look at animals as assets, where do you draw the line on which animals should or should not be exploited?

We compartmentalize by deciding which animals are acceptable to eat and which ones are not, and then we criticize those in foreign lands who have done exactly the same thing but with differing conclusions.

It is easy for us to sit in our ivory towers judging those who use and eat the animals we call our friends but when it boils down to it, is there really any difference between a cat, a dog, a horse and a cow?

Photo Credit: bozo_z_clown


Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for the article.

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Diane L.
Diane L.3 years ago

(cont).........You said, "if you've been paying ANY attention to articles like the one above and the facts being presented, you'd know that you can't claim to love horses and still support horse slaughter.".....actually, I have paid attention but the article is not factual so my claim is very valid, indeed. I know what I know but do you? You've succumbed to the rhetoric of PETA and writers like the one who posted this article, hardly credible sources of information that can be trusted.

Jacob Johnston
Jacob Johnston3 years ago

then yeah; I'm insane! But you know what? I'd rather be mildly insane, than totally ignorant, arrogant and self centered like most humans!

Jacob Johnston
Jacob Johnston3 years ago

Sandra Z, you have some good points there. But Diane L, if you've been paying ANY attention to articles like the one above and the facts being presented, you'd know that you can't claim to love horses and still support horse slaughter. You'd know that absolutely nothing humane about it and that it would actually be detrimental to the economy, the environment and the welfare of horses everywhere! "Unwanted" horses would become even more disposable and many breeders would probably start breeding more excess horses, solely for the purpose of selling them for slaughter! No one in the US eats horse mea! Why should we butcher our own horses and send them overseas for other countries to eat? They can eat their own horses! No one is claiming that some wildlife populations don't need to be managed (Although really, humans are the only species that needs population control). But as I already said, wild horses are endangered in the US, because the government is trying to systematically eradicate them; favoring livestock and other special interests over wildlife! Wild horses are an ecological benefactor and a national icon and treasure and symbol of freedom! If it's insane to believe that horses deserve special praise and recognition (especially wild horses) for being the animals that have literally carried humanity to where it is today and if it's insane to believe that it's wrong to always put humans before animals and that ultimately, animals are kinda better than humans, th

Diane L.
Diane L.3 years ago

Jacob, I am one who supports the right to have legal horse slaughter, and I also love horses. Many think that is a conflict, but if one truly does love horses, it most certainly is not. I do not agree with Thomas 100%, but I do to some extent in that yes, wild mustangs CAN be invasive. There are logical steps that can be taken to control their numbers and maintain healthy populations, and slaughter does not have to be one of them.

Sandra, to many of us who truly do understand the topic/subject, the idea that some have about no slaughter, period, all horses should be running happily around grassy prairies gives the impression of a "touch of insanity", so it's a two-way street. Horses have become "companion pets" to many of us in this country, but in most other cultures, they're still livestock or beasts of burden/work animals, and as such, yes, they are eaten for food. That is a far cry from human slavery or sex trafficking.

Sandra Z.
Sandra Z.3 years ago

Jacob J., I'm quite certain that the same people who say it's not for us to judge other peoples' or cultures' choices, would say the same for slavery, child marriages, sex trafficking, etc. Some people cannot see the difference between right and wrong, sad to say. In our legal system, that is usually defined as insanity. And I personally would have to say that anyone who could look in the eyes of a terrified animal (human or non-human animal, we are all animals, after all) and intentionally take that animal's life (except when one's own life is being threatened) has got to have at least a touch of insanity.

Jacob Johnston
Jacob Johnston3 years ago

A while back, Thomas B. suggested that wild horses are invasive and I feel I need to make it clear that that is false! They may not always have been here, but their ancestors first emerged on the North American continent millions of years ago! They are a reintroduced native species and have become an integral part of the ecosystem! It would have a serious negative impact on other wildlife if they were to disappear! Not to mention that they're highly endangered right now, because the government is trying to remove all of them! Also, lots of people keep pointing out that other people eat horse meat all the time, but that's irrelevant! It doesn't matter what other countries and cultures do with their horses! That's THEIR thing, not OURS! Just because other people say it's OK to kill and eat horses, doesn't mean Americans have to follow suit! It goes against our cultural morals and that's the way it's gonna stay!!! Anyone who tries to make it otherwise should be imprisoned, or deported!!!

Diane L.
Diane L.3 years ago

Dale O., that was me that was said to not love my horses and I was called a liar, simply because I said I was not anti-slaughter and explained clearly, WHY. I was also the subject to having my name used in an "avatar" with a slanderous and hateful word plastered next to it. That was one of "Polly Squawkamongus'" avatars used with one of her fake I.D.'s. Thank goodness, Customer Support saw it and removed it right away!

Hatred that resorts in such behavior is baffling to me. Satire is one thing, but ridicule or attempted ridicule is quite another. Maybe I should feel flattered at all the attention?

Dale O.

On the subject of having a profile photo of a sunset or a favourite pet or wild animal it is true that some may think that we are 'hiding' under that instead of posting our own photo but I agree that many don't for security reasons. I remember that a male vegetarian from India had asked that all who ate meat to post their photos. I'm not sure as to why, perhaps he assumed that all omnivores were overweight, forgetting that some vegetarians can snack too much on plant based potato chips and the like. A vegan pretending to be a doctor once asked me what my BMI was and I told her that personal information was none of her business, I would no more tell her that that than list my eye colour or height. Again, there was an erroneous assumption that anyone eating meat is overweight, (although I have been nagged by some not on Care2 to 'put more meat on my bones.') It matters not, someone is always going to judge even if one exercises and is in shape from kayaking and the like and is thin.