Tag Archives: horse slaughter

Horsemeat Found in Meatballs, Lasagna, More

It’s disturbing. It started earlier this year when grocery store chains in Europe were found to be selling frozen “beef” products made of horse meat. The scandal spread across Europe as about five percent of beef products — everything from hamburgers to meatballs — tested positive for horse DNA.

The test results are shocking, but don’t even account for another problem — the dozens of veterinary drugs commonly used to treat horses that are banned from the food chain, and the lack of any tracking mechanisms when horses are scooped up from random sources and put into the horse slaughter pipeline.

But, now more than ever, there’s hope to prevent this problem from spreading to the U.S. New federal legislation has been introduced, the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, to protect consumers from toxic horsemeat and end the cruel slaughter of America’s horses as well as their export for slaughter abroad. Help us pass this legislation to permanently prevent slaughterhouses from re-opening in the U.S.

Call your U.S. representative and your two U.S. senators today and urge support and co-sponsorship of H.R. 1094/S. 541, the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act. (Click here to find your legislators’ names and phone numbers.) Then, send a quick follow-up message.

Thanks for all you do for animals.

Mike Markarian
Humane Society Legislative Fund

Celebrate National Animal Advocacy Day on April 30

Animal advocates are a powerful force when we work together. That’s why we’re joining forces on April 30 to celebrate National Animal Advocacy Day — and you’re invited! We’re going to spend the day on the phone, calling members of Congress and urging them to ban horse slaughter once and for all.

Horse slaughter is barbaric and cruel. It’s not only bad for horses, but also for people. Meat from American horses is unsafe for human consumption. Enacting a ban on horse slaughter has never been more urgent.

The ASPCA is fighting this grisly industry, but we can’t do it without your help. In conjunction with National Animal Advocacy Day, we are asking our members to call their legislators and urge them to support the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act.

The SAFE Act will prohibit the slaughter of horses for human consumption in the U.S. and ban their export abroad for that purpose. This bill will protect our nation’s horses from the predatory horse slaughter industry and protect the public from toxic horse meat.

Let’s show Congress that people across the country, in every corner of every state, care about the protection of horses, and will not tolerate their senseless and cruel slaughter.

What You Can Do

Please call your legislators on April 30, National Animal Advocacy Day, and urge them to pass the SAFE Act. Visit the ASPCA Advocacy Center to look up your legislators’ names and phone numbers.

Take Action Now »

With everyone working together on one concerted effort, we can put our hoofprint on Congress and help pass the SAFE Act! Thank you for standing up for horses!

Jennifer Wood Media, Inc. | 2577 Eagle Bay Drive | Orange Park, FL 32073

Robert Redford Calls for an End to Horse Slaughter

April 22, 2013 – Robert Redford has come out strongly and publicly against the slaughter of America’s wild and domestic equines. In a letter to Equine Advocates President, Susan Wagner, the legendary and award-winning actor, director, environmentalist and founder of the Sundance Film Festival spells out the reasons why he feels horse slaughter is wrong and has no place in American culture. The letter was written to bring attention to the horse slaughter issue and the 2013 Annual American Equine Summit which Equine Advocates is hosting on April 27th and April 28th in Chatham, NY. In the United States, special interests have been trying to resurrect the horse slaughter industry in an attempt to export horsemeat for people in other countries to eat, despite the fact that the vast majority of Americans are strongly opposed to it and find the practice repulsive. For most Americans, humane euthanasia (a lethal injection as administered by a licensed veterinarian) is the culturally acceptable way to put sporting, recreational and companion animals down, just as we do for our dogs and cats.

We at Equine Advocates wish to thank Robert Redford for speaking out at this very crucial and important time. As far as we are concerned, he is not only one of our finest actors and directors, but a truly great American. Here is his poignant and heartfelt letter which will also be read aloud at the 2013 American Equine Summit.

©2012 Equine Advocates, Inc.

President Obama Moves to Make Horse Slaughter Illegal

With the onset of horse slaughter at the forefront of every media outlet in the past few weeks, there have been many advocates feverishly voicing their opinion against legalizing horse slaughter in the U.S.

Recently in Congress, the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act was introduced. The bill will prohibit the slaughter of horses for human consumption in the U.S. and ban their export abroad for that purpose. This bill ensures the protection of our nation’s horses from the controversial horse slaughter industry and will also protect the public from tainted horsemeat riddled with chemicals. The SAFE Act is sponsored by Senators Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Representatives Patrick Meehan (R-PA) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL).

Additionally, The Obama administration has included a proposal in its 2014 budget that would effectively ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption. On a technicality, the language would prevent money on horse slaughterhouse inspections. However, without proper inspections, they would not be able to operate.

Every year, more than 100,000 horses are trucked hundreds of miles to slaughter in Canada and Mexico, according to PETA. Last year, PETA investigators documented the transport of nearly three dozen horses from a “meat buyer” in Iowa to the Les Viandes de la Petite-Nation, Inc. slaughterhouse in Quebec, a grueling 1,100 mile, 36 hour journey in subfreezing conditions. The horses were never given any food or water or off-loaded even once for a rest.

Last year, the Los Angeles Times wrote an editorial about certain drugs being administered to horses that could cause serious risks and health problems to humans if consumed.

“Horses that are bought here to be sold to processing plants in Mexico and Canada are acquired from random sources… they have not been tracked from birth, as cattle and pigs are,” said the Times in their editorial. “In addition, the horses have usually been treated over their lifetimes with a vast array of drugs, the most common of which is the pain reliever Phenylbutazone, a substance the U.S. Food and Drug Administration stipulates can never be administered to animals processed for food.”

Please take the time to take action below and let your elected officials know that you support the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act and tell President Obama to keep the language in his 2014 budget.


Madeleine Pickens

Check out the new Mustang Monument website:

Market for Slaughter Horses Plunging in Wake of Burger-gate

EWA (Chicago) – USDA data for the first quarter of 2013 indicates a precipitous drop in the number of horses going from the US to Mexico for slaughter. The flow of horses south had been increasing steadily for over two years but dropped 62% between the first full week of 2013 and the end of the first quarter.

Since the closing of the US based horse slaughter plants in 2007, US horses have been going to slaughter in Canada and Mexico for consumption in the European Union (EU) and Russia. Beginning in late January of this year horse meat began to be detected masquerading as beef in countless products across Europe and much of the world. The resulting scandal was dubbed “Burger-gate” for the fact that horse meat was first detected in Burger King “all beef patties” in England.

“We have been watching these numbers closely,” explains EWA president John Holland, “because we knew they would tell us how much of the meat from our horses was being sold as beef. The answer is apparently a great deal of it.”

The EU scandal also explained another mystery. The available data indicated that the consumption of horse meat in EU countries was flat to down over the past decade, but the export of US horses kept climbing.

Mexico-statsThe sales of processed beef products have dropped in the EU in the wake of the comingling scandal, but the consumers of horse meat in the EU were unlikely to change their buying patterns since they were intentionally consuming it all along. Therefore, Holland reasons, “Any drop in horse meat sales is most likely attributable to its no longer being sold as beef.”

The current trend does not bode well for fledgling companies trying to bring slaughter back to the US since they will be competing with multinational conglomerates in what appears to be a rapidly shrinking market.

Data on the export of horses to Canada for slaughter will not be available for 60 days, but reports in the Canadian media indicate an even more severe drop in the number of US horses being slaughtered in Canada.

The export of horses to Canadian slaughter had already been on the decline in 2012 when it dropped by 7.5%, but this was more than offset by a 61% increase in horses going to Mexico. The reason for this shift to Mexico is thought by some to be attributable to the fact that Mexico does not test for phenylbutazone contamination, an issue that has plagued Canadian slaughter plants.

The Equine Welfare Alliance is a dues-free 501c4, umbrella organization with over 250 member organizations and over 1,000 individual members worldwide in 18 countries. The organization focuses its efforts on the welfare of all equines and the preservation of wild equids.





John Holland

Vicki Tobin

Secretary of Agriculture Calls for Alternatives to Horse Slaughter

And Americans Agree. Now It Is Time for Congress to Act!

Washington, D.C. (March 22, 2013) – The Animal Welfare Institute applauds Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for joining the Animal Welfare Institute and the majority of Americans who feel there are better, more humane, more responsible options for horses nearing the end of their lives or their careers than being slaughtered for meat.

Secretary Vilsack, while speaking with reporters earlier this week, called on Congress to come up with other ways for this country to handle aging horses than to slaughter them for meat for human consumption.  Secretary Vilsack, a former governor of Iowa, noted that in his home state horses work with inmates in prisons, and that this helps prisoners acquire job skills for when they rejoin society.

AWI has long advocated this kind of alternative to slaughter, along with many others such as therapeutic riding, riding school programs, or even second careers in a variety of equestrian sporting events.  These alternatives are a way to provide second careers for horses, while making a valuable contribution to society and the economy.  In 2009, AWI screened a documentary called Homestretch on Capitol Hill, highlighting a very successful prison rehabilitation program involving rescued horses.

According to the Indiana Department of Corrections website, their “program helps end needless abuse and slaughter of retired race horses by providing humane, viable rescue programs, including permanent retirement and private adoption for thoroughbreds at the end of their racing careers. Offenders are taught equine skills and not only maintain these animals, but also help retrain them so they are suitable for use in qualified handicapped and other therapeutic riding programs.” This laudable program is not only beneficial to the horses; it is a boon to the prisoners and to society. The recitative rate for prisoners participating in the South Carolina Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s Second Chances program at Wateree River Correctional Institute in South Carolina was dramatically reduced when compared to the rate for prisoners in the general population of the same institution.  Those not in the horse retirement program were many times more likely to commit additional crimes and return to prison.

“We commend Secretary Vilsack for his sensible decision,” noted Chris Heyde, deputy director of government and legal affairs for AWI. “USDA has not been attempting to regulate, and thereby sanction, this brutal business for 6 years, and it is important to move forward not backwards.”

An additional factor that weighs heavily in favor of Secretary Vilsack’s call for humane alternatives is the federal government’s growing budgetary crisis.  If the Department of Agriculture were to resume inspection of horse slaughter facilities — something it has not done for several years — the department would be forced to divert limited manpower and funding in order to finance the effort because Congress did not provide additional funding when it removed the annual prohibition on inspecting these facilities.  The timing could not be worse, given the current congressional emphasis on shrinking, not expanding, government expenditures.

“A recent national survey found that over 80 percent of Americans support a ban on horse slaughter and Secretary Vilsack is right in representing that position,” said Heyde.  “AWI urges everyone who supports an end to horse slaughter in favor of more humane and responsible alternatives to write Secretary Vilsack at AWI’s Compassion Index and urge him to work with Congress on passage of the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act.”

Deputy Director
Government and Legal Affairs

900 Pennsylvania Ave., SE
Washington, DC 20003
T: (202) 446-2142 ~ F: (202) 446-2131
www.awionline.org ~ www.compassionindex.org
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Editorial: Humane End for Horses Not Really Goal of Slaughter Legislation

3/19/2013 – In Oklahoma, it appears, being connected to a family business can qualify a legislator as someone with special expertise to propose legislation that would benefit that business.

At least that’s the view of Skye McNiel, R-Bristow, who has proposed legislation that would allow horse slaughter in Oklahoma. She’s something of an expert on the business, because her family operates the largest horse auction house in the state.

She admits that legalized horse slaughter in Oklahoma could mean financial gain for her grandparents’ auction house, which is managed by her family. She used to work there, too, but now just helps out occasionally.

But other horse auctioneers also would benefit from horse slaughter, so that makes it OK for her to be proposing this legislation, she contends.

“It’s no different from an attorney running a tort reform bill or a pharmacist running a pharmacy bill,” McNiel said. “I’m from rural Oklahoma, and I run rural legislation. I mean, who better to understand policy than somebody who lives it every day?”

Well, it’s one thing to understand an issue from a firsthand perspective and propose legislation to address it. It’s quite another for one’s family members to profit from the legislation proposed.

tulsa163But the biggest problem with House Bill 1999 isn’t that McNiel’s family members might benefit from it. The biggest problem is that this effort isn’t really about a humane death for unwanted horses. It’s really about money, pure and simple.

The pro-slaughter forces insist that a slaughterhouse is the best way to deal with growing numbers of abandoned, neglected horses. Really? Then why does industry data show that the vast majority of American horses now going to foreign slaughterhouses are healthy and relatively young? Is it perhaps because a younger, healthier horse fetches more money than a sickly old one?

The argument that irresponsible horse owners should be allowed to profit off their bad behavior just doesn’t sell. Let’s at least be honest about what’s going on: This is about making money.

By Tulsa World’s Editorials Writers


Oklahoma has 2 bills that have passed committee which allow for the slaughter of horses, and possibly wild mustangs, in the state. Oklahoma House Bill HB 1999 allows for horse slaughterhouses to open up and slaughter our wonderful horses for human consumption.

Also, Senate Bill SB 735 makes it legal to have and export horse meat for human consumption. NO PUBLIC input has been allowed and they have both passed the committee with the potential to be voted into law AT ANY TIME.

Here is the contact form to write to the Oklahoma Governor, Mary Fallin, and tell her you do NOT support this!


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Saving America’s Mustangs | 2683 Via De La Valle, G 313 | Del Mar | CA | 92014

National Animal Welfare Groups, Veterinarians and Horse Owners Applaud Federal Efforts to Protect Horses and the Public

Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act prohibits cruel export and slaughter of drugged horses for human consumption

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The ASPCA (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), The Humane Society of the United States (The HSUS) and the Center for Science in the Public Interest applaud U.S. Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Reps. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., for introducing bipartisan legislation that would stop the inhumane killing of American horses for human consumption and prohibit the transport of horses across the U.S. border for slaughter in Canada and Mexico. The Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act would prevent the introduction of horse slaughter operations in the U.S., end the current export of American horses for slaughter abroad, and protect the public from consuming toxic horse meat. Last year, more than 160,000 American horses were sent to a cruel death by a grisly foreign industry that produces unsafe food for consumers.

Horses are raised for use in show, sport, work and recreation in the U.S. and are regularly administered drugs that are expressly prohibited by current federal regulations for use in animals intended for human consumption. For example, a common pain reliever routinely administered to all types of horses, Phenylbutazone, is known to cause potentially fatal human diseases. There is no known safe level for consumption of these drug residues in horse meat. A recent New York Times article emphasized the hodgepodge of drugs used in race horses — including cobra venom and cocaine — and the resulting food safety threats. Thousands of these horses are sold at auction for slaughter within days of their last race, resulting in potentially toxic horse meat being sent overseas. There are also many substances and drugs regularly used on horses that have never been tested for their effects on humans and the potential danger of ingesting these chemicals is completely unknown. Horses are gathered from random sources, and there is currently no system in the U.S. to track medications and veterinary treatments given to horses to ensure that their meat is safe for human consumption.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced its plan to process an application for inspecting horse slaughter at a New Mexico facility. If the application is approved, Valley Meat Company LLC will be the first facility in the U.S. to slaughter horses for human consumption since 2007, when the few remaining plants closed and Congress chose to suspend funding for any further horse meat inspections. This surprising move toward a resumption of domestic horse slaughter comes in the wake of the scandal unfolding in the European Union, where consumers have been alarmed by the discovery of horse meat mislabeled as beef in prepared food products ranging from lasagna to meatballs. The federal government could potentially spend millions of taxpayer dollars to open new horse slaughter plants at a time when spending cuts associated with the sequester could curtail food safety inspections for U.S. meat products. Additionally, if horse slaughter plants are opened in the U.S., it will be more difficult to prevent this kind of comingling between horse meat and beef products that has occurred in Europe.

Nancy Perry, senior vice president of ASPCA Government Relations, said, “The overwhelming majority of Americans are intensely opposed to the cruel practice of horse slaughter, and we thank the sponsors of the SAFE Act for their efforts to protect not only public health, but also safeguard our nation’s equines. The shocking discovery of horse meat in mislabeled beef products across Europe underscores the threat to American health that could result should horse slaughter proponents be successful in bringing this grisly practice back to the United States. Now is the time for Congress to permanently ban domestic horse slaughter and the export of our horses to neighboring countries for slaughter. We must prevent even one more horse from suffering this terrible fate.”

Chris Heyde, deputy director, Government and Legal Affairs of AWI, said, “When AWI first brought this issue to Congress and the American public, horse slaughter was a dirty practice that no responsible horse owner wanted to admit even existed.  While the issue is now in the public eye, no one who cares about horses thinks it is humane to slaughter them.  The only individuals advocating for horse slaughter are those who profit from the suffering of these amazing animals.  Like the industry they protect, deception is key.  They are willing to mislead and deceive anyone who advocates for the welfare of American horses.  I want them to know today, that everyone supporting the bill will not stop fighting against this cruelty until all of our horses are safe from slaughter.”

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS, said, “The arguments of the horse meat industry are unraveling before the eyes of the world. Congress must take action to prevent the spending of millions of American tax dollars on a marginal industry that peddles tainted horse meat to foreign consumers and seeks to do so at home, too.”

Sarah Klein, senior attorney in the Food Safety Program at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said, “American horses are not raised for food, and shouldn’t wind up on consumers’ plates. Horse meat often carries residues from drugs that are not safe for consumers.”

In addition to the public health concerns associated with the consumption of horse meat, horse slaughter is inherently inhumane.  The methods used to kill horses rarely result in quick, painless deaths, as horses often endure repeated stuns or blows and sometimes remain conscious during their slaughter and dismemberment. These equines suffer incredible abuse even before they arrive at the slaughterhouse, often transported for more than 24 hours at a time without food, water or rest, in dangerously overcrowded trailers where the animals are often seriously injured or even killed in transit. The majority of horses killed for human consumption are young, healthy animals who could go on to lead productive lives with loving owners.

Rep. Meehan said, “Horses are not bred for human consumption. Horses are routinely treated with drugs over the course of their lifetimes that are toxic to humans if ingested. At a time when the U.S. Department of Agriculture is threatening to furlough meat inspectors due to budget cuts, American taxpayers should not be subsidizing horse meat inspections for the foreign export market.”

Rep. Schakowsky said, “Horses sent to slaughter are often subject to appalling, brutal treatment. We must fight those practices. The SAFE Act of 2013 will ensure that these majestic animals are treated with the respect they deserve.”

Sen. Landrieu said, “The practice of horse slaughter for human consumption is revolting to me as a horse owner, but also as a consumer. Horses are not raised for human consumption, and they are frequently treated with drugs and chemicals that are toxic when ingested by humans. Especially in light of the European horse meat contamination scandals, we must ensure that our food supply at home is not tainted with horse meat, nor should we supply an unsafe food product to foreign industries. I am proud to join my colleagues to introduce the SAFE Act to end the slaughter of one of the world’s most beloved animals and help protect public health.”

Past congressional actions on horse slaughter have demonstrated a strong, bipartisan desire to prohibit the killing of horses for human consumption, but Congress has failed to permanently end the export of live horses to neighboring countries for slaughter. Numerous state legislatures have already acted to stop horse slaughter, resulting in the closure of the last three remaining horse slaughter plants in the country in 2007. Most recently, New Jersey enacted a measure prohibiting the slaughter of horses for human consumption, as well as the sale and transport of horse meat for human consumption. The SAFE Act was introduced with a strong list of bipartisan original cosponsors.

The passage of this legislation is a priority for the nation’s leading animal welfare organizations, as well as many veterinarians and equine groups across the country, including the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association and Veterinarians for Equine Welfare. A January 2012 national poll commissioned by the ASPCA confirms that 80 percent of American voters oppose the slaughter of horses for human consumption.


ASPCA: Rebecca Goldrick, 917-628-9780, Rebecca.Goldrick@aspca.org

AWI: Chris Heyde, 202-446-2142, chris@awionline.org

HSUS: Heather Sullivan, 240-477-2251, hsullivan@humanesociety.org

Office of Sen. Landrieu: Jacob Sittig, 202-224-4893, Jacob_Sittig@Landrieu.Senate.gov

Office of Rep. Meehan: John Elizandro, 202-225-2011, John.Elizandro@mail.house.gov

Office of Rep. Schakowsky: Sabrina Singh, 202-225-2111, Sabrina.Singh@mail.house.gov

About the ASPCA

Founded in 1866, the ASPCA (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) is the first animal welfare organization in North America and serves as the nation’s leading voice for animals. More than two million supporters strong, the ASPCA’s mission is to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States. As a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation, the ASPCA is a national leader in the areas of anti-cruelty, community outreach and animal health services. For more information, please visit www.ASPCA.org, and be sure to follow the ASPCA on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

About AWI

The Animal Welfare Institute is a non-profit charitable organization founded in 1951 to alleviate the suffering caused to animals by humans. For more information, please visit AWI online at http://www.awionline.org/.  Also, be sure to follow AWI on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/animalwelfareinstitute and Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/AWIOnline.

About the HSUS

Subscribe to HSUS President Wayne Pacelle’s blog, A Humane Nation. Follow The HSUS on Twitter. See our work for animals on your Apple or Android device by searching for our “Humane TV” app.

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at humanesociety.org.

Deputy Director
Government and Legal Affairs
900 Pennsylvania Ave., SE
Washington, DC 20003
T: (202) 446-2142 ~ F: (202) 446-2131
www.awionline.org ~ www.compassionindex.org
Facebook ~ Twitter

Oklahoma Passes Legislation Approving Horse Slaughter

The Mustang family pictured here travels between the federal land in the Pine Nut Herd Management Area (HMA) and a rural area outside Carson City, NV. The horses have lived in this area for at least 40 years. Originally the band had 50 members, but it’s down to just six wild horses currently due to the scheduled BLM removals. The local community and leaders love these horses and advocates have pleaded for the BLM to build a fence to keep the horses in their designated range. The agency regularly builds fencing for livestock, but has refused to build a fence for this purpose. On Wednesday, February 27th, the BLM captured 5 out of the six horses in this band and are trying to gather the last lead mare that is out on the range still calling to her group. Please take the time to write to the BLM and tell them to work with this community and leave the band where they are and not send them to short-term holding facilities.

Nevada Matters Radio Interview
Nevada Matters Radio Interview


Oklahoma has 2 bills that have passed committee which allow for the slaughter of horses, and possibly wild mustangs, in the state. Oklahoma House Bill HB 1999 allows for horse slaughterhouses to open up and slaughter our wonderful horses for human consumption.

Also, Senate Bill SB 735 makes it legal to have and export horse meat for human consumption. NO PUBLIC input has been allowed and they have both passed the committee with the potential to be voted into law AT ANY TIME.

Here is the contact form to write to the Oklahoma Governor, Mary Fallin, and tell her you do NOT support this!


Madeleine Pickens

Check out the new Mustang Monument website:

Slaughter of U.S. Horses Soars as Horse Meat Scandal Explodes

February 27, 2013 – Chicago (EWA) – According to USDA statistics, the slaughter of US horses soared by 32% in 2012 to over 176,000, a twenty year high. The horses were exported largely to slaughter houses in Mexico and Canada, which then shipped the meat to the EU (Europe Union) where horse meat has subsequently been found to have been fraudulently substituted for beef in everything from burgers to lasagna and even school lunches.

The number of horses exported to Mexico increased from 68,429 in 2011 to 110,202 in 2012, a 61% increase while exports to Canada actually decreased slightly (7.5%) to 59,812.

Despite the EU repeatedly finding the prohibited carcinogen phenylbutazone and other banned substances in the meat of US horses, and despite its own audit reports stating that they still have no effective way of preventing contaminated horse meat from entering their food chain, the authorities have allowed the trade to continue to expand.

Both Canada and Mexico require slaughter horse sellers to provide Equine Information Documents (EIDs) stating any drugs the horses have been given. But inexplicably, Mexico does not test for phenylbutazone or even include it on seller affidavits despite the fact that the drug is at the top of the EU’s banned substance list.

Until recently it was thought that this endangered only consumers of horse meat, but now it is clear that is not the case. The finding of horse meat in meals supplied to schools and hospitals is of particular concern since children are extremely vulnerable to even trace amounts of phenylbutazone, which can cause potentially lethal aplastic anemia.

The reason for both the scandal and the contamination lies in the nature of the horses. US horses being sent to slaughter are overwhelmingly young sport horses, four to eight years old, and at the end of very short careers. The horses are comprised largely of Quarter Horses (~ 70%), followed by Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds. Most were used in rodeo and racing before being dumped to slaughter.

Since the horses are a byproduct of these sports, they were not raised for slaughter and were almost universally given drugs prohibited in food animals. The low cost of these horses ($100 to $500) makes them far cheaper than beef, thus providing a huge incentive for the fraudulent substitution.

Increases in the cost of keeping horses in recent years have suppressed the domestic market for recreational horses, leaving the kill buyers with bargains galore.

A ban on funding for US horse meat inspections, which was passed by Congress in 2006, was rescinded in 2011, but to date no horse slaughter plants have opened in the US.

Despite the devastating effect of the scandal on beef sales in the EU, and endless revelations about contaminated horse meat, Oklahoma is considering repealing its own ban on horse slaughter in hopes of enticing a plant to that state.

The Equine Welfare Alliance (EWA) is a dues-free 501c4, umbrella organization with over 275 member organizations and over 1,000 individual members worldwide in 18 countries. The organization focuses its efforts on the welfare of all equines and the preservation of wild equids. www.equinewelfarealliance.org

John Holland