How humane is horse slaughter?

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The USDA is being accused of ignoring animal abuse in horse slaughter factoriesA joint press release put out by two animal welfare organizations—Animal Law Coalition and Animals’ Angels—states that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was aware of “extreme cruelty during horse slaughter at facilities in the U.S.” The December 4 press release claims are based on a 906-page document and nearly 900 disturbing photos released by the USDA.

The document and photos were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request submitted three years ago by equine cruelty investigator Julie Caramante. Animals’ Angels assisted Caramante in obtaining the documents, and they are now working with Animal Law Coalition to assess and disseminate the information.

“I’ve been an equine cruelty investigator for a number of years,” Caramante says, “and I’ve witnessed many incidents of animal cruelty but nothing could prepare me for these images.”

According to the press release, “The photographs document significant injuries to horses at the slaughter house. Injuries included conscious dismemberment, open fractures, blinding, and battered faces. It appears some horses were left to bleed out. Other injuries indicated long-term abuse and neglect.”

“The pain and terror these horses had endured is criminal,” Caramante says.

The documents and photographs released by the USDA can be found at /redirect.php?location=http%3a%2f%2fwww.kaufmanzoning.net. WARNING: THE IMAGES ARE EXTREMELY DISTURBING.

The press release goes on to state that there is some veterinary community support behind the anti-slaughter movement. “Dr. Nicholas Dodman of the Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine testified before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee describing horse slaughter as, ‘a brutal and predatory business that promotes cruelty and neglect,’ concluding that as a veterinarian a ‘rapid end to this wholly brutal and un-American trade’ is warranted.” Indeed, Dr. Dodman has vehemently spoken out against horse slaughter. A Q&A with him about his views can be found at: /redirect.php?location=http%3a%2f%2fvetsforequinewelfare.org%2fdodmanqa.php

Horse slaughter in the U.S. ended in 2007 after the three remaining plants in Texas and Illinois were closed by state lawmakers and the courts. There is a federal bill pending in Congress that would prevent horse slaughter from resuming in states without laws prohibiting it. The bill would also prevent U.S. horses from being shipping across international borders for slaughter. Currently, thousands of U.S. horses are shipped to Canada and Mexico for slaughter.

35 COMMENTS

  1. ok so I went through all the photo’s on the link in the article. And they are horrible and I’m not crazy about horse slaughter. But alot of what I saw were old injury’s and problems the horse had before. So all the blame shouldnt be put on the slaughter industry but also bad owners who chose to get a couple of hundred dollars instead of ending the horses pain. Start going after owners who are neglecting there horses. Just my thought on it.

  2. I have to disagree with Amber! I think horses should not be killed for there meat! I looked at one picture and I exited the Website!! I Think that horses that have injuries should be put down or retiered but not murdered! I dont know what you guys think but I think this should be ended once and for all! Thanks~M

  3. I think it is essential that horse slaughter be discontinued. True, some horses do need to be euthanized, but not terrorized and murdered. I have read reliable statistics that only about 8% of horses slaughtered are actually injured, old, or the result of irresponsible breeding.

  4. Horses SHOULD NOT be treated in such a horrible way!!! I agree—some are injured or jus too old to even be comfortable living…in those cases they should be put down but no horses should have to go thru slaughter plants in MX or Canada and be murdered becuase someone was irresponsable!!

  5. I looked at those pictures & my heart went out to all those horses, me a 13 year old girl who thought all the horses in the world were living happily… & then i saw this… I wish i could help, I wanted to take all those poor animals home right now. How could people be so cruel…

  6. made me sick looking at those. Some of thoses horses before they went in look perfectly fine! If you want meat eat a cow! horses are God’s beautiful creatures and deserve so much more! UGHHHH makes me mad!

  7. All animal slaughter is terrible…not only with horses, so WHY is eating a cow (meat) less cruel than eating a horse?? We don’t need meat at all to be healthy, so as long as we “thinking persons” (humans) eat meat, this sort of abuse and torture will continue with every animal. I love and respect all animals and I hate every disrespect, torture and any sort of abuse/cruelty towards my fellow species. So, do you want to stop this for once and for all, then change your diet, your attitude.

  8. All animal slaughter is terrible…not only with horses, so WHY is eating a cow (meat) less cruel than eating a horse?? We don’t need meat at all to be healthy, so as long as we “thinking persons” (humans) eat meat, this sort of abuse and torture will continue with every animal. I love and respect all animals and I hate every disrespect, torture and any sort of abuse/cruelty towards my fellow species. So, do you want to stop this for once and for all, then change your diet, your attitude.

  9. Horses are considered as livestock. yes they have become part of people’s families, i know because mine have. but if you have a horse that is say 4 years old and tries to kill you everytime you enter the pen, do you really want to risk your life for this 4 year old horse that’s never been touched? i’ve grown up with horses/mules all my life and know how much of an impact the closing of the slaughter plants have had on the horse industry. yes the pictures weren’t pretty, but its reality. people need to open their eyes to reality and not to what they want to believe. there are people in this world that eat horse like we eat beef, pork and chicken like we do here. think about those horses that are being dumped at state parks becuase the owners can no longer care for them and all the rescues that are running low on money and space for all these unwanted horses. they need somewhere to go

  10. It does not matter how wild or dangerous a horse is, it should not have to die by torture. Does anyone out there think it is humane to remove limbs from horses that are still alive? Anyone who looks at the images of slaughtered horses can see that slaughter is not humane. If people can afford to buy a horse then they can afford to put it to sleep instead of trying to make a few bucks selling it for slaughter. If a person is not willing to assume responsability for care, feeding and humane euthanasia of a horse when necessary then they have no business getting a horse. No creature should have to die a prolonged painful death.
    R. LePage in California

  11. It does not matter how wild or dangerous a horse is, it should not have to die by torture. Does anyone out there think it is humane to remove limbs from horses that are still alive? Anyone who looks at the images of slaughtered horses can see that slaughter is not humane. If people can afford to buy a horse then they can afford to put it to sleep instead of trying to make a few bucks selling it for slaughter. If a person is not willing to assume responsability for care, feeding and humane euthanasia of a horse when necessary then they have no business getting a horse. No creature should have to die a prolonged painful death.
    R. Page in California

  12. It does not matter how wild or dangerous a horse is, it should not have to die by torture. Does anyone out there think it is humane to remove limbs from horses that are still alive? Anyone who looks at the images of slaughtered horses can see that slaughter is not humane. If people can afford to buy a horse then they can afford to put it to sleep instead of trying to make a few bucks selling it for slaughter. If a person is not willing to assume responsability for care, feeding and humane euthanasia of a horse when necessary then they have no business getting a horse. No creature should have to die a prolonged painful death.
    R. Page in California

  13. The idea that slaughter has to exist to give people a place to send their crazy, old, broken down horses is absurd. Horses are a luxury item, bred now in this country for companionship, hobby and competition. For anyone keeping horses with today’s hay prices, a couple hundred dollars to have the horse destroyed humanely and carted off really is a drop in the bucket. For people like Mary who think an opinion like mine is made with my eyes closed – how many actual working ranches are left in the USA that rely on the horse? Yeah, that’s right, like TWO. The only people insisting that horses are more like cows than dogs in today’s society are the greedy grubs trying to make their living off any poor beast that may be able to drag itself to the slaughter shoot. This chase of the almighty dollar that leads us to over-breeding and abuse of the very animals that built this country and now spend their lives performing at our whims is disgraceful.

  14. It took 3 yrs. to obtain the information and only because of the Freedom of Information Act were the people able to get it. Yes, most of the injuries caused by the people involved in the slaughter pipeline, contrary to Amber’s thoughts. The horse slaughter industry is the ultimate abuse and betrayal of horses. It promotes horse theft, mass breeding (and in this economy it’s good business sense to curtail this activity). Horse slaughter is NOT and never has been a public service, that lie has to be put to an end. True, horses are not bringing as much money right now but the economy and the fact that historically winter always brings a glut of horses to the auction where they go for cut rate prices (I’ve observed this for over 30 yrs.). If a person is going to own a horse, they need to realize that these are living, breathing, feeling creatures, not cars, trucks or inantimate objects that should be traded in on a new model or disposed of when the owner is tired to playing with them (or after riding season is over). If the owner cannot afford to keep them any longer, it is far more humane (and not all that costly) to call a vet and have the horse put down and either buried, composted, creamated or sent to a rendering facility. IF you own a horse, you need to take long term responsibility for it. Horse slaughter is anything but humane, there is no question about that. I hope that Congress wakes up and passes the anti horse slaughter bill after all these years of ducking and dodging it.

  15. These pictures show the horrible truth of how American horses were treated at slaughter plants here (and they are treated even worse in Mexico and Canada now). Horses are abused and some die cruel deaths at the low-end auctions and during the inhumane shipping methods so the entire process is horrid. Anyone who can afford to own horses should be financially able to humanely euthanize injured or ill horses. American horses are not bred and born to be butchered.

  16. It makes me cry to see these horses suffer. Anyone who is not against horse slaughter needs to have their head examined. People who think that horses are dumb animals that have no feelings or emotions should think again. If they really want to see a dumb animal they should look in the mirror. I find it hard to believe that in the 21st century this cruelty still exists.

  17. I am an animal lover, but I am a realisic animal lover. I am very involved in all aspects of horse slaughter. It is more humane to slaughter a horse than have one starve to death. It would be more humane to slaughter them local, than ship them 2000 miles. If we dont slaughter them they will starve to death. We euthanize dogs and cats…. is there a difference? ever seen a dog pound euthanize aniamls. The only difference is horses are larger and more dramatic. I think people that are uneducated to teh realities of the REAL world and tend to let hteir emotions rule their judgement obviously have no fiannacial commitment to to this issue. I would like anyone who opposes this to come up with a logical and affordable solution. So which is more humane for the animal we all love so much? The horse….

  18. Most of these photos were horses at the end of teh road. Alot of times these horse are dropped off at these sales in this condition and only the killer buyer will buy them. I was a vet tech for ten years and it is expensive to humanely put down a horse then have a rendering plant pick up the carcass. Even though the slaughter has stopped here the market for horse meat marches on. Why not have it here in the U.S. and let regulate it like we do the cattle or sheep or pig markets. Our economy can use teh jobs and the economic boost for the horse market would be great.
    PS a good horse usually doesnt end up in these kind of places 9 out of ten times.

  19. I think slaughter should be banned. We don’t let our unwanted dogs be brutally killed and shipped overseas to be eaten, so why should we let our horses be? Yes, there will still be neglected and abused horses, but we still had those horses even with the slaughter houses open. There will always be people who get horses without realizing how much care they will require and then neglect them when they do.

  20. actually,katie there are thousands of dogs shipped to korea for slaughter every year. and is as, maybe even more brutal then horse slaughter. i will not tell everything there is to tell, but some of the ways they slaughter dogs is steaming them live(not steaming like steam bath but steaming in a large pot with minimum air) skinning them alive and also they believe the more they torture dog in life the braver and stronger the person who eats the dog will become(also only the golden dogs are edible according to them). the koreans have a law against abusive dog slaughter but do not keep this law, many police officers are caught eating dog in public places. they also do this with cows, cats, rare birds, turtles, chickens and rabbits. most people simply do not care!

  21. Oh I totally agree. My horse isn’t the right color. Send it to slaughter. My horse’s blaze is off center – slaughter. My horse didn’t win a blue ribbon – sluaghter. Oh yeah, you’re a real horse lover. Uh-huh. The horse is “no good” or “at the end of the line” so why not starve it, shot is, stab it. Why not? Hmm. Oh yeah, maybe the fact that that’s called… I don’t know… CRUELTY. Really people, get real. This is how we treat our “best friends” our “babies” or “loves” Not I.
    Have any form of a heart- STOP HORSE SLAUGHTER.

  22. The words humane slaughter is a lie in istelf. People have invented words like “Management” and “culling” so they can look in the mirror.
    Anyone who thinks any slaughter of any sentient being, including humans can be humane, are IMO just scared to face the truth. They would have to become vegan. Havent they got enough chickens cows and pigs etc to feed the vampire. Hands off our horses. We will stop you!

  23. Horse’s conditions didn’t get worse after slaughter house’s were closed. The old line of take the old/sick/injured/crippled/starved to slaughter is a lie. Over breeding and unresponsable horse owners are and have been the problem all along. Slaughter houses won’t take the starving, nor sick. If starving, there’s no good meat. If sick, then they’ve been given some kind of medication and can’t be slaughtered for 6 mos (and who’s minding that store?). The slaughter houses want your 3-10 yr olds, fat and able to get to the chutes as fast as they can.
    If you do need to put a horse down and can’t afford a Vet to do it or won’t put the needle in yourself, a bullet, aimed correctly is just as fast.
    Don’t give me the other line, puts a burden on farmers and ranchers. Please, they aren’t under any burden, there isn’t a person who doesn’t want a proven/solidly trained ranch horse. Ranchers get a whole bunch more money selling them to someone who wants a good horse then to kill buyers.
    The slaughter house kicked out of Canada in years past might be helping with campaign funds this year. Even Canada didn’t want that slaughter house in their COUNTRY, kicked them out, even if the slaughter house still owed Canada millions of dollars in fines/penalties. Slaughter houses won’t help the financial economy of this Country. They won’t pay taxes, they will pollute the land surounding them, where do you think the sluaghter houses dump the “unusable” parts of a horse. Pollute the rivers/lakes/streams/wells for many miles and not be responsible for any clean up’s. Ignore any penalties/fines incurred and just think what the property value of any land surrounding it will be.
    We don’t eat horse meat, we don’t need to supply Europe with additional horse meat, they have their own surplus problems.
    Yes, let your Rep’s know how you feel. Your opinion counts, no matter if you are with me or against me on this issue. We still have freedom of speach.

  24. I’m against horse slaughter and always will be. The horses are panicked once they are locked in the kill chute, esp. with the smell of blood and the sound of the collapse and thrashing and slipping and sliding – not to mention someone standing above them holding something foreign. If Belgium and France want to eat their horses, let the barbarians kill their own. Not to mention US horse slaughter will divert USDA inspection personnel away from the mainstream slaughter industry.

  25. I am one hundred percent against horse slaughter. Horses spend their lives working and doing their best to please us and this is how we repay them? Calling horse slaughter “necessary” and “a way to help neglected horses” is a sick joke. Its horrible. We, as horse lovers, can’t let them allow this.

  26. I think the article is wonderful. Horse slaughter is wrong. We won’t even mention the severe abuse of the entire process and how they are killed and the horror that leads up to it and all else. It is a shameful blight that the law against horse slaughter was reversed. Obama should know that he is showing great unenlightenment by not preventing horse slaughter. If one of his daughter’s had one of theses great creatures, he would not allow the slaughtering of them. Please let us put into law a PERMANENT stopping of horse slaughter.

  27. I hope the Reps and senators of all the states see our comments and start to think horse slaughter is wrong. Then I hope they will NOT vote for more to come to every state. I think this is one of the most disgusting things that ever entered my mind. Horses are sensitive and need love. It’s like would you want to be slaughtered? No I didn’t think so.

  28. Horse slaughter is not only cruel and inhumane to horses, it is harmful to humans as well. In its lifetime, a horse is given medications and other toxic substances that would be harmful to humans and animals that consume its meat. Horse meat is not sold in the United States, but it is exported to other countries.
    Horses are beautiful, intelligent animals that bring joy and friendship into our lives. We need to protect these sensitive animals from being killed.
    Horses can’t speak for themselves, but we can be their voice. Let congress know that Americans won’t stand by while these precious animals are butchered.
    Please don’t be a bystander, be a rescuer! Follow this link to act today: http://act.wildhorsepreservation.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=13157

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