Congress Addressing Horse Slaughter Cruelty in Federal Legislation


Sad horseA large, bipartisan coalition of lawmakers has introduced legislation to stop the export of American horses for butchering in Canada and Mexico, as well as to codify a de facto ban on the slaughter of American horses here in the United States for sale to countries in Europe and Asia.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) introduced the bill known as the Conyers-Burton Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act, and its passage is a top priority for The Humane Society of the United States and other animal welfare and equine rescue organizations, veterinarians and horse industry groups. This bill is similar to legislation passed by the House Judiciary Committee last September.

“Every day that passes means that there will be more torment and more suffering for America’s horses,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. “The horse is an American icon, and it is a betrayal of our responsibility to these animals to treat them like cheap commodities and send them across our borders for slaughter. We ask leaders in Congress for an up or down vote and passage of this critical legislation.”

State legislatures have acted to stop horse slaughter, shuttering the last remaining foreign-owned horse slaughter plants in the U.S. in 2007, and federal courts have upheld those state laws. But Congress has failed to act to stop the export of live horses to Canada and Mexico for slaughter, which is still occurring. More than 86,000 horses were sent across U.S. borders to slaughter in Canada or Mexico in 2008, surpassing the number of exports in 2007.

In the 109th Congress, legislation to stop horse slaughter passed the House of Representatives numerous times by a margin of more than 100 votes, and passed the Senate by a more than two-to-one margin. But in the 110th Congress, prior legislation, H.R. 503, was not enacted because it was blocked by House committee leaders and Western senators. Animal advocates hope the new bill will advance quickly in Chairman Conyers’ House Judiciary Committee.

The HSUS documented cruelty and abuse when investigators followed “killer buyers” transporting horses thousands of miles from auctions to feedlots to interstate highways. They also documented a barbaric method of slaughter on a kill floor in Juarez, Mexico. Recent documentation uncovered by horse welfare advocates demonstrates that the plants in the U.S. were equally inhumane and riddled with gross abuse.

May 2005 – U.S. House of Representatives approves the Rahall-Whitfield Amendment to the FY 2006 Interior Appropriations Bill to restore federal protections from commercial sale and slaughter to wild horses and burros. House vote: 249-159. The provision is stripped in conference from the final bill.
June 2005 – U.S. House of Representatives approves the Sweeney-Spratt-Rahall-Whitfield Amendment to the FY 2006 Agriculture Appropriations Bill to prohibit the use of tax dollars to pay for inspections of horsemeat. House vote: 269-158
September 2005 – U.S. Senate approves the Ensign-Byrd Amendment to the FY 2006 Agriculture Appropriations Bill to prohibit the use of tax dollars to pay for inspections of horsemeat. Senate vote: 69-28
September 2006 – U.S. House of Representatives passes H.R. 503, the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act. The 109th Congress adjourns before the Senate can consider the bill. House vote: 263-146
March 2007 – The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirms decision upholding a Texas state law banning the sale of horsemeat for human consumption.
March 2007 – A federal district court orders the U.S. Department of Agriculture to stop inspecting horsemeat at the Cavel International slaughter plant, effectively closing the last operating horse slaughtering operation in the United States.
April 2007 – U.S. Senate Commerce Committee votes 15-7 to approve S. 311 to ban horse slaughter and exports of horses for slaughter.
April 2007 – U.S. House of Representatives passes H.R. 249 to restore a decades-old ban on the commercial sale and slaughter of wild horses first enacted under the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. House vote: 277-137
May 2007 – The U.S. Supreme Court announces that it denies to consider an appeal of the lower court decision upholding Texas’ ban on the sale of horsemeat for human consumption.
May 2007 – Gov. Rod Blagojevich signs H.B. 1711, banning horse slaughter in Illinois.
September 2007 – A three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit unanimously upholds the Illinois state law banning the slaughter of horses for human consumption in that state.
July 2008 – Chairman John Conyers and Dan Burton introduce H.R. 6598, legislation amending Title 18 to prohibit horse slaughter for human consumption as a form of equine cruelty.
September 2008 – House Judiciary Committee passes H.R. 6598 by voice vote after majority reject multiple poison pill amendments.


  1. What are they going to do with all the surplus horses? People are trying to give them away,and when they can’t they don’t feed them. Rescue facilities are overflowing. This is a big problem.

  2. I hope the bill passes as well. As far as “excess” horses this is caused, in most part, by human error. We are a disposable society so when we don’t want something any longer we just get rid of it. It is time for everyone to grow up and be responsible. If you don’t just breed to get a “cute” little foal you won’t be hung up in this dilemma. It all starts will responsibility, there is absolutely no reason what so ever for people to just “unload” their unwanted horses. If you aren’t sure you always want to keep it then don’t breed it!!!

  3. I agree people who don’t plan to take care of their horses should not breed or have them. That still doesn’t solve this problem. I own 5 horse and have owned horses into their thirties. Even if slaughter is stopped there is a huge surplus that will take millions of dollars to address. The horses will still suffer. If congress stops slaughter they need to address the entire problem. They are being as irresponsible as the person who breeds a horse and does not understand how to train or care for the horse.

  4. The surplus of horses is still definitely a problem, but the bill sounds great in itself, its to hard to take on such a huge problem all at once, starting out small is easier and hopefully the economy will bounce back so that people can take care of their horses again.

  5. I think your absolutely right Dona. I dont see this bad economy so bad I see it as a wake up call. to be very conservative about the things we do and live. little things that we might all be guily of light leaving extra lights on in the house and outside or owning such fuel buring vehicles or leaving the water on longer that needed. just little things that add up. We have four horses and plan on keeping them until they kick over. Its called responsiblity. The problems with the whinners is there are no unwanted horses its the Auctioneers, the killers,the over breeders and the associations such as the AQHA,AHPA,AVMA,AAEP all crying at a problem they created. Its time for this bill to pass its time for reality to kick in for them if they have a bit of common sinse. We already know the AVMA and AAEP took an Oath to protect horses yet these Organizations call US and Foreign slaughter humane euthaniza. bull crap its money in there pockets and promotes irresponsiblity not to mention congress officals ignoring the will of majority of Americans that want this bill passed. Not one of these organizations donates to any horse rescues in the US.

  6. Some things are more cruel than slaughter!!!! Please address the unwanted,the starving,the neglected horse and the economics of no slaughter. What a waste, surely there is something with the horse that we can use after he is dead. City/urban dwellers look at death differently than rural folks.

  7. Some things are more cruel than slaughter!!!! Please address the unwanted,the starving,the neglected horse and the economics of no slaughter. What a waste, surely there is something with the horse that we can use after he is dead. City/urban dwellers look at death differently than rural folks.

  8. Some things are more cruel than slaughter!!!! Please address the unwanted,the starving,the neglected horse and the economics of no slaughter. What a waste, surely there is something with the horse that we can use after he is dead. City/urban dwellers look at death differently than rural folks.

  9. Its not the slaughter thats the problem; its their life up until the moment of slaughter (shipment to the slaughter house and the treatment up until the moment of slaughter). The way they are treated and how inhumanely they are slaughtered because they are for human consumption. This business is only there for the money and they don’t care about the horse’s suffering. Its barbaric.

  10. Please stop this horrendous and barbaric mass slaughter. No horse or any other animal deserves this. Credit crunch may be partly to blame but so is over breeding. Why should a racehorse be slaughtered if it can’t run quickly. It was the breeders fault for breeding. This is mans problem not the horses problem. All a horse wants is someone to care for him and look after him. It would be better if there weren’t any horses at all rather than have them neglected, mained, injured, starved and unwanted. That would however be a sad world without the horse. It is the responsibility of the owner to look after their horses as they either breed them, bought them or offered to look after them. Why blame the horse for man’s faults. And for the Mexican and Canadian slaughter workers I can only say I hope that they can sleep at night. They are absolute disgrace to the human society.

  11. I’m all for stopping cruelty but what do we do with all the horses? I live in Eastern Kentucky and we need help. There is a herd of 200 running loose in Paintsville. I met a woman that took a horse to sell at auction, it didn’t sell and when she came out, there were 3 more horses put in her trailer. The auction wouldn’t take them, so she ended up taking them home. I can show you all kinds of horses that are starving, hay prices are to high and there is no market for horses. What do we do with them?

  12. Seriously, what is to be done with unwanted horses if they can’t be slaughtered? The $$$ drugs to euthanise them, when you don’t have the money to feed them? Where do you bury a 1 ton dead animal? What is the environmental cost of eliminating horse meat from dog food- how many more destructive cows will be grazed to make up for the horses that are no longer included?
    I have a problem with inhumane slaughter, but not with slaughter. Slaughter is the best solution for a lot of horses, and their owners. Minus one old, lame horse, plus enough money to feed the others for the winter. And you don’t end up with a body to dispose of. Congress needs to learn some damn practicality.

  13. I think slaughter should be banned everywhere. It is inhumane and people should humanely euthanize unwanted horses. There should be a limited amount of how many horses are bred that way there will not be as many horses being born. The unwanted horses should get a home first before more horses are bred. Stop the Slaughter.

  14. I have been blessed with the love of horses for over 40 years. I cannot understand how anyone can kill (murder) a horse, under such cruel and horrific conditions.
    “If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.” ~St. Francis of Assisi
    I, a horse owner & lover, support the Conyers-Burton Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act.

  15. Although horse slaughter is unpleasant at best it is still a necessary evil. If horses are banned from slaughter do you have any idea how many will be starved to death, I am a horse owner and love my horses but am also smart enough to know that horses are livestock, the article said something about the horse being an american icon or something, what about the american buffalo i would also say that is an american icon but the are butchered for human consumption everyday, if not buffalo are going to take over way more ground than anybody wants to give them. Do you also know how many millions of your tax dollars are already spent on taking care of wild horses, whats going to happen when people just start opening the gates (which is already happening) and turning their unwanted horse out, are you prepared to take care of all of those with your tax dollars , I’m sure not. You bleeding heart liberals need to wake up to the real world and maybe try to help out your fellow human instead of putting all your effort into saving livestock.

  16. Slaughter is never the highlight of an animals life. I think that if horses are banned from slaughter abuse will rise and they will get over populated. From this law more problems will come to the surface then just killing horses. Also, since people are taking horses to Mexico and Canada then that is a longer ride for the horses to be on. This is making the horse market horrible, it all has to do with supply and demand. Because there are so many horses they are getting sold for cheap. Maybe instead of banning horse slaughter we should make a law to make it more humane.

  17. I will never be okay with horse slaughter. The slaughter facilities don’t want sick and neglected horses they want fat and meaty horses. If there is such a need for unwanted horse there should be more funding for horse rescues. There should be more positive interventions into our over population and stricter laws against owner neglect. Money is the only source of horse slaughter, not humane treatment. Anyone who would see these videos, which there are many, wouldn’t think twice where they stand on horse slaughter. It is sad. Horses are used to produce snake anti-venom, transportation, 4-H, companions, and many more things without a negative impact. They are not our food source. They are our loyal friend. If there are so many unwanted horses in the US. Why do we keep getting the wild mustangs and adding to our supposed problem of too many horses?

  18. If there is an eternal Heaven may it be graced with horses. If there is an eternal Hell may the butchers enjoy their stay….

  19. I am 100% for the slaughter of horses in America. There is not enough jobs to circulate money to care for the animals that are unwanted, or cant be taken care of so why not slaughter them just like every other animal. Cows’ and pigs’ are pets also i dont know what all the fuss is about. Closing down the plants in the states was a lead to a new economic crisis. Thousands of people lost their jobs, as well as many horses are just left to starve now, would u rather see them die quick or let them suffer by not giving a dam about them?

  20. Caitlyn from Ohio – EDUCATE yourself, please on what actually goes into the process of slaughtering a horse. From the terror to the physical pain, it is inhuman to treat horses this way. The slaughter process is ineffective with regard to making a horse senseless before it is hauled upside down, its throat slit, and skinned while still alive. Is that worth some uneducated, unskilled person’s job?! HELL NO. Let them find work doing something that contributes to society instead of contiributing to animal torture.

  21. i think that the killing of horses is inhuman my shetland was bought from a sluaghter house for $20 and was given to a friend who gave lessons on him before giving him to us where he lived for an other 4-5 year before passing away last week. he lived much longer than anyone exspected him to and had a very happy and full life. PLEASE RESCUE HORSE THAT ARE SOLD TO THE SLAUGHTER HOUSE. THEY CANT TALK SO WE NEED TO STAND UP FOR THEM. MOST OF THE HORSE ARE PERFECTLY FINE ALL THEY NEED IS FOR SOMEONE TO LOVE THEM.

  22. You people need to get real and get your heads out of this fantasy world where everything gets to live a long happy life. I know that sounds mean but its just the truth, there is no way around it. I personally use to haul horses to the plant in Fort Worth, for a former employer. We hauled approximately 35 horses per week. Now that sounds like alot but when you have a over 1000 head with and interchangeable 750 head per month its not. When i unloaded at the plant there was fresh alfalfa in every pen and every stall, fresh water and so many USDA inspectors you couldnt breathe. Im not so ignorant to think that i could ever change the minds of you idots. You people posting your anti-horse slaughter BS dont even know what your talking about. I come from a long line of breeders and have been in the business for along time and we run a large operation. Ik every in and out of the business and i can tell everyone of you that says the horsesalughter is cruel and its torture are flat out wrong. Like i said ik i cant change the ignorant mind of a animal rights activist. But there is a American Government given right to decide what you do with your own property. Now im not saying that Michael Vick should be able to fight dogs as long as he owns them. But slaughtering horses for export is a business and its not any more cruel than the thousands of cows and pigs that we slaughter and most of you hypocrits devour that meat everyday with not a thought to it. So if you can slaughter your cow for food than by god i should be able to slaughter my horse. The fact that we can’t do that anymore unless we ship to mexico, which by the way mexican slaughter houses offend me cause they have no regulations, so they just kill them however they can. The fact that we cant slaughter our horses for consumption no matter where it is being consumed, is sad and its an injustice to our rights as U.S. citiznes

  23. Ok Horse lovers i hate to ruin your ill informed little minds. But the truth is that horses dont want love they wanna be running around free in a herd where they can go wherever they want to, when they want to with no man to mess with them at all. If yoe really care about these horses, then you need to get your congressman to write a bill banning all cars and forcing people to tear down all types of fences so that we can be living in the old days when that many horses could live free and on their own. Its rediculous huh? Ya well so is the slaughter ban.

  24. The slaughter of horses as we see it in 2009 is cruel and inhumane. The transporting across US Boarders is worse than slaughter houses in the states. Those plants and the methods of slaughter were not acceptable here either. The transporting of horses in cattle double decker trucks need to be stopped and the laws enforced. Slaughter in itself is not what irks alot of people ti is we have no Humane way to slaughter the horse as the captive bolt is not deisgned for horses and there is no head restraint used.slinging live horses up by the leg and cutting them up is not ethical or humane. If anyone wants to look at it go to the Web. Its all on there from slaughter plants in 2005 in Texas and Illinois to 2009 in Canada and mexico.Canadian plants are bad too. Do the research and you understand what the answers are.

  25. What if the United States upgraded there old slaughter houses, Killed in a humane fashion, in a clean enviroinment wouldn’t that help, I believe in slaughter, because there are to many horses that are being treated inhumanely because people are stupid sometimes, and don’t realize that thier underfed, crippled up horses need to be put down. How many people out there can afford to have a vet come out and put there friend down, not at 500 dollars plus the cost of taking the carcus off the property, what another 200 dollars, I guess the government isn’t smart enough to figure out a pretty simple proccess of smart slaughter.

  26. 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:


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