A Timeline of Horse Slaughter Legislation in the United States

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The horse slaughter argument has heated up in recent months since the 2012 appropriations bill was approved without a ban for horse meat inspections. But this isn’t the first time the horse slaughter debate has been a hot topic. The timeline below lists some of the key dates in the United States horse slaughter industry.

Updated January 2014



Nov. 3, 1998:
California voters passed Proposition 6 which banned the slaughter of horses, donkeys and mules and sale of horse meat for human consumption.
June 8, 2005: Rep. John Sweeney (R-NY) proposes an amendment to the 2005-2006 appropriations bill that prohibits the use of federal funding for inspections of horses for meat. The amendment passed on a vote of 269-158.:


Sept. 20, 2005:
Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), a veterinarian, and nine co-sponsors proposed a companion amendment to the Sweeney amendment that had passed the House of Representatives. The Senate amendment passed 69-28.


Nov. 10, 2005:
The Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2005-2006 was signed into law. This appropriation bill included the following paragraph that ultimately led to the closure of horse slaughterhouses in the United States.

H. R. 2744—45
SEC. 794. Effective 120 days after the date of enactment of this Act, none of the funds made available in this Act may be used to pay the salaries or expenses of personnel to inspect horses under section 3 of the Federal Meat inspection Act (21 U.S.C. 603) or under the guidelines issued under section 903 the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996 (7 U.S.C. 1901 note; Public Law 104–127). (full text)



Feb. 8, 2006:
The USDA issued a regulation (CFR 352.19) that allowed the remaining slaughterhouses to circumvent the horse inspection funding ban by paying for their own inspections.


Sept. 7, 2006:
The House of Representatives passes the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, which would ban the sale and transport of American horses for human consumption. The Senate bill died in committee.


Jan. 7, 2007:
Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D-IL) reintroduced the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (H.R. 503). The bill was referred to the House Agriculture Committee and never moved to a full vote.


Jan 17, 2007:
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) introduced S. 311, the senate version of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act. It never reached a full vote of the Senate.


January 19, 2007:
The a three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit upheld Chapter 149 of the Texas Agriculture Code banning the sale, transfer or possession of horse meat for human consumption. This decision was upheld by the 19 judges of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on March 6, 2007. The statute had been in effect since 1949 but had not been enforced during the years that the Texas slaughterhouses were operational. This decision was upheld by the 19 judges of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on March 6, 2007.


March 23, 2007:
The Dallas Crown slaughterhouse of Kaufman, Texas shut down operations. The mayor and residents of Kaufman had fought a long and expensive battle in an effort to shutter the plant, which had a long list of environmental complaints and was considered a public nuisance.


March 28, 2007:
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that it was illegal for horse slaughterhouses to pay the USDA for their own horse meat inspections, closing the loophole that had allowed horse slaughter to continue around the federal law. USDA inspectors were pulled from Cavel International, the equine slaughterhouse in DeKalb, Ill. the following day, and operations were shut down.

However, Cavel appealed the decision and argued for an injunction in July 2007, and were able to resume slaughter while the case was still under consideration.



May 24, 2007:
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed H.B. 1711 into law, banning the slaughter of horses for human consumption in that state. The bill had been sponsored by Rep Robert Molaro (D-Chicago) and Sen. John Cullerton (D-Chicago) in February 2007. The bill was appealed by the operators of Belgian-owned Cavel International slaughterhouse in DeKalb, Ill.


Sept. 21, 2007:
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that the Illinois horse slaughter ban was constitutional, putting the final nail in the coffin of the last operational horse slaughterhouse in the U.S.


July 9, 2011:
Sen Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and cosponsor Lindsey Graham (R-SC) reintroduced the American Horse Slaughter Protection Act (S. 1176).


Sept. 9, 2011:
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a version of the agriculture appropriations bill that no longer contained the ban on funding for horse meat inspections.


Nov. 17, 2011:
The agriculture appropriations bill for 2012 was passed by Congress and signed into law without the wording that had prohibited horse meat inspections since 2006.


March 2013:
The Safeguard American Food Exports Act was introduced in both the House and Senate. If passed into law, the Act would declare horsemeat unsafe and ban the sale of horses to slaughter and of horsemeat for human consumption.


April 2013:
The White House released a budget proposal for 2014 that would once again prohibit federal funding of horse meat inspections.


January 2014:
A new federal budget with the horse slaughter prohibition language included was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama.

31 COMMENTS

  1. I think it is a good thing because if we don’t we will have an overpopulation of horses and they will get disease and die out! Do we want that i don’t think so

  2. I am against the USDA opening up inspections for the proposed horse slaughter plant in Gallatin, Missouri, or in any other city or county in Missouri or in the United States. Horses in the U.S. are not raised for human consumption.

    They are our friends and companions, and as such horses are treated with drugs like cats and dogs to a wide variety of vaccinations, bacterins, topical and oral treatments that are not approved for human consumption. We use gloves with topical treatments such as Surpass, because we don’t want equine drugs touching our skin, let alone consuming them.

    It’s not economical to raise horses for slaughter in the U.S., because it takes a whole lot more money to feed a horse than it does a bovine (or cow), for example. The USDA has no business inspecting a horse slaughter plant that by default will be receiving horses that are not fit for human consumption. The horses they will be receiving have not been raised drug-free for human consumption. That’s a fact.

    As a grower of corn, wheat and soybeans, the USDA’s reputation directly affects many. The European Union, which is where most of the horse meat would go, has a zero tolerance for Bute (Phenylbutazone) , which is routinely given to horses in the U.S. It is estimated that 90% of horses in the U.S. have been treated with this drug, not to mention all of the other drugs.

    There is no way to test for all of these drugs on every horse destined for slaughter. If you don’t believe me, then keep reading. We had a horse at one of the Universities that was sick and on the premises of the University, and it took two days for us to get the test results of one test. Many tests would need to be run on each horse, and there is no way to do this in a timely fashion.

    Most of the horses destined for slaughter are young or middle-aged, and in the prime of their lives. Two that have been rescued from slaughter have gone on and are now showing at the Morgan Grand National level.

    Horse slaughter has no place in America.

  3. 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

  4. We start with horses than what stops them from going tp dogs and cats we become like other companies that slaughter domestic animals. A country withoit a heart

  5. Horse slaughter must not be allowed on many levels. These are our children’s pets and friends. What message to we send to them to allow such atrocities? The slaughter of other animals for food is controversial enough especially concerning sanitary conditions. This opens up all sorts of future problems for regulators making sure horse meat is not incorporated with cow meat an other kinds of meat. And it opens up many avenues litigations and law suits against the government and the slaughter houses themselves.

  6. we need horse slaughter I am sorry it is a necessary evil with any animal it is not like a goldfish that when you don’t feed it you can flush it down the toilet not everyone has a place to bury a 1200 lb animal in their backyard. There are more horses being neglected and starving than when there was horse slaughter plants and what makes better sense sending these poor creatures to MX or Canada in crowded trailers for thousands of miles or keeping them in the US where their suffering won’t be as severe. Horses are classified as a livestock animal it has a hoof so what is next going after cows, hogs and goats because you don’t want Bessie the cow, Wilbur the pig or Elmer the goat to become someones next meal? I believe it should be up the owners if they want to send their animal to auction knowing where it might end up rather than not having a choice at all other than that animal suffering from neglect or starvation.

  7. Horse slaughter is a necessary. The few years horse slaughter was banned in the United States, it completely backfired. Horses were being abandoned in public areas and rescues were so overrun they stopped accepting any surrenders or new arrivals. Owners who didn’t have the funds or means to take care of these animals couldn’t sell them to legitimate owners either, so they were allowing them to simply die from malnourished in pastures. Plus, so many horses were just being shipped to Mexico and Canada anyway for slaughter there anyway. And Horses, by almost any state laws, are considered livestock. I know a lot of people who keep livestock as pets and wouldn’t eat them, but that doesn’t make them livestock none the less.

  8. Horse slaughter is NOT humane euthanasia!
    With the captive-bolt, which was developed for use on cattle, stunning is ineffective over 40% of the time when applied to domestic, trained horses (the ones full of prohibited drugs and medications.) This is due to the fact that horses’ heads cannot be restrained as cattle are and accuracy is very difficult. Horses will routinely break their own necks if restrained. The captive-bolt is ineffective at stunning wild, untrained or under-trained horses nearly 100% of the time. Everyone who knows horses and has any experience at all with wild horses knows that it is near impossible to get anywhere near their poll which is a very vulnerable area to every horse. To get near a wild horse’s poll with a captive-bolt apparatus and have an accurate shot is technically, practically and virtually impossible. This is the reason why we find so much carcass evidence documentation of severe abuse to slaughtered horses. The captive-bolt process itself is so ineffective that many horses are shot multiple times or vivisected while conscious. This is a definite violation of the Humane Slaughter Act which mandates slaughtered animals to be rendered “senseless with one (1) shot.”

  9. Carol of new york should put her money where her mouth is and volunteer to care for the horses that others are not able to care for any more. But, of course she will not, because she is just all mouth and no brains!

  10. Just so everyone is CLEAR,, The U.S. cannot slaughter horses but we allow our horses to be shipped to Canada & Mexico to be slaughtered,,, so to say the U.S is stopped horse slaughter is really NOT TRUE…
    The Safe Guard American Food Export Act 2013 H.R.1094/S,541 IF PASSED would STOP ALL HORSE SLAUGHTER once and for all…
    Please push your Rep’s to Co-Sponsor if they have not…
    Our horses are not Breed for human consumption, and we all know the drugs our horses ingest that are NOT for Human Consumption…
    Time for BREEDERS, ALL HORSSES OWNERS to take responsibility, to take ownership…
    Throwing horses to these Auctions then snapped up by kill buyers for slaughter is NOT EXCEPTABLE any longer…
    ARE WE such a THROW AWAY SOCIETY??
    ARE WE not suppose to be a Guardian for our animal’s
    HORSE SLAUGHTER NEEDS TO STOP

  11. The removal of the horse’s should be prohibited. Why are cattle allowed to graze on the land, but not the horse’s.? Horse slaughter anywhere should be illegal, if the horse’s must be removed they should be relocated to a national park where they are protected or made available for adoption thru any one of many agencies.

  12. this must be outlawed we should not be shipping our horses to other countries so they can murder them like this please enact this bill. No horse should ever be slaughtered here or anywhere else.

  13. I can’t believe we are still fighting this battle when it is the opinion of 80% of the American people that the sale and transport of any equine for human consumption is abhorrent, cruel and inhuman. Why has this not been passed? Because we have not made a big enough noise and we haven’t embarrassed enough of our legisaltors. It is time people, get to DC on Sept 29 and join the rally to stop this forever. https://www.facebook.com/events/1680186992213277/

  14. why has this slaughter act not been passed. it must be passed. this slaughter of horses has gone too far! end it for good!

  15. I am requesting permission to post the article about the Timeline of Horse Slaughter in the U.S. on Facebook and to use it (crediting the author) in my comments to the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board in September 2015. Since the original article had a “Share” Facebook feature attached, I will assume that posting it on Facebook at this time is permitted unless I hear otherwise today via e-mail.

  16. I can’t believe we are still fighting this. If it is not your horse, it is not your business what happens to it. Why is a horses life more valuable than a cow? If I own a horse, and wan to slaughter it, it should be my right to do so. We live in a constitutional democracy, it does not matter if 80% of people disagree, the minorities rights are protected. Don’t like horse slaughter, don’t slaughter horses. Quit telling others what they are allowed to do with their property.

  17. Horses are not raised for their meat….in my opinion they should not be labeled as “livestock” at the very least they are domestic livestock. How can we slaughter them for their food and deem it safe with all of the hazards not fit for human consumption we give them. It is impossible to tell what horses have been give through out their life. The slaughter process itself is not is any way humane for a horse. How can horse meat even be legal by any standards? To me the USA is just shipping them to other countries to do the dirty work and god knows the contaminated meat is probably coming right back to our country and being mixed in to our food supply. We need to look for other options for our beloved horses who have give us so much. If we stop making it so easy to just throw them away and breed more….the solution will find itself. I pray this day will come soon.

  18. Murder SINCE when they started all this stuff notright. The U>S>A> ought to stick up for this slaughter save these beautiful horses. Government in Washington, D.C.

  19. I agree horses weren’t raised to be slaughtered. There are over 300 usda banned chemicals found in the medication typically given to horses Bute being most used. If these medications were safe for human consumption then why do they clearly state not safe for human consumption. It is no secret when trailer after trailer full of horses cross the boarders to Canada and Mexico what’s going to happen to them. I live in Arizona a boarder state to Mexico if anyone thinks meat that has been processed in Mexico and sold in the United states doesn’t contain horse meat are out of their minds. I’d like to know if horses aren’t allowed to be sold and transported for slaughter for human consumption then why does our government allow them to be shipped to countries that slaughter them. We need to get these boarders closed it’s the only way

  20. I love it .!I love you for doing something good and kind.As a horse lover and previous owner , asd I learn to use animal assisted therapy with hoses ,so detrimental. But I have not been able to sleep, since seeing videos of our horses betrayed, tortured, and,slaughtered. My heart is broken.

  21. I have had the great pleasure of working with and riding/training horses since I was capable of walking. Any true horseman knows that horse slaughter is necessary, especially with the amounting number of unwanted horses in the united states. For those of you who simply believe that “relocating” these animals helps them I would like to prove how wrong you are. I don’t think people realize how many horses are starving to death or dying horrible deaths because their owners can no longer care for them. Yes, relocation would work in a great and beautiful world but we have to face the fact that we can’t just continue to let poorly bred horses continue to breed and tarnish their species. Horse slaughter can be done properly, just as cattle can be slaughtered properly. Horses are LIVESTOCK not COMPANION animals. They were never truly used as companion animals. Horse’s were first used as food and were one of the last animals to be domesticated. I would love to see all of you “horse” people to tell me exactly where you are going to put all these extra sick/old/disease riddled creatures at and how you plan on paying for them? One horse should have at least 2-4 acres of their own, so tell me how many of you actually have the area to house 17 horses, can pay their vet bills, pay their expenses, and the rest of their upkeeping? I would just LOVE you to tell me how exactly you plan on keeping all these horses? Because you “back yard” horse owners have your head in the clouds…..

  22. RESPONDING TO “MADISON” FROM NOCONA, TX WHO MADE A COMMENT 10/7/16: You are the one with your head in the clouds; i don’t care how long you’ve been a horsie person; it’s obvious you don’t have a clue about what’s happening with the horse slaughter issues. There are papered, young, healthy, beautiful, PREGNANT, heavily trained horses being stuffed in kill pens all across the U.S. as they didn’t sell at auction. Your comment about the only ones being slaughtered are the Heinz 57’s, the sick and old could not be more incorrect. The overabundance of unwanted horses starts with backyard breeders & irresponsible owners. Inform yourself! You have a lot to learn.

  23. Madison I am 1000% positive that you have been misinformed regarding the truth about horse slaughter. We all try to not think about it and some of us try to rationalize it as being more humane then allowing horses to be sick or starve. What you must not know is healthy horses that deserve a second chance and some that have been either stolen and or mistakenly sent make up a large majority of horses found in kill pens. I know because I rescue them as well as the sick ones that need a second chance. Sending a loyal companion with no food or water for days scared in a trailer to ultimately be killed in Mexico or Canada is cruel, if people love their horses and knew the truth they would never allow them to be treated that way. This ugly business is causing rescues to be completely over flowing due to the people profiting from this disgusting market.

  24. what you’ll find is that most people who are for horse slaughter stand to gain from it. Everyone who is informed with the process is against it. Pro-slaughter Either are an irresponsible breeder or somehow connected with a kill pen/auction/slaughter business or getting kickbacks in some way. The AQHA gives money to pro slaughter politicians, etc. Even with this thread you can see most are against it, yet it is a struggle every part of the way to get the SAFE act passed. We have to protect those horses being transported to Mexico. Kill pens are abusing and starving animals because of this loophole. Yet, the authorities do nothing. We need regulations on over-breeding and to pass the SAFE act. AFFORDABLE euthanasia needs to be readily available WITH accessible rendering services .. that’s where we need to take care of the sick, lame, and dangerous, just like we do our pets. Wake up Washington

  25. Just as they have restrictions on other animals in the numbers females you can have and breed there should be such restrictions on horses of all varieties per household, family, ranch, etc. Oh I know there would be a huge fight by racing farms and show horses, but they are a big part of the problem when after a race or number of races a owner will just throw away his losers and a dozen or more will arrive in a feed or kill buyer lot (whichever you prefer to call it). In the most recent flagrant disposal of year-long plus horses I saw were 5, quarter horses delivered to a lot in TX the weekend after they had won their owner over $303,000.00. The shameful part of this is that a breeder of the horses didn’t take them back and work with youth groups who would love to have a gelding to show and eventually ride. That breeder is a famous former NFL player whose first name is Terry and lives in OK.
    Shame on these venues for not working with groups who would gladly work with them.
    What is worse is these are the horses that have had the most chemicals pumped into their bodies and very unfit for human consumption. But I guess it is ok to poison people in foreign countries. Right?

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