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A Timeline of Horse Slaughter Legislation in the United States

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.

Leslie Potter

Leslie Potter is a graduate of William Woods University where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Equestrian Science with a concentration in saddle seat riding and a minor in Journalism/Mass Communications. She is currently a writer and photographer in Lexington, KY.Potter worked as a barn manager and riding instructor and was a freelance reporter and photographer for the Horsemen's Yankee Pedlar and Saddle Horse Report before moving to Lexington to join Horse Illustrated as Web Editor from 2008 to 2019. Her current equestrian pursuits include being a grown-up lesson kid at an eventing barn and trail riding with her senior Morgan gelding, Snoopy.

View Comments

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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:

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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."

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