What we say to the Joint AVMA-CVMA-FedMVZ Statement on Horse Slaughter

A mare and foal slowly make their way down the aisle of a slaughter auction house, tagged for a brutal death. Google image. Photographer not cited.
A mare and foal slowly make their way down the aisle of a slaughter auction house, tagged for a brutal death. Google image. Photographer not cited.

Perhaps predictably, and certainly not surprisingly, the veterinary associations of the U.S., Mexico and Canada have joined together in issuing a statement on horse slaughter that in so many words still support it.

Here’s what they say:

Veterinarians believe horse owners have a responsibility to provide humane care for their horses throughout their horses’ lives. Unfortunately, some horses may become unwanted because they are no longer serviceable, become infirm or dangerous, or their owners are no longer able to care for them. Retirement facilities and adoption groups offer options for some of these unwanted horses, which may be placed in new homes and/or retrained for new “careers.” However, there will always be horses for which new homes or retraining are not available. Responsible options for these unwanted horses include euthanasia followed by appropriate disposal of the carcass to minimize risks to public and environmental health associated with drug residues, or humane slaughter.

Consumption of horsemeat by humans is a cultural and personal choice; the veterinarian’s primary focus is on the health and welfare of the horse throughout its life. That said, our veterinary associations believe the humane slaughter of horses is preferable to a life in discomfort and pain, inadequate care, or abandonment.

Horses destined for slaughter should be handled and transported to the processing facility in a humane manner. Use of local slaughter facilities is preferred to avoid welfare risks (e.g., physical and mental stress, injury) associated with long-distance travel. Horses should be humanely slaughtered consistent with the requirements of the country in which the horses are being processed.

Here’s (just some of) what we say.

Paragraph 1

We agree on this. Certainly individuals should take responsibility for the correct and legal disposal of any type of unwanted property. And that is what horses are deemed as — someone’s property.

Anyone who “owns” an animal knows the chances are that animal may become mortally ill or wounded while in their care. Having taken on this important responsibility, it is right that the owner of any animal prepare themselves to handle this potential ordeal in a right and humane fashion.

Horses are of course large animals and the disposal of the remains a bit more involved than with pets or smaller animals.

This is the reason we put together the document “Insuring Your Horse for a Humane End”. http://www.horsefund.org/insuring-your-horse-for-a-humane-end.php

Here’s a quote from that document:

“I know my horse is sick and hurting. I just wanted to find a way to get her put down. I was going to have the vet do it. I’ve got the money for that. But what were we going to do with her body? Nobody seemed to know and my husband said this would be easier for everybody.”

— Horse Owner after her selling her 6 yo Thoroughbred to a Kill Buyer, Sugar Creek Auction, Ohio


Easier for the humans, but a monstrous thing for the horse.

What we mean by “insuring” a horse for a humane end is very simple. Take out horse mortality insurance if you can afford it. Or, find out how much it will cost to have your horse euthanized and the remains disposed of, and put this amount aside in a special savings account. If you can afford the expenses associated with horse ownership, you should be able to afford this. This will give you peace of mind.

However, we know that we live in a society where not everyone acts responsibly. So long as horse slaughter exists, there will be horse owners who will use the slaughter pipeline to mercilessly dump their horses.

If these people are happy to send a horse to slaughter, it begs the question what else are they capable of. Yet it sounds as if these veterinarian organizations are saying that we should pander to these types and keep the horse slaughter option open for people like them.

Paragraph 2

This is an old, old argument the AVMA has trotted out for as long as we have been dealing with the horse slaughter issue. How can anyone who supposedly understands animals of any sort, say with a straight face, that slaughter can be made humane in a slaughterhouse scenario? By definition it is impossible, and we will go so far as to state that is has never been done.

We have never seen any reliable statistic, documentation or example that horse slaughter in any way reduces abuse and neglect. Abuse and neglect of horses exists because there are abusive and neglectful people.

Paragraph 3

There is a huge amount of detailed documentation of horse transport cruelties. It matters very little how long or how far horses must endure it. The number of “short trips” of even a few hours are miniscule. Even then there are enough horrors committed against slaughter bound horses never to warrant the continuation of this evil practice, let alone base an argument that shorter distances somehow lessens the cruelty of it.

Insofar as the statement that horses should be humanely slaughtered consistent with the country’s regulations the horses end up being “processed” in (how they love this euphemism”) is simply outrageous.

There are many things that “should be” done that aren’t, can’t be and won’t be.

We repeat: There is no such thing as a humane slaughterhouse.

If you think there is, I challenge you to visit one sometime no matter the food animal — or watch one of the numerous videos available — and see how long you can take it and just what it is these organizations are saying it’s a-okay to do.


What it boils down to in our opinion is simply this. As long as people demand meat there will be slaughterhouses, horses included.

Numerous veterinarians are hired by slaughterhouses and part of what they so blithely call the “process”.

Many veterinarians see no reason horses should be spared slaughter, that it isn’t any worse for them than any other animal killed for his meat in these horror filled, high speed killing factories, where in addition to the inherent gross cruelties, sadistic workers are seen heaping on additional abuses just for fun.

They are scared if they admit it for one animal, they might have to admit it for all. And that would really be admitting something. Wouldn’t it?



• Slaughter —
1. the killing or butchering of cattle, sheep, etc., especially for food.
2. the brutal or violent killing of a person.
3. the killing of great numbers of people or animals indiscriminately; carnage: the slaughter of war.
verb (used with object)
4. to kill or butcher (animals), especially for food.
5. to kill in a brutal or violent manner.
6. to slay in great numbers; massacre.
• Euthanasia —
1. Also called mercy killing. the act of putting to death painlessly or allowing to die, as by withholding extreme medical measures, a person or animal suffering from an incurable, especially a painful, disease or condition.
2. painless death.


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