Horses on Slaughter Truck. HSUS Image.

When Horse Slaughter Comes to Town: Alternatives to Slaughter

Slaughter is a useless as a tool for controlling the unwanted horse population.

Horses on Slaughter Truck. HSUS Image.
Horses on Slaughter Truck. HSUS Image.

WITH the devastated economy, its slow recovery and the closure of all horse slaughter facilities in the US, pro-slaughter groups want you to believe there is no alternative. A study examining horse slaughter trends in the United States, Canada and Mexico carried out by researchers in conjunction with Animal Law Coalition shows otherwise.

Backed by data from the United States Dept of Agriculture, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other government and private sources, the conclusion was that the demand for horse meat is controlled by foreign markets rather than a surplus of unwanted horses. Europeans and Asians regard horse meat as a delicacy.[1]

John Holland, senior analyst for AAHS (Americans Against Horse Slaughter) explains:

“Slaughter is useless as a tool for controlling the unwanted horse population and instead simply creates a market that competes with potential buyers of horses and encourages a continuous supply.

“The trends are irrefutable. We found that equine abuse levels are clearly linked to economic conditions but that slaughter trends were antithetical to them for most of the study period.

“The demand for horse meat creates a market where horse slaughter ‘kill buyers’ compete with other people who want to buy horses. This encourages owners to supply that market through over-breeding horses, for example.”[2]

Essentially what this implies is that if horse slaughter for human consumption and export to Mexico and Canada for the purposes of slaughter is, then there will be no incentive for these individuals, and the markets will turn elsewhere to find their meat.

Holland goes on to say:

“Those demanding horse meat would simply look to other countries for horses. The study also shows that the market has quickly adjusted to large decreases in slaughter in the past, indicating that there would be no significant or sustained increase in unwanted or abandoned horses.”[3]

To further support this premise, the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), an organization that is pro-horse slaughter, accounts for more than half of all horses going to slaughter. Astoundingly, the AQHA encourages breeders to breed without consideration so the surplus continues. “Many are culls which breeders were unable to sell.”

In a slanted survey undertaken by the pro-slaughter American Horse Council and Unwanted Horse Coalition, remarkably, only 30% of these “stakeholders” thought this was contributing to overpopulation and neglect.[4] It is important to note that no anti-slaughter groups or individuals were invited to participate in this survey.

R.T. Fitch, author of “Pro-Slaughter Group Issues Tainted Survey Results,” comments:

“Americans should be outraged that Congress allows needed legislation to languish and continually be blocked and stalled by special interest groups that perpetuate the over breeding of horses.”[5]

Simply stated, if there is no easy way to dispose of unwanted horses, fewer horses will be bred.

Moreover, Dr. Patricia Hogan, DVM, ACVS, a veterinary surgeon and AAEP member states:

“If we want to be ‘part of the solution,’ then we truly need to examine our role in the problem, and actually put our own house in order. Put some ‘teeth’ into our bite. But that commitment needs to come from within our own circle before we can expect our advice to be heeded by other factions within the racing industry. If we had been truly living by the mantra of ‘putting the horse first,’ many of the issues we are facing today would simply not exist. United we stand, divided we fall. That statement has never been more true for horse racing; and for the veterinary community supporting it.”[6]

It is a given fact that the depressed economy is making it harder for some horse owners and breeders to adequately care for their animals. Yet this is no reason to re-introduce a practice morally and socially unacceptable that is rife with unspeakable abuse, adding nothing to the economy and overwhelming the environment around it. These so-called “unwanted horses” . . . “are a serious problem . . . . and so broad it impacts the entire United States, not just the horse racing industry. Perhaps it’s time for a wake-up call.” says Tom LaMarra in an article posted in 2008 by[7]

The pro-horse slaughter AQHA continue to encourage rampant over breeding of horses, complain about how many “unwanted horses” there are, then reportedly lobby to defeat federal legislation banning horse slaughter and pass state resolutions to bring back horse slaughter back to the US.

Yet the ruse continues as shown in this statement by Tom Persechino, senior director of marketing; “it’s not practical to force breeders to limit the number of horses they breed, but it is feasible to educate them. He said the Unwanted Horse Coalition “believes teaching people to own responsibly will help lower the number of unwanted horses.”[8]

Even so, there are movements within the horse industry to address the surplus horse dilemma.

These strategies are aimed at reducing the number of unwanted horses on the front end through responsible breeding, and on the rear end through rescue/retirement facilities, retraining for alternative careers, and low-cost euthanasia options.

The main objective of these policies is to improve the quality of life of unwanted horses and to reduce their numbers. Or are they?

The horse industry has among them “do-gooder” organizations such as the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), the American Veterinarian Medical Association (AVMA), the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), the American Horse Council (AHC), and the Unwanted Horse Coalition (UHC) among others, and a new group called the Equine Health and Welfare Alliance (EHWA).

And what do all of these organizations have in common? They are all pro-horse slaughter.

Masked behind policies designed to have you believe that they are looking to “focus solely on issues and mechanisms that protect, promote and preserve adequate humane measures of basic needs for the horse” lurks the specter of their final solution, death in a slaughterhouse.

As Economics Professor Dr. Caroline Betts, PhD cleverly points out in her article, “The economic reality of scarce and toxic horses”:

“I was not surprised that Dr Tom Lenz, past president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, readily credited the organization for coining the phrase ‘Unwanted Horse’ in his article ‘The Unwanted Horse in the United States – International Implications’

“It is a coup d’etat of language choice for those American equine practitioners lobbying hardest to maintain a U.S. export market for horse meat. Dr Lenz manages to equate ‘unwanted’ with ‘slaughtered for human consumption’ and with ‘should be slaughtered for human consumption, but aren’t, because we need additional slaughter plants on American soil.

“Horses slaughtered are neither privately nor socially ‘unwanted,’ for they command a positive price both at auction and at the slaughter plant gate – and I suspect that if they did not, we would not be having this debate at all. As any Economics 101 student can tell you, positive prices signal not ‘unwanted-ness,’ but scarcity.”[9]

Dr. Betts concludes:

“The flesh of ‘unwanted horses’ is acknowledged to be toxic when consumed by humans. And who among the politicians, equine practitioners, and veterinarians lobbying to prevent a ban on the slaughter of American horses – in the name of equine welfare – would wish to be responsible for the deleterious impact for human welfare associated with promoting the slaughter of toxic horses?”[10]

In a letter to the editor of HorseBack Magazine, Dr. Betts proposes some reforms:

“Why, instead, aren’t these states considering the establishment of temporary state funded horse rescues, with jobs in them that provide tax revenue, until the economy recovers and the horses can find homes? Why aren’t they providing additional funding and jobs for Humane Societies and Animal Control agencies to cope with whatever is being claimed that they are having to deal with? Why not do something that BENEFITS HORSES as well as creating some jobs? And why not impose a state tax on horse breeders to help fund it all?”[11]

In an article entitled “Stop Horse Slaughter: Is There Another Solution?” the author suggests we should enforce laws or rules that govern the ownership of a horse or horses.

“Maybe we should be required to obtain a license for breeding horses. Maybe we should put limits on how many horses may be bred a year. Maybe we should have to be licensed to own a horse just like we have to be licensed to drive a car or to go hunting. With horse ownership, and even breeding ability, open to just anyone, there are too many people who can’t or don’t know how to care for their animals and too many horses who aren’t useful. We, not the slaughter houses, are our horses’ worst enemy.”[12]

Congressional Taxing on Breeding

It appears that legislators in Washington may have some ideas of their own.

Stephanie Sellers, in an editorial letter to The Pilot observes:

“The 112th Congress is looking for ways to raise revenue.

There are approximately 9.2 million horses in America. Applying fair taxes to horse owners would create significant revenue and spur the economy. Taxing horses would also create a greater sense of responsibility for horse owners.

Citizens take better care of things they have to pay for. Taxing horses would also deter horse overpopulation, as breeding would be minimized. Redeeming pride for America’s much-admired companion animal would make passing bills to halt horse slaughter more favorable.”[13]

Probably the most relevant advantage of the taxation scheme is related to the taxation of breeders, not the average horse owner. Currently breeders enjoy a breeding incentive by way of millions of tax dollar write offs. Ideally, these breeding incentives and prohibitive tax write offs should be abolished and taxes enforced.

Overactive breeders are the root of the surplus horse situation devaluing the market. This would return horse breeding to quality over quantity and benefit the industry as a whole.
[1] Stern, Peter; What’s new at the dinner table; Tuesday’s Horse; ; May 21, 2007.

[2] Allen, Laura; Study shows ban on horse slaughter would not result in numbers of unwanted horses; Animal Law Coalition; ; Jun. 17, 2008.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Allen, Laura; Animal Law Coalition; A study of equine slaughter/abuse patterns following closure of horse slaughter plants in US; ; Jun. 18, 2008.

[5] Fitch, R.T.; Pro-slaughter group issues tainted survey results; ; Jul. 10, 2009.

[6] Hogan, Patricia, DVM, ACVS; Putting the horse first? Equine Advocates via Bloodhorse; ; 2009.

[7] LaMarra, Tom; Unwanted horses: How serious a problem? Bloodhorse; ; Jun. 19, 2008.

[8] Hogan, Patricia, DVM, ACVS; Putting the Horse First? .

[9] Lenz, Tom; The unwanted horse in the United States – international implications; ; Feb. 5, 2010.

[10] Betts, Caroline M. PhD; HorseTalk; ; Feb. 17, 2010.

[11] Betts, Caroline M. PhD; Letter to the editor, HorseBack Magazine; ; Mar. 25, 2009.

[12]; Stop horse slaughter: Is there another solution?; ; Jan. 11, 2008.

[13] Sellers, Stephanie; They Tax Horses Don’t They?;; ; Feb. 3, 2011.


“When Horse Slaughter Comes to Town”, Int’l Fund for Horses Special Report; Written and Researched by JANE ALLIN, Edited by VIVIAN GRANT FARRELL.

Part 1: Environmental Impact | Part 2: Economic Growth, Employment and Community Welfare | Part 3: Legal Implications | Part 4: Opposition to Horse Slaughter | Part 5: Alternatives to Horse Slaughter | Part 6: Conclusion

— Download Full Report (pdf, 25 pp):
When Horse Slaughter Comes To Town-March 28, 2012

© Int’l Fund for Horses

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