Photograph: Denis Doyle/Getty Images.

When Horse Slaughter Comes to Town: Environmental Impact

Noxious drugs are not only present in the meat intended for human consumption overseas but also in the waste water and sludge produced during processing.


HISTORICALLY, the negative environmental impact of horse slaughter plants has been well documented.

In 2007, all three of the foreign owned horse slaughter plants in the United States were shut down under Texas and Illinois state laws. The two Texas based plants, Beltex in Dallas and Dallas Crown in Kaufman, were closed in February when the 5th District court ruled that a 1949 law against selling horse meat was valid and in force. The remaining plant, Cavel International in DeKalb, Illinois, closed in mid-September of the same year under a new state law making horse slaughter illegal.[1]

It was community administrators and local residents who actively petitioned to have horse slaughter plants shut, citing the extreme disregard for the welfare of the people and locales where they existed as well as the merciless suffering of the horses sent to them.

Numerous Violations Plague Communities

All three horse slaughter plants amassed numerous environmental violations and overwhelmed the waste water infrastructures due to dumping of blood, entrails, urine, feces, heads and hooves.

The Dallas Crown horse slaughter facility had been in operation in Kaufman since the late 70’s and from the beginning had caused problems both economically and environmentally. “The slaughterhouse constantly flooded the town’s drinking water with blood and tissue – literally coming out of the taps – and had never complied with city water standards, or paid fines.”[2]

Furthermore, in May 2002, the City noted that another public health hazard “was the vector attraction due to bones and horseflesh falling off your bone trailer” and that “dogs were carrying the bones into the community.”[3]

In fact, in an open letter to state legislators considering pro-horse slaughter resolutions, the town’s mayor at the time, Paula Bacon, referenced Public Works reports regarding effluent and waste water violations “decaying meat [which] provides a foul odor and is an attraction for vermin and carrion,” containers conveyed “uncovered and leaking liquids,” there are “significant foul odors during the daily monitoring of the area,” and “Dallas Crown continually neglects to perform within the standards required of them.”[4]

Beltex was a Texas Corporation with European shareholders that had been slaughtering horses for human consumption for 27 years.

As with Dallas Crown, Beltex had a non-unionized workforce. OSHA records revealed that since the plants’ inception in 1977 until its last inspection in 1997, Beltex had committed 29 violations of which 28 were deemed serious. OSHA records show that an ammonia leak occurred in 1996, but no one (fortunately) died or was permanently disabled. In 2000 the facility “accidentally pumped blood into the creek” and “in 2001, they were notified that waste water was flowing into adjacent properties and into the creek.”[5]

Of particular note, the Sanitation Group of DeKalb, Illinois, where Cavel International was located, identified the incomparable hazard associated with the discharge from horse slaughter facilities.

    “This hazard is uniquely acute for horse slaughter because of the wide range of drugs given to horses that are clearly labeled NOT FOR USE IN HORSES INTENDED FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION.”[6]

These noxious drugs are not only present in the meat intended for human consumption overseas but also in the waste water and sludge produced during processing. This runoff has the potential to contaminate down-stream water intakes, including groundwater used for human consumption, and can enter the food chain via sludge distribution on crops.

Unlike the aforementioned, decades old horse slaughter plants in Texas, Cavel International in Illinois was a sparkling new, purpose built facility that re-opened in June, 2004 with a state-of-the-art pre-treatment system.

Additionally, Cavel International had special Industrial Waste Permits that allowed much higher (8 times higher) contamination levels for waste water leaving the slaughter house. But Cavel was still out of compliance, and not just a few times. This facility was in significant non-compliance hundreds of times. In one report, a Cavel employee acknowledges “chunks” from slaughtered horses were oozing out of tanks. This does not include the numerous safety violations documented by the FSIS.[7]

As a final point, these practices and findings are not limited to the US.

In Canada, Natural Valley Farms in Neudorf, Saskatchewan, was shut down by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in 2009 for food safety concerns. NVF went into receivership on September 22, 2008, yet horses continued to be slaughtered at the facility by Velda Group, an international Belgian-based company. Velda was infamous in Illinois for numerous environmental charges and convictions at their Cavel International horse slaughter plant that closed business in September 2007.[8]

    “Blood disposal appears to have been equally problematic for NVF as with other horse slaughter plants. Not only do horses have twice the quantity of blood as cows, but the blood is notoriously difficult to treat. The bacterial agents used in standard cattle digesters fail to provide acceptable discharge levels because of antibiotics often found in horse blood. As a result, pollution follows the horse slaughter industry where ever it goes.”[9]

Former mayor of Kaufman, Paula Bacon, comments “In Canada they have apparently become even more blatant, dumping huge untreated piles of entrails onto open ground and even using a tanker truck to discharge blood and refuse into a local river.”[10]

In any case, the negative environmental impacts and the chronic inability of the facilities to comply with local laws pertaining to waste management and air and water quality far outweigh any benefits.

This quote by Henry Skjerven, an investor and former director of NVF, sums it up: “Natural Valley Farms died the day the decision makers chose to kill horses . . . .”[11]

Environmental issues continue to plague the horse slaughter industry. On December 3, 2010, the Bouvry Exports horse slaughter plant in Fort MacLeod, Alberta closed operations to complete renovations related to sanitation.[12]
[1] Holland, John; Horse Slaughter Trends 2006-2010; Equine Welfare Alliance; ; Feb. 2010.

[2] Testimony of Congressman John E. Sweeney; H.R. 503 – American Horse Slaughter Protection Act; ; Jul. 25, 2006.

[3] Sorg, Lisa; Violations Dog Beltex, Dallas Crown; ; Jun. 19, 2003.

[4] Bacon, Paula; Open letter to state legislatures considering pro-horse slaughter resolutions; Animal Law Coalition; ; Feb. 13, 2009.

[5] Sorg, Lisa (

[6] DeKalb Sanitary District; DeKalb Sanitary District Board meeting Minutes; ; Jan. 18, 2006.

[7] Allen, Laura; Animal Law Coalition; “Sacia introduces new bill to support horse slaughter,” ; ; Jan. 14, 2010.

[8] Holland, John; Canadian Horse Defense Coalition, Summary of Cavel International Violations – Non Compliance and Response; ; undated.

[9] Holland, John; Horse Slaughter Dream a Financial Nightmare; Harnesslink Newsroom; ; May 14, 2009.

[10] Holland, John (

[11] Holland, John (

[12] Press Release; Canadian Horse Defence Coalition; ; Dec. 10, 2010.


“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

7 thoughts on “When Horse Slaughter Comes to Town: Environmental Impact”

    1. I think the commenter means the two horses with the bloody knife poster. There are no images in the full pdf report at all. It was all we could do to keep it to 25 pp as it was.


    2. It is the bloody knife poster and it is accurate and yes, very disturbing. I have downloaded the entire report and there are not any images at all. There is no reason for such things when acting as an advocate. One does not want to distract the ‘audience’ with gruesome images, these things are readily available on the Web.



    3. Thank you booboo.

      This is about horse slaughter. And the picture we have is not graphic or violent; merely implies it. People see worse on television and movies involving humans all the time. I am not sure why this has become a topic of debate! That’s my final say on it.


  1. I think it would be easier to get more people to read the articles if the pictures used were not so disturbing. I know they are eye catching, but I myself have a hard time clicking on links to read, as I can’t get past the horrible images. The ones in my head are gruesome enough.


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