Photograph: Denis Doyle/Getty Images.

When Horse Slaughter Comes to Town: Opposition to Horse Slaughter

There will always be animal welfare groups, advocates and horse loving citizens diligently working to bring a complete end to horse slaughter.

Formal and Informal Polls

State and nationwide polls show that the greater part of the American population is strongly opposed to horse slaughter. Some examples are:

1995: A national call in television poll resulted in 93% of callers demanding that “the killing of horses for meat be banned.”

1997: A state-wide poll taken in California revealed that 88% of those questioned were opposed to horse slaughter.

1999: A poll conducted in New York State yielded the following results:

91% considered horses companions, recreational or sporting animals
72% would never eat horse meat
73% believed that the manner that horses are slaughtered is cruel and inhumane
81% personally opposed the practice of horse slaughter.[1]

2012: In February 2012, The American Society for the Protection of Animals announced the results of a poll conducted by Lake Research Partners revealing that 80 percent of American voters are opposed to the slaughter of horses for human consumption. The nationwide survey reveals that Americans oppose horse slaughter overwhelmingly regardless of their gender, political affiliation, whether they live in an urban or rural area, or their geographic location. Further, it confirms that a vast majority of horse owners are also against the slaughtering of our nation’s equines.[2]

Documented Cruelty

There are countless reasons to oppose horse slaughter taken from citations of information presented during hearings on anti-horse slaughter legislation. The following are two of the many accounts of the horse slaughter industry.

1. Testimony

Liz Ross, federal policy adviser to the Animal Welfare Institute in Washington, D.C., testifying before a Congressional Subcommittee, states:

“Dozens of horses were already in the kill-pens destined for slaughter. Of those horses that went through the auction ring I was able to purchase three, all of whom undoubtedly would have otherwise gone to slaughter. One was in such bad shape that she should have never been brought through the ring and we had her euthanized on the spot. The other two were placed at an equine rescue facility in New Jersey where they still live today.

“The pure animal suffering and terror I witnessed that day at New Holland was . . . fundamentally disturbing as was everything I subsequently learned about the horse slaughter industry.

“In slaughter, horses suffer long before they reach the slaughterhouse. Crammed onto double deck trailers designed for cattle and sheep, horses travel in a bent manner for more than twenty-four hours without food, water or rest. In fact, so paltry are current regulations and so brutal is the trade that heavily pregnant mares, blind horses and those with broken limbs are regularly sent to slaughter.

“It is also noteworthy that in Mexico the captive-bolt gun is often passed over in preference to the ‘puntilla’ knife which is used to stab the horse in the spinal cord to the point of paralysis before the animal is strung up and quartered, often while still alive. In fact, one of the Mexican plants that was the subject of an undercover investigation exposing this horrific practice employs lobbyists who work the halls of Congress to defeat this bill. Mr. Chairman, this is pure animal cruelty, through and through, and it must end.”[3]

Testifying before Congress, Dr. Nicholas Dodman, BVMS, MRCVS, Professor, Section Head and Program Director of the Animal Behavior Department of Clinical Sciences at Tufts’ Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in North Grafton, Massachusetts, states:

“Horse slaughter has never been considered by veterinary professionals to be a form of euthanasia. Congress and the general public must hear from veterinarians that horse slaughter is not and should not be equated with humane euthanasia. Rather, the slaughtering of horses is a brutal and predatory business . . . . One need only observe horse slaughter to see that it is a far cry from genuine humane euthanasia.”[4]

2. Video Documentation

Horrors of the carnage that takes place inside Canadian horse slaughter plants is well documented.

The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition (CHDC) released video footage in two horse slaughter facilities, Bouvry Exports (Fort MacLeod, ALTA) and Viandes Richelieu (Massueville, PQ), taken in February, 2010.

Both of these videos exposed practices that fail to meet humane slaughter standards used by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to audit Canadian slaughterhouses. These plants are clearly mismanaged and even in the presence of CFIA inspectors, abuse prevails.

A statement from the World Society for the Protection for Animals describes the tragic scenario.

“It is clear that neither the facilities nor the behavior of the personnel shown are suited to the humane slaughter of horses, and that extreme suffering results for many individual animals. Problems include failure to restrain each animal’s head properly before shooting, shooting from too great a distance, shooting in the wrong part of the head or body, failure to follow up with an immediate second shot in animals that were not killed by the first, hoisting apparently conscious animals, and – in the case of the Richelieu plant – cruel handling and treatment of the horses, including excessive whipping and overuse of an electric prod as well as an apparent callous disregard for the animals’ suffering. An additional cause of very major concern is the presence of what appear to be either plant supervisors or inspectors who observe the employees’ actions and yet do nothing.”[5]

Dr. Nicholas Dodman, BVMS, MRCVS, states:

“Noise, blood and suffering is what you get at the Bouvry equine slaughter plant: Horses kicking after they have been shot, sinking down and rising up; sometimes periods of struggling or paddling before a second or third shot has to be administered. This atrocity goes against all veterinary guidelines for humane euthanasia.

Terror and suffering is the rule at this equine house of horrors … and all in the name of the gourmet meat market.”[6]

This sweeping investigation stirred much controversy and outrage with the public especially after the CFIA when confronted with the violations of their own regulations, found no major deficiencies, or intent of abuse toward the horses. Even the Calgary RCMP who probed the allegations acquiesced to this ruling. Based on this video documentation, it seems surreal that the RCMP could find no evidence of cruelty.

The public in both Canada and the US were appalled by the government’s apathetic reaction to this situation given that this was the second time in two years that undercover footage of horse slaughter operations in Canada revealed horrific and inhumane treatment of slaughter horses.

Grassroots Movement Against Horse Slaughter

There will always be animal welfare groups, advocates and horse loving citizens constantly working to bring a total end to the slaughter of this beloved equine. These groups of individuals work tirelessly to recruit their friends, families and colleagues to the anti-horse slaughter movement, urging them to rise up against the brutal practice of horse slaughter.

Laura Allen of the Animal Law Coalition states:

“Horse slaughter is nothing more than abuse and it is being inflicted upon an animal that has never historically been considered a food animal, but rather a working partner and friend to man. An animal used primarily for pleasure, work, recreation and sport. The lies of the horse slaughterers can’t stand up to the graphic footage of the realities.”[7]

With increasing participation in social media networks, it is faster and easier than ever to source the latest information concerning horse slaughter, share it immediately with others, and mobilize tens of thousands to take action within a matter of days or hours.

Take for example the following recent events:

Attorney Cynthia MacPherson and local citizens basically ran Unified Equine out of town when the group attempted to bring a horse slaughter plant to the Mountain Grove area of Missouri, protesting against it at local organizational meetings, at one point booing the banker when he tried to speak.[8] Area horse lovers also created a Facebook page, Missourians Against Horse Slaughter, and launched an online nationwide petition at that had 14,258 signatures as of this writing.[9]

Additionally, in a letter to Unified Equine’s attorney of record, MacPherson challenged the way the organization solicited investors for the project, risking $6M of taxpayer dollars if they failed.[10] The letter went viral within minutes. The response of the local community was swift and effective. Although they denied it, Unified Equine was forced to look for another location.
[1] Equine Advocates; Horse slaughter an American disgrace, an American shame; ; 2000.

[2] Press Release; ASPCA Research Confirms Americans Strongly Oppose Slaughter of Horses for Human Consumption; ; Feb. 1, 2012.

[3] Allen, Laura; Animal Law Coalition; Hearing excerpts, AHSPA; ; Jun. 24, 2009.

[4] Testimony in Support of H.R. 6958, Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2008; ; Jul. 31, 2008.

[5] CHDC; ; Mar. 2010.

[6] CHDC; Canadian Slaughterhouse Horrors; ; May 7, 2010.

[7] Allen, Laura; Animal Law Coalition; Native Americans Proved Not to be Proponents of Horse Slaughter; ; Jul. 26, 2009.

[8] Johnson, Wes; The News-Leader; Horse slaughter facility plan draws protest in Mountain Grove ; ; Mar. 7, 2012.


[10] Cynthia MacPherson letter to Dan Erdel; ; pdf, 13 pp; March 12, 2012.


“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

2 thoughts on “When Horse Slaughter Comes to Town: Opposition to Horse Slaughter”

  1. Excellent work. Have a question: have you heard anything about the current status of the surviviors of HBO’s “Luck”? So far, no responses from HBO or the HSUS. Those who are anti-slaughter are curious about their welfare.

    With three horses dead, the rest may need a rescue or placement. I could not find anything definitive online as to their location or condition. Thanks for any help.


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