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.

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.

23 thoughts on “What we say to the Joint AVMA-CVMA-FedMVZ Statement on Horse Slaughter”

  1. Interesting, in last sentence of first paragraph, they say you have to be so careful about disposal of carcass, because of danger of drug residues in it, YET, it’s perfectly okay to ship to slaughter so the meat can be sold to humans all over the world. Horse owners, and you would think veterinarians, know that probably 98% of all horses have had the drugs which ban their meat for human consumption, yet these people are basically saying it’s okay to ship them. Doctors and veterinarians are different…you’d have to be a bit thick-skinned about death, blood and guts, to go into those professions, plus the peer pressure not to look like a sissy in school helps the whole desensitization process.


  2. Please let me introduce myself, My name is Dianna Johnson. I am the photographer of the photo above with the mare and foal. I took the picture in 2011 and it became an over night sensation. The mare named Poco Belle Pine is a foundation bred Quarter horse. Her filly ( not colt as keeps always being posted) is named Rabby Snip (Beauty). After 10 years of rescuing foals and a few mares in foal from auctions and kill buyers this was the last auction I attended before moving out of state. I sat with tears in my eyes as I watched this beautiful mare get purchased by a kill buyer, then decided that I would take the foal with me and the horses I already had on my long move from ND home to CA. The next day I was able to buy Belle ( who was to be on the next truck to Canadian slaughter) from the KB. The picture was actually of them leaving the auction. Belle turned out to have been bred back again on her foal heat and had another foal in utro. The next year she gave birth to a wonderful grullo colt. I am pleased to tell the world that all of them are safe and are still part of our family now located just outside of Las Vegas Nv. God Bless and please help save the horses. When we rob something of its natural environment then it becomes our responsibility to care for those creatures.


    1. Dianna, thank you so much for coming here and taking the time to tell the story about this haunting image, and who took it. We appreciate your letting us use it.


      1. Thank you, The picture tells a thousand words but its what it could have been, not what it turned out to be. Sadly when I was doing rescue work I saw hundreds of foals get taken “outback” to be shot when the dams went to kill pens. Most kill buyers have no use for foals this young and will give them away for the asking. That is what got me started in what turned into a 10 year adventure that I will never forget. The myth that only old broken down nags are taken by kill buyers is just that, a myth. If people stopped to think about it would they by an rangy old bull for their next bbq or a nice 2 year old steer? It really amounts to the same thing to the kill buyers. Belle is just an example of the quality of horses that are slaughtered every day. She is very well bred, sound and was a high dollar investment when she was sold as a foal ( according to her breeder he sold her for $3500 as a weanling). She is a shining star! There is another special side to this story. The kill buyer who owned her had already contracted her to a Canadian slaughter house and she was to be loaded on the next truck but because I had taken the time to get to know him and treated him with respect even though he knew I didn’t agree with what he was doing didn’t have to go through the headache he did to sell her to me. I begged and pleaded with him all morning over the phone. In the end he said Dianna, load that mare up and take her home NOW before the truck gets there. Send me a check when you get paid. I only had to pay him a additional $20 or $30 paperwork fee. As odd as it sounds the kill buyer went out of his way to help save her life.


  3. How could this woman knowingly sell her “sick and hurting” 6 yr old mare to a kill buyer? Her “dear” husband said this would be “easier on everybody”. How is enduring a long haul in a crowded truck “easier” for a “sick and hurting” horse? Easier for him and wife and putting a few bucks in their wallet too. People like these absolutely disgust me. Did they contact Ohio State for contacts for dead animal pick-up? Farmers have cattle that die everyday and need to picked up. If they had no idea what to do with her body why did they acquire a horse in the first place? Didn’t they think her death was a possiblity?


  4. Well, we have doctors, the people who are supposed to be treating and curing us of illnesses and problems, who prescribe us with medications that cause even more problems — say Premarin for instance. Therefore, it doesn’t really surprise me that the veterinary industry takes such a stand. I’m guessing part of it has to do with desensitization. After all, they are exposed to things that would make most of us cringe. The only bad thing about desensitization is that it has the potential to make a person indifferent to the suffering of other people and animals.


  5. Every time I see the photo of the mare and her colt I wonder just why was this mare bred in the first place? Was it some backyard neanderthal wanting to play at being a big horse breeder? We will never know but both horses are dead chopped up into steaks frozen and shipped out. The people that breed their mares do not take any responsibility as to what will happen to the horses and their offspring just so they can make a quick buck. In the article these vets keep harping on the humane slaughter and completely ignore the truth, they know themselves its not humane but still push it.


    1. Hi Barbra, As photographer of the picture of the mare and foal as well as their rescuer/owner I can fill you in a little bit. First, they are all 3 doing well and are very loved members of our family. I say 3 because she had been bred back on her foal heat. The picture was taken by me in 2011 in Mandan ND. Poco Belle Pine, a registered foundation quarter horse of majestic bloodline was sent to the auction along with her foal and the one in utro only because ND was in the middle of massive flooding due to late snows in Montana followed by a extreme heat wave causing entire towns to be whipped out. Many farms lost all of their hay crops. According to the man who brought Belle into the auction this is what happed. He felt a chance at the auction was better then sure starvation if he kept her. I sat there and cried while I watcher her go into the slaughter pens but I was able to take the filly who was then just 6 weeks old. The next day I was able to buy the mare just before she was to be loaded on her last ride. Poco Belle Pine has a facebook page if you are interested in learning more about this remarkable mare and her babies.


  6. A vegan told me there is no difference in killing horses because other animals are killed for food and they suffer too. Therefore, it’s hypocritical to spare horses from this brutal death. Of course he included infertile eggs because male chicks are discarded at birth. What he would’t understand is that horses are flight animals who require several hits with the captive bolt to be stunned, whereas cows do not. Therefore, slaughtering horses is more gruesome, and 48% of them wake up from this stunning while they being dismembered. There is no such thing as humane transport of slaughter bound horses or humane equine slaughter. The AVMA is prevaricating.


    1. I am a Vegan of many years standing and grew up with horses. I know how terrifying and brutal this is for horses. But I think what they mean is that all slaughter animals suffer horribly and it is not acceptable for any of them, regardless of how it affects them. Oddly enough, slaughter workers make the same argument … it is horrific for all animals … so why do people are people so angry about horse slaughter then go out and eat a bacon cheeseburger?


      1. The people who are against horse slaughter say they are vegetarian or vegan that I know of. I started being vegetarian at the age of 12 and off and on until my early 20s. Being vegan is important for the reasons you mentioned. I cringe when I see a triple decker carrying pigs to slaughter on the highway and fortunately, my family does not get bacon or cheeseburgers. I’d like them to switch to non-meat foods and will try the different offerings of Beyond Meat as the soy non-meats can get problematic.


  7. How come animal slaughter has to be so crule and inhumane.
    Don’t we as humanes feel pain when we get hurt? I’m sure its every humans desire and I have not heard one person not say “When I die I hope I go in my sleep”. Why can’t slaughter houses slaughter with dignaty as all us humans want.


  8. Wow. Reading this gave me a visceral feeling of nausea, as does that photo. I’ll be asking my veterinarian her position on horse slaughter, and her answer will tell me whether I’ll be looking for a new veterinarian. I am astonished and heartbroken at the number of monsters walking this planet.


    1. So many veterinarians (large animal and small animal) have become desensitized. I think many leave vet school that way.


      1. It never ceases to amaze me how we as humans seek to elevate these animals as if they were comparable to us. They are still animals, some of the most beautiful of God’s creations, but they cannot reason for themselves and are not made in His image. Still, they carry life in their bodies and breath in their lungs and it, life, is sacred. We are commanded to care for creation, and those who do not will pay, but we need to tone it down on the whole anti-meat crusade. Many are going so far as to worship the Creation rather than the One who created it.

        I understand the arguments on the concern about drugs getting into the food supply, and that should be dealt with. I own horses myself that work every day on my family’s beef cattle farm. One of them is a happy 31 years old. When he passes on, probably by euthanasia (because I can afford it), I will most likely bury him….on one of my 800 acres of pastureland. Most people do not have this option, sadly. I have never seen any state authorities whose jobs are picking up dead animals around here (West TN). Probably because…it’s the South (where common sense abides), and our government doesn’t have an answer for every problem in life like governments in the North. Here, to an extent, you still have to take care of problems, like dead or soon to be dead horses, yourself. I will sum my argument up with what an old Cherokee man told me one time, and that is “When an animal has to die, don’t waste his body.” Even I don’t abide by this advice, but I believe that there should be avenues in order for horses to be slaughtered humanely, and yes it can be done, but it must be done HERE, in the US where our authorities can oversee it. US citizens will always look at horse slaughter through a critical lens because we do not eat horse, which is a good thing! Mass slaughter should always have eyes on it making done it is done ethically.

        With that, I pray that someday those who are so concerned over this issue will give the ending of pre-born babies’ lives for the sake of convenience the same treatment.


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