Eating horses a solution to neglect and cruelty? We can answer that.

Beauty was a 'throwaway', a horse on a slaughter-bound feedlot that nobody wanted. Well, I wanted her! Image: Remembering Beauty website.
Beauty was a 'throwaway', a horse on a slaughter-bound feedlot that nobody wanted. Well, I wanted her! Image: Remembering Beauty website.
“Beauty was a ‘throwaway’, a horse on a slaughter-bound feedlot that nobody wanted. Well, I wanted her!”, states the woman who rescued her. Image: Remembering Beauty website.

First of all, let us address what the real solution to the neglect and cruelty of horses is.

All actions begin in thought. Until people experience the healing power that reforms the thought, it will not matter if there are hundreds, thousands or millions of horses, there still will be those who commit cruel and neglectful acts.

For the purposes of this discussion we are talking about horses.

Doug LaFleur has written an extensive article full of opinions, his and others, that for the most part are — with no intention of being unkind — not based on fact. Let’s take a step-by-step look and address the opinions that need correcting.

LaFleur: Congress, faced with complaints over the unintended consequences of this ban [USDA no longer funding horse slaughter inspections], ordered the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a study of these effects which are contained in a June, 2011 report to Congress.

TH: The study was successfully lobbied for by the pro horse slaughter faction in Washington DC, a report littered with misinformation and inconsistencies. The only complaints registered came from the animal agriculture lobby and its supporters.

LaFleur: Among their most noteworthy findings were a major increase in domestic horses being exported for slaughter, primarily to Canada and Mexico. From 2006 to 2010 these exports increased to Canada by 148 percent and to Mexico by 660 percent.

TH: This is correct. Exports indeed increased when horse slaughter plants ceased operating on US soil, and continues to do so. The number of horses slaughtered across US borders is the same if not higher than when horses were slaughtered on US soil.

This singular fact completely destroys any and all arguments maintaining that since horse slaughter ceased on US soil more horses are abused, neglected and abandoned. The killing of American horses for their meat has not stopped. It moved across the border.

To be fair, LaFleur does quote Wayne Pacelle of HSUS toward the end of the article:

Pacelle disputes the GAO’s conclusion that the slaughter ban contributed to abuse, neglect and abandonment. He says that the number of U.S. horses slaughtered remained constant, around 140,000, before and after the ban, whether they were killed domestically or in other countries.

LaFleur: From the animal rights groups’ perspective this made an already bad situation worse in that horses were being transported long distances to facilities which lacked the protections for humane treatment that had previously been afforded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s regulatory oversight.

TH: While this may have been believed at first, any group or individual who claims that statement is true is misled.

Slaughter horses routinely travel long distances in deplorable conditions throughout the United States whether they are killed for their meat in the US or just across the border in neighboring countries. Cruelty occurs with all horses exported or transported for the purposes of slaughter.

USDA-regulated horse slaughter plants in the US were in constant violation of the Humane Slaughter Act as was proved through numerous FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) documents collected by various horse and/or animal protection groups. Chief among these is a group called Animals’ Angels who specialize in tracking slaughter animals and investigating slaughter facilities.

Animals’ Angels documented time and time again the atrocities committed against horses on the way to and during slaughter in the US. These horrific conditions and abuses are no more egregious than the acts committed against slaughter horses across US borders in Mexico and Canada.

It is abundantly clear that there is no such thing as humane slaughter, especially in a commercial mass meat production setting. The phrase “humane slaughter” is a contradiction in terms. The slaughter of animals for any purpose cannot be made humane.

LaFleur: With domestic slaughter facilities closed, two additional adverse effects became apparent. First, according to GAO figures covering the period 2004-2010, horse prices, per head, suffered an 8-21 percent decline at auction sales, with the greatest price drop in the lowest price category. Without the slaughter market more of these “low-cost” horses were sold at auction and in other venues often for “pennies on the dollar.”

TH: There are two simple contributing factors here: 1. Overpopulation resulting in horses with no place to go due to overbreeding. 2. Economic decline forcing people to give up their horses.

LaFleur: Without the slaughter market more of these “low-cost” horses were sold at auction and in other venues often for “pennies on the dollar.”

TH: 100% incorrect. The US still has a an active horse slaughter market in operation, killing thousands of them per week for their meat. Horse slaughter can be a highly lucrative business. Let us have a modicum of pretense here. Those who are all for horse slaughter are motivated by one factor and one factor only — money.

LaFleur: Breaux Bridge resident Glenn Patin, who has seen firsthand the result of these factors, has worked tirelessly to address horse neglect and cruelty that he alleges has taken place next door to his home. Patin related account after account of horses being severely neglected while the situation got little to no response from animal rights organizations and law enforcement authorities. He said he feels that the organizations he has provided this information to have turned a deaf ear.

TH: The lack of response from law enforcement is nothing new. They are often overworked and underfunded. Sadly, this is also the case for equine rescues and sanctuaries.

Organizations like theirs rely on donations and volunteers to operate. Due to the recession/depression many were full and could take no more horses. This meant they had to budget their time and other resources more carefully than ever. Some were even at times on the verge of closing. Considering the devastating state of the US economy, equine rescues and sanctuaries should be applauded not sanctioned for the marvelous work they do and continue to do.

The same applies to law enforcement authorities who also must manage their time and money carefully giving priority to calls that relate to human needs first.

Additionally, when charges are made in horse abuse case, the horse is the evidence. That means they need to be held pending the outcome of a Hearing, and perhaps even a Trial. This can be a very expensive proposition for a County already struggling with their budget. In cases such as these, veterinary bills for an abused horse mount up very quickly.

If part of the judgment means against defendants mean they do not get their horses back, the County often sends the horses to auction trying to recover some of their expenses. These poor abused horses are then under threat of being bought by a kill buyer for a slaughter plant, with their cycle of misery beginning once again, this time resulting in certain death.

LaFleur: Patin says that he and other members of the community, horsemen in particular, are outraged by the neglect and abuse that goes on unaddressed.

TH: Sorry. A pro-slaughter horsemen in our experience — crocodile tears.

Lafleur: Some relief in the abundant supply of cheap horse may be on the horizon. According to the Nov. 29, 2011, issue of the Christian Science Monitor, federal legislation was passed that month reinstates federal funding for USDA inspection of horse meat intended for human consumption.

According to a July 19, 2012, article in USA Today, horse slaughterhouses are being planned in Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Wyoming. In Wyoming, state Rep. Sue Wallis, who wants to run slaughter operations in Missouri and Oklahoma, says that primary customers for horse meat are abroad. She goes on to say that there are markets in dozens of countries and horse meat is 40 percent cheaper than beef, so demand is rising as Europe’s economy worsens.

TH: Just because there is a demand for horse meat does not mean the US should or must supply it.

Sue Wallis and her colleague Dave Duquette are notorious for dispensing misinformation. Horse slaughterhouses have been planned, but Wallis has been foiled at every attempt to progress with her plans, and will continue to be so.

With few exceptions, horse meat is not cheaper than beef in the countries where horse meat is eaten. Choice cuts are considered a gourmet item served in high end restaurants. Horse meat that is cheaper than beef occurs in sausage or salamis. Typical of these types of products, they are not made from the best cut of the horse.

Lafleur: Proponents of the domestic slaughter ban say there should a ban on the exportation of horses for slaughter as well. But others say that a proven demand will stymie any attempt at choking off the supply. Temple Grandin, an animal behaviorist and consultant to the livestock industry, says horses would end up in an underground market in Mexico where “there’s no supervision at all.” Instead, she advocates humane slaughter facilities and independent video monitoring to ensure that horses are not subject to undue suffering.

TH: We repeat. Just because there is a demand for horse meat does not mean the US should or must supply it.

Not every horse slaughter facility in Mexico is EU-regulated so there already exists numerous situations where “there’s no supervision at all”. The phrase “humane slaughter” is an oxymoron. Slaughter is the violent death of a being or group of beings. There is no way to make death by violence humane. There is already video monitoring in many regulated horse slaughter plants. Undercover investigations exposing the monstrous treatment of horses in slaughter plants show that video monitoring does not prevent cruelty.

Lafleur: While the debate rages nationally, the inhumane treatment of horses here locally will in all likelihood continue unless more resources are applied to the problem.

Agreed, or until people change the way they think about horses for the better.
Int'l Fund for Horses Logo

Source article.

Source image: Remembering Beauty.

Her rescuer says, “Beauty was a ‘throwaway’, a horse on a slaughter-bound feedlot that nobody wanted. Well, I wanted her!”

GAO follows horse slaughter lobby down the rabbit hole

Chicago (EWA) – The long awaited Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on horse welfare fell far short of the respectable reporting we have come to expect from the GAO, even raising questions as to the agency’s credibility.

The Equine Welfare Alliance (EWA) and Animal Law Coalition (ALC) have issued an exhaustive analysis and executive summary, demonstrating the embarrassing and shocking lack of evidence for GAO’s findings.

The analysis concludes that the GAO report is “disturbing” as it is filled with speculation, anecdotes, hearsay and unsupported opinions. The GAO sources appear to be largely known slaughter proponents.

“The GAO’s pro-slaughter bias is clearly evident in the report’s defamatory accusation that the Cavel fire in 2002 was started by so-called anti-slaughter arsonists,” states co-author and EWA vice president, Vicki Tobin. The cause of the fire was never determined and it was Cavel’s owners who benefitted from the fire, claiming $5M when the damages were estimated at $2M.

The EWA/ALC analysis details how, instead of doing the hard work of gathering actual data, the GAO relied on chitchats with a handful of state veterinarians, livestock board members, state officials and information provided by pro-slaughter organizations.

“The GAO’s economic models fail to credibly take into account basic principles of supply and demand, the extremely limited effect of slaughter on the horse industry and the devastating effects of one of the worst economic downturns since the Great Depression”, said ALC’s Laura Allen. “Instead, the GAO report blamed the closing of 3 U.S. horse slaughter plants in 2007 for a decline in live horse prices, loss of horse markets, and a rise in horses in need.”

Carolyn Betts, Ph.D. Economics explains, “There is, by definition, no correlation between something that stays roughly constant over time – the number of horses slaughtered – and something that the GAO claims has gone up significantly over the same time period – the number of horses abandoned and neglected. In the absence of an observable correlation, it is nothing short of “heroic” for the GAO to assume a causal relation from a proximate constant to a variable that it argues has increased.”

A FOIA request for the data and methods the GAO used in developing its economic models was denied by the Congressional Committee that requested the GAO report. The EWA/ALC analysis concludes that this is nothing short of a Congressional cover-up for the GAO’s unsubstantiated claims.

A study by John Holland, co-founder and president of EWA, which was provided to GAO, found that cases of horse abuse and neglect in Illinois rose and fell with the unemployment rate. The same study found absolutely no mathematical correlation between these cases and the rate of slaughter.

The EWA contends that slaughter actually contributes to the problem of too many horses by enabling over-breeding and driving down prices. GAO’s economic model, done correctly, would have shown that prohibiting export of horses for slaughter would be the one thing that would really improve horse welfare over the long term.

The analysis also points out that the GAO report completely glossed over critical food safety issues raised by the slaughter of American horses for human consumption. The GAO was indifferent to the export of U.S. horses for slaughter for human consumption despite the fact that these horses contain drugs, such as phenylbutazone, which the FDA bans for use in animals used for food. Vicki Tobin explains, “U.S. horses are not raised or regulated as food animals. Given the importance of food safety, horse slaughter for human consumption should not even be a discussion point in a government report, let alone a recommendation.”

Probably one of the more ridiculous recommendations by the GAO is that USDA/APHIS will do better in enforcing humane transport regulations if there is slaughter available in the U.S. But historically, USDA/APHIS has always done an abysmal job of enforcing these regulations. Long before the 2007 closings, horses were exported for slaughter in large numbers and suffered on long, arduous trips over the borders and within the U.S.

In fact, the GAO’s discussion of APHIS’ shocking ineptitude and indifference to horses and the horrific mistreatment they endure throughout the slaughter pipeline is reason enough for Congress to ban horse slaughter and to do it now.

# # #

Source: Press Release
Release Date: September 9, 2011

The GAO report and the EWA/ALC report will be discussed at the upcoming International Equine Conference, Sept. 26-28. Visit for additional information and to register.

Milt Toby examines GAO horse slaughter report and overbreeding

Horse Meat Diagram


Milt Toby has examined the GAO horse slaughter report and the surplus horse population. Toby does not question that overbreeding is at issue, but questions how is it to be controlled.

In his post on, Toby states:

An overabundance of horses and the ongoing recession are obvious contributors to a slide in prices for horses and an increase in abuse and neglect. Closing slaughter plants in Illinois and Texas, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have been a factor. Ending slaughter in the States is an easy whipping boy when it comes to growing animal welfare problems, but the GAO numbers indicate that the cessation of slaughter here has had almost no effect on the horse population.

This doesn’t mean that overpopulation is not a serious problem; it is. But what should be done? A weak economy and the resulting drop in sale prices has caused Thoroughbred breeders to cut back and it makes some sense to expect the overall horse population to drop for the same reasons. Should legislatures and breed organizations take action to hasten the process along?

Beginning in 2009, the United States Trotting Association placed a restriction on the number of mares that could be bred to certain stallions. The books of Standardbred stallions which never had bred a mare or which never had a list of mares bred submitted to the USTA were limited: 140 mares for trotting stallions and from 160 mares (in 2009) to 140 mares (in 2011 and thereafter) for pacing stallions. As far as I know, there have been no legal challenges to the rule.

The American Quarter Horse Association was not so lucky when it tried to limit the number of foals produced through embryo transfer. A group of prominent breeders argued that a restriction on the number of registered foals produced from a single mare in a year was an illegal restraint of trade and violated antitrust laws. They sued the AQHA, asking for millions of dollars in damages. The lawsuit eventually was settled and the rule was changed to allow the registration of multiple foals produced from the same mare through embryo transfer each year.

Any attempt by a breed organization to limit the number of horses bred or registered is subject to a similar restraint of trade argument in court. And even if successful, such rule changes would not affect the vast number of unregistered horses produced every year. Federal or state laws aimed at controlling horse breeding also would have to pass free trade muster and neither the feds nor the states have shown any interest in this approach.

According to recent figures, more American horses are being killed for their meat in horse slaughter plants across U.S. borders in Canada and Mexico than when horse slaughter was conducted on U.S. soil. Therefore, it is difficult, if not impossible, to assess the true impact of the cessation of domestic horse slaughter on equine welfare, or the horse industry itself, including breeding practices, because the slaughter of American horses has never stopped. It just changed location.

Insofar as overbreeding, one could reasonably project that without the all too convenient disposal option that horse slaughter offers, breeders would be forced to control the number of horses they bring into the world themselves.

When you have a horse breeder who purports himself to be “typical” of his industry stating that he has to “breed 100 horses to get one ‘good one’,” it begins to give you an insight into breeding standards and how they impact both the surplus horse population and horse slaughter issues.

Would the outright banning of horse slaughter for human consumption of the American horse return horse breeding to quality over quantity? One would hope, and expect so.

Read Milt Toby’s full post here.


GAO_Report_Cessation_Horse_Slaughter_June_2011 pdf, 68pp

Milt Toby is an author and attorney with a lifelong interest and involvement in the horse industry. Toby is a past Chair of the Kentucky Bar Association’s Equine Law Section. His website is

Hats and Rabbits: Noem’s claims unsurprising but unsubstantiated

Special to Tuesday’s Horse
Written by CAROLYN M. BETTS, PhD Economics

Carolyn M Betts PhD
Carolyn M Betts PhD

The press release circulated by Representative Kristi Noem (R-SD) “GAO Confirms Problems With Horse Processing Restrictions” makes two claims based on the GAO report. The elimination of domestic slaughter plants has (a) reduced domestic horse auction prices and (b) increased rates of domestic equine abandonment and neglect. Her claims are unsurprising, since the GAO report itself argues that both are true; yet neither can be substantiated based on the GAO’s own data and analysis.

The thrust of the GAO’s “theory” relating the cessation of domestic slaughter to horse prices, neglect and abandonment is as follows.

The cessation of US horse slaughter has resulted in higher costs of live horse transportation to slaughter plants, now located further away in Canada and Mexico. This has reduced profit margins of slaughter buyers in the US, and caused them to demand fewer horses for slaughter at auction at any price – it has shifted down the slaughter demand for auction horses.

This in turn has reduced average auction prices for slaughter horses and auction house commissions, which are partly proportionate to prices. The contraction in prices and commissions has caused closures of “low end” horse auctions nationwide since 2007. And these price effects and closures have reduced the rewards and opportunities available for owners wishing to discard their horses, causing them to neglect and abandon their animals instead.

To test this theory, at the very least one would need to (a) isolate the demand driven impact of the plant closures for auction prices of horses bound for slaughter, (b) isolate the effect of reduced demand and prices for sale volumes and auction closures, and (c) establish, quantitatively, a connection between reduced slaughter sale rewards and opportunities for owners, and increased abandonment and neglect.

Sadly, the GAO’s analysis accomplishes none of these things.

The GAO’s econometric model of equilibrium auction prices at three sales in the US is neither designed nor specified in a way such that the impact for prices of increased transport costs for slaughter buyers can be isolated from a myriad of other factors that shift demand and supply over time. A theory that recreational horse buyers had deserted auctions in favor of freely available “for sale” listings on Craig’s List since 2007 would account for the GAO’s econometric estimates of price effects as well as a theory that plant closures mattered.

Further, the GAO not only fails to conduct an analysis of sale volumes at auction, but also presents no data whatsoever on either auction closures or declining sales. Assuming such data exist, however, they also would be consistent with a myriad of alternative factors, including viral growth in free internet horse marketing options for cash-strapped owners.

But most devastating for the GAO’s “theory” is its failure to establish any credible link of auction price and availability with rates of abandonment and neglect.

A natural consequence of a decline in slaughter demand for auction horses that reduces prices by more than any other relevant factor (e.g. “the economy”), as the GAO argues on the basis of its econometric results, would be a decline in the number of horses slaughtered. And, a decline in the number of horses slaughtered would certainly suggest that some owners had effectively lost the “auction to slaughter” option for disposing of their horse.

Yet, the closure of U.S. slaughter plants has been associated with no significant change in the number of U.S. horses slaughtered annually.

As the GAO reports, federal trade and production data show the same number of US horses – approximately 138,000 – were slaughtered in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico in 2006 prior to the closure of the U.S. slaughter plants as were slaughtered in Canada and Mexico in 2010 following those closures. Even smoothing year to year fluctuations, and eliminating the transition year 2007, the number of U.S. horses slaughtered in the three years 2004 through 2006 prior to the closures was 346,835 – or an annual average of 115,612 – which is negligibly different from the number slaughtered in the three years 2008 through 2010 after the closures which was 346,520 – an annual average of 115,506.

There is, by definition, no correlation between something that stays roughly constant over time – the number of horses slaughtered – and something that the GAO claims has gone up significantly over the same time period – the number of horses abandoned and neglected. In the absence of an observable correlation, it is nothing short of heroic for the GAO to assume a causal relation from a proximate constant to a variable that it argues has increased.

This assumes, of course, that the very limited state and local data and the “anecdotes” (the GAO’s language, not mine) carefully recorded and analyzed from a small sample of 17 state veterinarians on neglect and abandonment utilized in the GAO study are to be taken seriously. If so, a more plausible explanation for any increase in neglected and abandoned horses is that it derives from increased economic hardship; reassuringly, for the data driven theorist, the GAO does at least assert that there is a positive correlation between them.

Caroline M. Betts received her Ph.D. from University of British Columbia. She is currently an Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Southern California Prof. Betts teaches in International Macroeconomics, International Finance and Macroeconomic Theory. Her current research interests are real exchange rates and relative prices, tradability of goods, market segmentation, pricing-to-market, patterns of trade and specialization, debt default and depression.

  • Rep. Kristi Noem Press Release

    PR_Kristi_Noem_GAO_Cessation_Horse_Slaughter_23Jun11 Pdf 1 p.

  • GAO Report re Cessation of Domestic Horse Slaughter

    GAO_Report_Cessation_Horse_Slaughter_June_2011 Pdf 68 pp.