Horse News

The True Unintended Consequences of Horse Slaughter

by John Holland and Vicki Tobin of the Equine Welfare Alliance

Horse Eaters Can Run But They Just Can’t Hide

Over the years, we’ve written about the nonsensical arguments used by those in support of horse slaughter. We’ve scratched our heads and wondered why seemingly intelligent people would use the most illogical, ill conceived arguments and ridiculous euphemisms like “horse harvesting” to try to sway public opinion to embrace horse slaughter.

Time after time horse advocates have exposed the horrendous cruelty involved in the industry in ways that were completely indisputable. Yet, slaughter proponents steadfastly insist on calling the process “euthanasia” which of course means “good death”, the very polar opposite of what the gruesome evidence shows.

Animal Agriculture organizations, from turkey growers to pork producers, have always been tacitly opposed to banning horse slaughter on the flimsy supposition that it would lead down a slippery slope toward the banning of all meat production.

Unlike slaughter supporters who throw out unsubstantiated statistics and comments, we are always under a microscope. We must have our facts, figures and sources straight before going to press. We have consistently had enough research and data to resink the Titanic but more often than not, we have been unable to break the stronghold on the press by our opponents.

That is until the drug issue came to light. We had warned of drug residues in US horses for years, but eventually food safety regulators in European Union (EU) came to realize that there was a huge hole in their system, and that thousands of contaminated horses were slipping into the EU. It took human food safety to finally provide an irrefutable reason why the slaughter of U.S. horses should be banned immediately.

Initially, all the propaganda and disinformation was about the innocuous preservation of horse slaughter for the large quantity breeders. The big support came from the American Quarter Horse Association, the largest breed registry with over 125,000 foals registered every year. The major driver of excess horses, or as our opponents have renamed them, “unwanted” horses, are the large breeders that produce hundreds of horses, sell a small portion and then cull the excess to slaughter. It is a never ending cycle that had to be protected and is a practice that is never addressed by slaughter proponents.

Then when the US horse slaughter plants were closed down the horse slaughter battle began to shift from a conflict within the horse community to a full-fledged proxy war with animal agriculture.

The first clue that slaughter supporters were switching strategies was the new argument that opponents of horse slaughter really wanted to bring down animal agriculture. Now, equine advocates were labeled PETA, and animal rights extremists, with some going as far as to call us “animal terrorists”. No doubt, this was to garner support from food producers and ranchers to support a foreign meat business that had nothing to do with the horse industry.

Next, was the emergence of HumaneWatch, an organization frequently quoted by slaughter supporters, that is run by Rick Berman, dubbed Dr. Evil by 60 Minutes. Berman is a lobbyist and shill for corporations that oppose any type of animal welfare. Their sole purpose is to bash the Humane Society of the United States because of their successes in animal welfare for farm animals.

Finally, there was the “Summit of the Horse” meeting in Las Vegas earlier this year that featured a keynote speaker from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. The animal agriculture supporters of horse slaughter had been forced to come to the aid of their flailing allies on the horse slaughter front.

In a feckless attempt to throw up a smoke screen on the issue, the outspoken slaughter spokesperson, Sue Wallis, resorted to inventing her drug regulations and facts out of thin air. She declared phenylbutazone (bute) is safe in food animals after 30 days, ignoring that the FDA and European Union have banned bute in all food animals.

In the heat of the blog wars that followed, some ranchers attempted to bolster the Wallis argument by stating they often gave bute to their cattle!  Their reasoning, to whatever degree reasoning might have existed, appeared to be that if food safety regulations are being flaunted by cattlemen, then these drug residues must be okay in horses.

Once the drug issues came to light, an unintended consequence emerged. Americans are becoming increasingly interested and suspicious about how their own meat is being produced. Some are asking why the EU bans our beef that is raised using growth enhancing steroids and/or antibiotics.

Perhaps this is the true “slippery slope” that the animal agriculture proponents were concerned about. Those who know how outrageously this safety issue has been covered up are now asking what might really be going on “behind the curtain” of our meat production.

Our issue has always been and remains solely horse slaughter but our opponents, in attempting to dismiss the drug issues in horses, now have taken this beyond horse owners. If the meat industry supporters of horse slaughter had any regard for food safety, why would they support the slaughter of an animal that is not raised or regulated in the U.S. as a food animal?

Slaughter proponents have not only backed themselves into a corner but have now painted themselves into that corner. They are stuck and the desperation is becoming quite humorous because it is they that brought food production into the mix. The disinformation in their slaughter handbooks has no answers on how to twist and spin food safety laws or explain why food producers support horse slaughter.

In light of all the push back from the European Union on U.S. horses, increased FDA authority and increased awareness on food safety, there should be no debate on whether or not horse slaughter should be banned.

A member of Equine Welfare Alliance and the food production industry, Diana Bodensteiner, stated it best, “Slaughter is food production. It is a serious, tightly regulated business. It is not the place we send unwanted cows, swine, sheep, and horses.”

Today our horses are being slaughtered in Canada and Mexico, but there are plans in both countries to appease the EU by requiring horses to be electronically tracked from birth if they are to be slaughtered for human consumption. That will most probably be how American horses finally become protected against slaughter.

We now know the true unintended consequences of horse slaughter.


 Equine Welfare Alliance is an umbrella organization representing 176 organizations and hundreds of individuals across the United States and 14 countries worldwide. The organization focuses its efforts on the welfare of all equines and the preservation of wild equids.

39 replies »

  1. Keep screwing with equines as meat as your dump mode and you and the collective others will start jeopardizing the real, ethical, quality meat producers of the US.

    Excellent and long overdue post. If you make equines born without meat legitimate in mind, you then compromise the ENTIRE US meat producing industry AND MY TABLE and exports…..not sure? Look at import countries of US meat; not rocket science.


    And these idiots choose to jeopardize our country’s reputation for less than 150k equines a year. Not smart boys….not smart.


  2. Well, I realized being a vegan isn’t for everyone but it sure would make life simpler all around if people would embrace this lifestyle. Our beloved horses would not have to go to slaughter and factory farm animals would not have to endure the horrific conditions and diminished lives they live prior to be slaughtered.


  3. Thank you for your work, God Bless your passion and keep hanging in there. If we don’t overcome now maybe the next generation will.
    My passion for horse welfare and all other creatures inspired me to write a young adult non fiction to spur a new generation of advocates. We must think ahead. Please pass the word and share the book, ‘Facts of Life’ Presentation, In Accordance with the Natural World’s Universal Truths. Available with Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
    Book includes letters from two Senators regarding BLM.
    Thank you


  4. Denise, there is no such thing as an ethical meat producer. Please read “Slaughterhouse” by Gail Eisnitz and “Eternal Treblinka” by Charles Patterson and of course “Mad Cowboy”. Would you call veal an ethical meat? To rob cows of their milk, their calves are seized without one suck of mom’s milk and sent to slaughter. Jo, being vegan should be for everyone – it would make life healthier for humans, for animals and for the environment. I agree no animal should ever have to know the terror and pain of a slaughterhouse for such a frivolous reason as taste preference of the master species.


    • You’re missing the point as the larger issue is that the horse killers don’t even play by their own rules, THAT THEY SET UP FOR MEAT.

      I’m not a vegetarian. I’ve lived on and off farms for 40+ years. I’ve studied ag.

      I believe it can be done ethically….you don’t; another agree to disagree moment.


    • What a silly argument Sally. Very few meat producers are involved in Veal production.

      I saw a horse owner abuse a horse once. Should we abolish horse ownership?


  5. All right you vegans, knock off the beef bashing. The issue here is stopping horse slaughter. You need all the help you can get. Did you ever stop and think that a beef producer might want to help you stop horse slaughter? You might not want to run that beef producer off from your cause. Have you ever heard the phrase divide and conquer? That is what you are doing when you change the issue from protecting horses, to promoting your vegan agenda.

    I have more information on why our horses should not be used for food than you can imagine. I have been supplying our advocates with facts to counter each of Sue Wallis’s claims about the safety of horse meat. I have been working hard to change the discussion from a property rights issue to a food safety issue. SW can do what she wants with her horses except that she does not have the right to be paid for producing a food source when clearly that is not what is being done.

    Europeans don’t want our old, sick, used up horses on their dinner plate any more than they want road kill.

    Now let’s get back on topic.

    Diana Bodensteiner
    Beef Producer
    Horse Advocate


    • Thank YOU, Diana Bodensteiner! Very well said and you have not taken any liberties to exaggerate your truly great contributions to the advocacy work to stop horse slaughter. In fact, having YOU with us fighting horse slaughter is such a jewel of advantage, every single anti-slaughter advocate should be praising your work. I know you well enough to know you are not looking for that and might even be embarrassed by it, but it would be well deserved nonetheless.

      From my own association with you, I also KNOW you have a vast resource of information on and experience in the agricultural industry, comprising knowledge that the majority of us just do not have. Without your unique (for an advocate) knowledge, gained over years of experience in good, clean, caring and humane animal agriculture, both with cattle and horses, our advocacy efforts are truly poor. Only with complete and rounded knowledge like you contribute can we really fully understand this issue and the unique vantage point you bring to us is priceless.

      Please do not let vegan or vegetarian activists drive you from your mission to help us stop horse slaughter and to protect the wild horses. We CANNOT afford to lose you.

      And to those who choose to be vegan or vegetarian, that is your right. However, it is not your right to attack those of us who choose to be omnivores. We, as a society, are becoming more and more aware of the reality of “You are what you eat”. It is up to the individual to decide what that will be – it is not up for dictation by any group. So no matter how strongly you believe in your own choice, you still must not attempt to force others or to denigrate others who do not share your views. If you want to influence others on matters of diet, be an example, live your life as you feel is correct and others will see and follow your example if it is one of love, health and happiness. But typically, people turn AWAY from preachers who pummel and browbeat.


  6. i am a rancher. i raise cattle, sheep and goats for meat. i sell them at auction and that is how i buy hay and pay my bills. my animals do not have any stuff in them beyond what they need. i worm all my animals once in the spring and spring shots, they are raised on grass. my calves do better then the ones that give those other shots. i try to raise them as close to “pure” as i can. they do not need or is right to give those stupid “growth h.” my calves will be 100+ pounds heavier then the calves that get it. it is just the same as the veg. and fruit that get all that other stuff that is not necessary! i feel all that stuff should be outlawed too. that is why i love farmers markets. the veg and fruits are healthier for you.


  7. Great article. I don’t currently eat meat, not because it’s not yummy but because of the drugs involved and filthy, cruel animal husbandry that too many practice. The whole food chain needs a good spring cleaning. If they’d leave horses out of it, clean it up, treat them well and kill them quickly – they’d likely get a customer back. Big AG – I’m talkin’ to YOU!! Washington DC, get out of bed with Big AG and protect your citizens and those in the world for that matter… Dumb and dumber!! Such a shame.


  8. Suzanne, go to a family rancher. the animals are raised with more care. my animals are well taken care of. the cattle about 70 pairs are in the “hills’ for the summer, the sheep are in ankle deep grass all summer as the goats are. when our meat we have a small family business come out and take care of our meat. it is quick and clean. and they care! that is what is missing with the “big ones” mas production! there is no care there. help support the small family ranches and farms. better veg, fruit and meat.


    • thank you, Denise! yes we need to start to support the “small Farmers and Ranchers”. i know what each of my calves have gotten in shots, worming, same with the lambs and goats. i was there for almost all of the births too. i care.
      T.A. so true! we need to respect life and thank that life for giving us meat.
      i do not believe in horse eating. i feel it is so very wrong on so many levels.


      • Yes, US humans need to become intimately involved with their food…it doesn’t fit on a text or tweet context. They ain’t got the time! (baloney).

        Not all “farmer’s market” purveyors are on the up and up.

        But what is going on with our food system is most importantly scary, but at it’s base wrong (legally and morally).


  9. Truer than they realize I’m sure. Every time I read such stuff my appetite drops. I’m not vegetarian – I’m not even a big fan of vegetables. But if they aren’t willing to treat creatures with respect – both the one raised for meat and the one to eat it, than they are going to lose business. And it’s no-ones fault but their own.


  10. Denise, very true! the highbred seeds are not good. where are the “normal” seeds. look where some of that food comes from. the condistion (sp) that the food is raised in. that is why i like local food and local farmers markets. i know most of the people, i know how that have done it. that is trust for me. i can not watch one of my beef be taken, i can go to the place and watch the meat being done and wrapped. that is me.
    i could never do it to a horse or mule! it is just simple wrong. when it is their time to go i will be there for them.


    • Heirloom varieties are gaining some attention with regard to agronomy and even meat reproduction.

      It takes a ton of attention and tenacity, but well worth the effort. It is better for the consumers, animals and environment.


      • Denise, we should demand them. and yes it is so much better for all. we have use manure on our fields none of that other junk. i feel it is harmful to the ground, and water. amazing what water can do when you irragate the pastures.


  11. Very well written article, &, SO true!! In my opinion, &, it’s just “an opinion”, by allowing horse slaughter, it WILL promote even more. More horses are sold to slaughter by irresponsible, greedy breeders, than ANY other means. The “average” horse owner does not intentionally sell or take their horses to slaughter. There are no more being slaughtered now, as there were when it was practiced in America. The “excuse” of “unwanted”, or, “I can’t afford”, is just that, an excuse. People have been neglecting, abusing & killing animals, including horses, for as long as we have been on this planet. In this money-hungry, uncaring & indifferent society & world that we are living in, in this “throw-away” society, horses are considered expendable, inanimate trash, un-needed, useless by-products. Slaughter is the term used for “food animals”, there is not, & never will be, a HUMANE way to kill these poor creatures, unless someone comes up with a world-wide accepted “instant death method”, which is highly unlikely. And, even if that ever came to be, there will be the low-life, shady individuals that will continue to use barbaric methods. Even if people become desperate & SICK enough, to actually raise horses as yet another food animal, by allowing horse slaughter, they are being encouraged to do so, even to the point of keeping the drugs out of them. ALL horse slaughter must STOP, PERIOD!! This is a human caused “problem”, we need to deal with it in a compassionate manner, not continue to show our stupidity, & our laziness, by just “tossing them aside”, or looking the other way. Oh, by the way, I do support small family farms that grow produce, or sell true cage-free eggs. I do not support any meat producers, however, simply because I don’t care how well you treat your animals, or how well you “know” each one, it’s the “end result” that really matters. It’s the cruelty involved. When I see a TV commercial showing some guys sitting around, eating their hamburgers, saying, “fresh beef is the best!”, I see a pack of wolves saying to eachother, “Nothing like fresh kill, it beats the heck out of rotting road-kill!” I can not eat meat, because I see the animal, not food, not “groceries”.


  12. Excellent article I must say. It states the truth as I and countless others see it. And your right Diana …….

    “A member of Equine Welfare Alliance and the food production industry, Diana Bodensteiner, stated it best, “Slaughter is food production. It is a serious, tightly regulated business. It is not the place we send unwanted cows, swine, sheep, and horses.”

    Veganism is a personal choice. One that cannot be foisted upon others. I agree with Diana that the two should issues i.e horse slaughter and veganism should remain separte, as discussing them together only convolutes things. Our fight is already hard enough and we ARE making more progress that we have ever before. We must stay focused on our determinationi to end the slaugher of American Horses forever by any legal means possible. JMHO


  13. Just to clarify, this wasn’t about eating or not eating meat. It is about slaughter supporters claiming WE want to bring down animal culture when they are doing it themselves. They are the folks that now have people questioning the safety of our food supply by supporting the slaughter of a non-regulated, non-food animal.

    Ending horse slaughter has nothing to do with being a vegan or eating a steak and bashing meat is just playing right into our opponent’s hands. Let’s stay focused and not bring issues into the mix that won’t help the efforts to end horse slaughter.

    Our support is far reaching from horse owners, food producers, racing, etc. It is not wise to make supporters feel unwelcome.

    Horses are not an acceptable food source in our country and are not raised or regulated as a food animal. That is the issue!


    • Thank you, Vicki. You lay it spare, bare and focused with this: “It is about slaughter supporters claiming WE want to bring down animal culture when they are doing it themselves. They …. now have people questioning the safety of our food supply by supporting the slaughter of a non-regulated, non-food animal.

      Ending horse slaughter has nothing to do with being a vegan or eating a steak and bashing meat is just playing right into our opponent’s hands. Let’s stay focused and not bring issues into the mix that won’t help the efforts to end horse slaughter.”

      Let’s work to end horse slaughter. It is the right thing to do. I know regardless whether we advocates are omnivore or vegetarian or vegan, we can all agree on this. Let’s get it done and try to look beyond our differences to accomplish this for the horses.




    • Sally in some countries that is done. It isn’t done in this country. We don’t have a humane method of slaughter for horses. We don’t have any drugs or wormers approved to keep “food horses” healthy and free of parasites.


      • Actually, in those “some countries”…they got problems that will eventually bubble up from the tankage pit/container.


      • This is for Ms Lawrence:

        Actually, you haven’t been censored and have 4 replies (Ms. Bodensteiner’s, 2 from me, Kathleen and technically, vicki’s (math =’s 5). And I should clarify my first reply to Ms Bodensteiner. I agree with the post, but understand that any of the Nations involved with equine slaughter for HC will struggle with fraud when it comes to an animal in developed Nations that are primarily used as service and performance animals that in turn will be categorized for the purpose of incentivized disposal as meat for humans.


  15. Horse is one of the most faithful animal. Horses and men have been living together for thousand of year ago. Ever since the inception of mankind and its relationship with human it is serving the human and humanity at large. So it becomes imperative for us to take good care of them so that the relations of mutual benefit continue.

    One of the most cruel thing that a humans do with it is that humans takes full advantage of it in its youth but when it becomes feeble or incapable of performing its duties it is sent to slaughter house or left in lurch to die. This is the most inhumane way to treating such a faithful animal.
    This is proven fact that ever since its creation this creature has been friendly and beneficial to humans. Whatever the circumstances may be it has proved itself against all odds.

    No doubt research work is improving day by day yet little is being done to improve the health of horses. With every passing era new equine diseases are surfacing on the face of earth but little attention is given to create a remedy for these diseases.

    I hope all these malpractices will be abolished and this animal is taken good care of provided the best possible stables, food and shelter. It is the beautiful creation of Mother Nature and one must not go against laws of nature.

    For more details on Help Equin Rescue




  16. The exceptional statement of the irony and facts speak for themselves. This is one of the best articles that hits the nail on the head, that i have ever had the priviledge of reading. Thank you so much.


  17. Simply put, the slaughter of horses for food, or otherwise, should NOT ever be allowed. It is “supply & demand”. If this disgusting, cruel practice is allowed to start back up in America, it WILL encourage more!! This is not about “unwanted, neglected, starving, etc., horses”, this is about human greed & STUPIDITY!


  18. I couldn’t figure out another place to put this, so here it is. 31 foals and 8 mares in a Nevada kill pen are facing slaughter by the end of the week. The foals’ Moms have already been shipped and are likely dead by now.

    “31 Newly Orphaned Foals and 8 Nursing Mares with their babies are in the Slaughter Pen. NOW is the time to make the Bucket Fund matter. These horses already have a place to go (and thrive), we just have to help them get there. All of them. And, we have 5 days…”

    Elaine, would you be willing to put this on your FB page?

    Everyone please pass this around on social media. $39,000 in 5 days is a real challenge, but I think it’s doable if we get enough folks on board. Lifesavers is ready to take them.

    You can donate at “Horse and Man”. I’ve been in personal contact with this blogger, and I know this is a GOOD place. She publishes a copy of every Bucket Fund receipt (to the supported cause), so you know your money went where you wanted it to go. You can also donate on the Lifesavers website.


Care to make a comment?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.