Horse News

New Report on Human Health Risks from Consumption of American Horse Meat

Press Release from the Humane Society of the United States

Horses Not Raised For Food Receive Medications Banned by FDA and the EU

The Humane Society of the United States issued a report detailing the food safety risks associated with consuming meat that originates in American horses.  Horses in the U.S. are primarily used for companionship or competition, therefore they are not treated in the same way as animals raised for human consumption. Horses are commonly given pharmaceuticals that have been banned for use in food-producing animals by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office.

“The slaughter of American horses poses a potentially serious health risk to human consumers, yet tens of thousands are still slaughtered for their meat,” said Dr. Michael Greger, director of public health and animal agriculture at The HSUS. “New measures put in place in the European Union to address this risk are vital steps to ensure horses who are regularly given phenylbutazone and other EU-banned substances are kept out of the slaughter pipeline.”

Americans don’t eat horses, but each year more than 100,000 U.S. horses are transported over the border to be slaughtered in Canada and Mexico, and the meat is exported for consumption in the European Union and Japan. Indeed, research shows that horses originating in the U.S. comprise a large percentage of the total slaughterhouse output of Canada and Mexico. The EU has found horsemeat from Mexican slaughterhouses contains harmful residues of several EU prohibited substances. A study of the medical records of race horses sent to slaughter shows that horses with a history of phenylbutazone use are making their way to slaughter plants despite the United States’ and other countries’ ban of the use of the drug in food producing animals. Phenylbutazone, commonly called “bute,” is an anti-inflammatory regularly given to horses, and it is known to be hazardous to humans, even in trace amounts.

In 2010, the European Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office evaluated food safety standards for imported horsemeat and found that many countries do not keep adequate veterinary pharmaceutical records nor are there systems in place to differentiate those equines raised for human consumption from those that are not.  Therefore, effective July 2013, the EU will require that all horses presented for slaughter at EU-certified plants in countries which export horsemeat to the EU have a veterinary record listing all medications they have been given over their lifetime. This new regulation would render nearly all American horses ineligible for foreign slaughter.

The Humane Society of the United States and Front Range Equine Rescue have filed legal petitions with both the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to block companion, working and show horses from being slaughtered for human consumption, due to the associated health risks. The petition documents more than 110 examples of drugs and other substances which are, or potentially should be, prohibited in food-producing horses, describes the horrible way in which horses die at slaughterhouses, and outlines the environmental devastation that has been associated with slaughter plants. View the full white paper:

Horse Slaughter Facts

•    Even though horses are not currently slaughtered for human consumption in the U.S., our horses are still being subjected to intense suffering and abuse through transport and slaughter over the border. Undercover footage shows live horses being dragged, whipped, and crammed into trucks in with interior temperatures reaching 110 degrees. Horses are often shipped for more than 24 hours at a time without food, water, or rest. Pregnant mares, foals, injured horses, and even blind horses must endure the journey.

•    In November 2011, Congress chose not to renew a prohibition on spending tax dollars to facilitate horse slaughter, which had been in place for five years, potentially opening the door for a return of horse slaughter plants on American soil, despite broad opposition in this country to the practice.  USDA documented a history of abuse and cruelty at the U.S. plants, including employees whipping horses in the face, horses giving birth on the killing floors, and horses arriving with gruesome injuries.

•    It is not only horses who are old, sick and infirm which fall victim to horse slaughter. USDA statistics show that 92 percent of all horses sent to slaughter arrive in “good” condition—meaning they are sound, in good health and could go on to lead productive lives.

•    Horse slaughter actually prevents horse rescue; rescue operators are routinely outbid by killer buyers at auctions.

•    The operation of horse slaughterhouses has a negative environmental impact. All three of the last domestic plants to close were in violation of local environmental laws related to the disposal of blood and other waste materials.

•    Congress is considering the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, S. 1176 introduced by Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and H.R. 2966 introduced by Reps. Dan Burton, R-Ind., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., to prevent horse slaughter plants from opening in the U.S. and stop the export of American horses for the purpose of slaughter in Canada and Mexico.

11 replies »

  1. A lot of us have been saying this all along. Unfortunately greed like love is blind. The pro slaughter folks have selective hearing or are just plain stupid. BUT politicians learned a long time ago that if you say it enough times people will eventually believe anything. Fortunately this is really true but we still have to keep saying it over and over until the information is adsorbed and understood. Of course this requires your audience to have some intelligence. Doesn’t seem to always be the case!


  2. I guess the only way to stop the importing of American horses to slaughter is to appeal to the fact that the meat is bad for the consumer. The fact that it is an evil,gruesome,cruel and inhumane industry just doesn’t seem to cut it.

    I think we should start advertising in Belgium and France and letting them know just how many drugs we give our horses. Perhaps we can scare the idiots into quitting their nasty appetite for horseflesh, at least our horseflesh.

    There are some who raise horses to be eaten in those countries, but thankfully not here.




    • If we endorse that position, then the horses will loose. It must be obvious by now that Wallis and her cohorts in evil money making schemes plan to factory farm horses for food. They have no intention of providing a venue for the so called UNwanted horse. That is merely a ploy to engage the support of those who wish to get the last cent out of their horses flesh rather than assuming their moral responsibility and providing a humane death. Factory farming came about because of the industrialization of agriculture, the long debunked theory of Descartes that animals are like machines and feel no pain and the ever increasing focus on scientific management and efficiency. If horses are bred in feed lots which would be analogous to veal and gestation crates then their lives would be short born to be killed and therefore no meds need to be administered. Of course foals like veal would probably bring them a big buck. I think the solution is to make the public aware. I spoke to a large audience on the ethical implications of factory farming and they were clueless to the issue of horse slaughter. I also introduced them to the concept of factory farming horses which mortified them. They will make calls and write letters but at best 100-150 people. We need national coverage and a public outcry. Look at pink slime. People found out and the business was closed down because grocery store chains pledged to stop its use. Meat glue appears to be next on the list. For some reason horse slaughter just does not get the coverage of things like pink slime. Granted the ethical issues are far reaching and would require that people abandon their speciesist approach to non-human animals and that may be something society is not yet willing to accept because a commitment to the just treatment of non-human animals would logically require a major change in social practices. In light of that, for now it seems to me that an anthropocentric approach is our best bet. Horse slaughter is wrong because it goes against American values. We have come together as a society before and ban things because we agreed they were not consistent with our values. The sell of organs is one example. Although people might want to sell their kidney, they could make a profit, we do not allow it because it is not a value we as a society endorse. YOu can donate a kideny but not sell it because we, as a society, believe it undermines human dignity. I believe the same goes for horse slaughter. It is not a practice we, as a society, condone. But the public needs to become aware of the potential evil that is biting at our heals and stop it before the greed of the slaughter people invades our society because like cancer it needs to be detected early and irradicated before it gets the chance to spread.


      • Faith,
        Such well thought out and intelligent points. I agree with you on much of it. However, I feel that in many cases, people only jump on a bandwagon because it affects them in some way.

        Now, many, many of our citizens have never touched a horse, or ridden a horse, or know anything at all about horses. They really never consider horses at all because horses do not affect their lives in any way.

        When our country was young, and horses and mules were the only means of transportation for most farming families, the horse was a familiar figure to everyone.

        My Grandmother rode a horse to school. My Mother rode in a covered wagon from Alabama to Georgia with her Father in the early 1900’s. Those people were accustomed to having a horse or two in the barn along with a cow and chickens in the yard.

        I grew up with chickens,ducks and dogs and cats. We had no horses at the house, but I soon found some elsewhere because I was horse crazy.

        To return to the subject, people will act on things that affect them. When a family has the father out of work and are getting evicted from their home, the last thing they care about is whether the wild horses and burros are o.k. and whether horses are being trucked to Mexico and Canada to be slaughtered.

        Now, if something is poisonous in their food, or affects their income, they will sit up and take notice. You are preaching to the choir here, we all are horse lovers and we care. Most of the citizens of the US just don’t have the time or interest to care about them.

        I feel that our only hope is to appeal to our legislators and politicians. They are the ones who hold the power to put through or not put through protection for horses and burros and other animals.

        In order to get their attention sometimes you have to really grind them down and do whatever you can to get their attention. As we can see from all ot the things our Representatives and Senators DID NOT DO this year, it takes a lot to get action for people, much less animals.

        I agree that education is a very important part of the solution. Our children should be taught compassion for other people and for animals, for all living beings. I would love to see that kind of thing done more in our schools.

        We are raising the adults of the future now, and the kind of people they turn out to be will depend on the things they are taught today.

        I can see a small change in attitude concerning humane farming and humane living conditions for fowl and cattle, pigs, etc. The big companies will only respond to public outcry where humane treatment for animals is concerned.

        Big business has to be changed by the people who spend money at their businesses. It is the bottom line that matters to business, not whether a chicken spends her entire life in a filthy, tiny cage, or a horse rides to its death in a filthy truck on its way to Mexico or Canada.


  3. Kathryn, you are right. As Americans, we need to contact and email those publications telling them just how unsafe the meat actually is. If one reads the European Regulations, it clearly identifies procedures that will be put in place. There is no place for American horse meat in the World. Again, it is pretty clear that American horses will be turned away and not purchased because they will not have the health certificates or records to follow them. No more changing papers or filing phony certificates. If they do, I hope they are arrested for their illegal acts. Kudos to the Europeon Union because they may be saving the lives of American horses as well the people who would normally consume the meat.


  4. I don’t now how many others noticed, but when Slaughterhouse Sue was spewing her lies, (in MO)she was asked about the likely toxins in horse meat. Her response was, “We will be producing our own horses, raised specifically for slaughter.”..
    Then, her partner in slime, when talking of the Hermiston site, stated, “There are enough wild horses on these reservation lands to last two years, and by then we will be raising our own”.

    So, all the hype about “saving America’s neglected, old, and starving horses” is getting tangled up in the truth. Their followers are still too blind to notice.
    It is ALL about greed, and nothing else maters..Certainly not the equines, not the consumer’s health, not the environment/public health..Nothing!


    • Laurel,
      You are so right. Slimy Sue is for sure planning to raise horses to slaughter. She slips up on her own slime doesn’t she?

      While planning to slaughter the wild horses on the reservations, she is already planning ahead to the day when she can manage an entire herd of horseflesh on the hoof for Belgium and France.
      NO, NO, NO, I think not. It will never happen Sue, and you will be in the ground long before you will ever be able to bring about your evil plans. I am not threatening, just hoping.


    • Laurel
      I teach Philosophy of Animals and the younger generation is definitely changing their views. First, the university supports my course as a service learning course. Second it is always full and wait listed. They have to do 10 hours at a rescue.They drive in one case 2hours each way. They go to either a horse rescue, therapeutic riding, hospice for cats, or my farm with horses and donkeys and everything. Almost every law school in the country has a course on animal law and a student animal law association. Times they are a changing. The problem lies with the uneducated good ole boys. The demand for humane agricultural is growing as more and more universities based on pressure from their students go cage free and yesterday Burger King bowing to public pressure decided to go cage free also. The number of vegetarians continues to increase and institutions are forced to provide us with a meat free cruelty free diet. If people are made aware they will care but as it was pointed out many individuals have never known a horse up close and personal so we must educate them.


  5. a local trainer sells her prized paints for slaughter and says; ‘i don’t care if you slaugher them, as long as i’m invited to dinner’. yep, right here in n. california. this witch is considered a top 10 trainer in the country. rotten to the core. it’s a felony here too, supposedly.


  6. While there is pressure from American consumers for humane agricultural practices, there is a competing force from what I can gather from perusing some agricultural/livestock websites and through conversations with people in some fields of agriculture. That competing force is the notion that by there may an additional two billion people to feed before we know it, and that we have only so much land, water, and air to grow the food supply for the rest of the world.

    If you are not involved with horses or know someone who is as in you have never set aside the first Saturday in May to watch a horse race, you are unlikely to think much about horse slaughter. It just doesn’t occur to you that we as a country would allow such a thing, and even worse, that anyone would eat horse meat if we did. I have friends who shudder at the words of horse and slaughter being used together in the same sentence.

    I do wonder where some of this is going. I know the President is trying to make a joke about eating dog as a young child, but he chose to reveal this as an adult to a nation that would find the practice of eating dog abhorrent. He is being very glib about it in my view. With both horses and humans, we would call this desensitizing. Like, wow, how bad can eating dog meat be if the President did it and is willing to admit it?


  7. Wait til PZP gets into the product–what will that do to a generation of children ? Remember thalidomide? Hey–we’re talking mutations and reproductive failure– it’s all experimental–and BLM and Wallis et al have no documentation, no answers on how this will affect humans–and may be liable for birth defects. What’s for lunch at school? Get your lawyers ready.


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.