Horse News

Slaughter of U.S. Horses Soars as Horse Meat Scandal Explodes

Source: Equine Welfare Alliance

“The finding of horse meat in meals supplied to schools and hospitals is of particular concern…”

Chicago (EWA) – According to USDA statistics, the slaughter of US horses soared by 32% in 2012 to over 176,000, a twenty year high. The horses were exported largely to slaughter houses in Mexico and Canada, which then shipped the meat to the EU (Europe Union) where horse meat has subsequently been found to have been fraudulently substituted for beef in everything from burgers to lasagna and even school lunches.

The number of horses exported to Mexico increased from 68,429 in 2011 to 110,202 in 2012, a 61% increase while exports to Canada actually decreased slightly (7.5%) to 59,812.


Despite the EU repeatedly finding the prohibited carcinogen phenylbutazone and other banned substances in the meat of US horses, and despite its own audit reports stating that they still have no effective way of preventing contaminated horse meat from entering their food chain, the authorities have allowed the trade to continue to expand.

Both Canada and Mexico require slaughter horse sellers to provide Equine Information Documents (EIDs) stating any drugs the horses have been given. But inexplicably, Mexico does not test for phenylbutazone or even include it on seller affidavits despite the fact that the drug is at the top of the EU’s banned substance list.

Until recently it was thought that this endangered only consumers of horse meat, but now it is clear that is not the case. The finding of horse meat in meals supplied to schools and hospitals is of particular concern since children are extremely vulnerable to even trace amounts of phenylbutazone, which can cause potentially lethal aplastic anemia.

The reason for both the scandal and the contamination lies in the nature of the horses. US horses being sent to slaughter are overwhelmingly young sport horses, four to eight years old, and at the end of very short careers. The horses are comprised largely of Quarter Horses (~ 70%), followed by Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds. Most were used in rodeo and racing before being dumped to slaughter.

Since the horses are a byproduct of these sports, they were not raised for slaughter and were almost universally given drugs prohibited in food animals. The low cost of these horses ($100 to $500) makes them far cheaper than beef, thus providing a huge incentive for the fraudulent substitution.

Increases in the cost of keeping horses in recent years have suppressed the domestic market for recreational horses, leaving the kill buyers with bargains galore.

A ban on funding for US horse meat inspections, which was passed by Congress in 2006, was rescinded in 2011, but to date no horse slaughter plants have opened in the US.

Despite the devastating effect of the scandal on beef sales in the EU, and endless revelations about contaminated horse meat, Oklahoma is considering repealing its own ban on horse slaughter in hopes of enticing a plant to that state.

34 replies »

  1. Oklahoma Land of the primitives! I for one will not spend a dime in OK nor will I buy anything that I know comes from OK. Heck I won’t even drive through the state because it isn’t worth taking a dump on!


  2. Oklahoma is a great state. OK politicians? They are an entirely different matter most suited for a manure compost pit. They are slaves to big ag.

    Remember, if the governor signs the bill….THEY STILL NEED USDA INSPECTORS…..NOT GONNA HAPPEN! especially with the sequester.


  3. what this graph shows is that the recession of the 90’s was much more devastating on the horses when slaughter houses were located in the US..In good economic times, slaughter is way down//It is pretty obvious horsemeat has been in the food chain for over 20 years//slaughter houses don’t buy unless they have a market..another downturn in the economy in conjuction with drought increasing demand, raises the price of hay yet again…food ground being used to produce ethanol…a very very bad idea on every level..irrigated fertilized crops, are neither energy efficient nor carbon efficient..its transferring costs to food and animal production and passes to the consumer…ethanol crops shoud only be grown on non irrigated non productive lands(swithchgrass)and lands currently receiving CRP payments from the government..

    just to be clear..that 70% number for QHs is QH type, and includes all breeds like paints and apaloosas andTB and anything that “looks” QH type ..color s not an indicator


      • the AQHA owns no horses..its the people who own horses who witingy or unwitingly sell their horses to slaughter..I can say yes to your question..but that does nothing to solve any of the problems we are facing..the majority of horses are going to slaughter because they cannot afford to feed them or their property was forclosed…look at the chart..during recessions this happens and during good economic times it goes way down..less going to slaughter today than in the 90s by far..I have X amount of time and money to spend..I am going to spend it where I have a chance of making a difference


      • Sandra…I call Bull$hit.

        The AQHA owns the papers and the breeding numbers…to include not excluding mares and most especially the stallions that our HYPP positive.

        It is no sin to be poor…it is, however a sin to be dirty (that includes selling contaminated meat) and irresponsible.

        Every owner has the right to humanely euth (HCHS ain’t humane). Again, I call a B$ timeout….most people that ship to slaughter are not in the “can’t afford to feed” category.

        Spend your money without owning equines. Luxury….not a necessity or right.

        Bring it on!


      • I could argue this point all day but the above chart proves my point..AQHA owns -nothing..they can deny registration or approve..most horses have no papers when they go to a slaughter plant..usually just a brand certificate from the auction yard…papers are meaningless at this point


      • Sandra…incorrect. The chart shows the number of US equines shipped….not why those equines are there (let’s start with theft for starters).

        My point about AQHA is about their registration numbers, policy on AI, defective sires and dames and their position on HCHS.

        Whose side you on?…really.



        I got info from an interview from Nestle to a EU paper….I have some serious concerns about the statement in the article that if horsemeat is used it would have to be revealed, all the pet food ingrediants say is “meat byproduct and animal digest..a trip to the FDA website discussed slaughter and rendering plants..I got these facts,, a 1200 lb horse produces 360 lbs of meat or only 30% of the carcused is used..840 lbs goes to the rendering plant..usually located near a slaughter ground up guts and spine brain et ..all the parts containing the most toxic becomes the protein in farm food for livestock, and it lists on the website 36% to poulttry-36 to pet foods and then down to hogs ect and lists 3% to cannot be included in cow feed since the mad cow outbreak which came from feeding dead cows rendered into feed..but they allow this by product of horsemeat..which is the most toxic part in other animals food we eat and in our pet food..that is appox 20,000,000 lbs just from US horses f this rendered cooked product..which is considered protein..Also rendering plants is where our Euthanised horses go that are full of the chemicals vets used to put them down..sick horses, cancer cows and downers..all suffering from disease


  4. The food conglomerates and main stream media conglomerates have done quite the snow job with covering up the tainted US horse meat, have they not?


  5. I am disturbed greatly by the chart on many stomach-turning levels, but one tiny little detail caught my eye: Why were there American horses slaughtered in Japan in 2012?

    As for the AQHA argument: Stop mega-breeding with AI and surrogate mares and maybe you won’t have so many mouths you “can’t afford to feed”! The TB industry is no angel when it comes to slaughter, but thankfully they have continued to resist the AI/Surrogat curse.


  6. The argument of can’t afford feed is tired and old. What is hapopening is riders are raised with the idea that the horse is a vehicle, to sell because can’t get an outfit that matches the color, or want to jump instead of barrel race. Or even, hands so bad, the horse now tosses its head.

    We have few people relinquishing due to cost. Maybe those in the business dispersing – I’ve seen plenty of lots going through.

    The ones taken to auction are more than likely being traded or sold out for “newer” or “better.”


  7. I think if this many horses are going to slaughter, there needs to be a breeding ban. It infuriates me that people continue to breed and then sell for a variety of irresponsible reasons. It is shameful as a owner, not follow that horse from the time it is born until it dies, sorry. I see nothing but GREED and MONEY, or lack there of, controlling decisions about horses lives. I realize there are horses that require being humanely euthanized because they are a danger or injured, but to me that is the only reason I can understand. As with the dogs and cats, if we are euthanizing 4 million a year in the United States, something very WRONG is going on, same with our horses here in the US. There has to be a more socially acceptable consideration for these horses lives, to have such little disregard for them is unacceptable. Sending them to Canada or Mexico is absolutely wrong and a horrific end for these majestic animals. More slaughter plants here in the US is not the answer, stopping the unwanted breeding of thousands of horses per year is far more realistic.


    • Kami:

      With the scandal in the EU, international bans on US traditional livestock imports…..HCHS is on the economical wane.

      I talked to a friend and said….watch the border holding lots to see the future of HCHS, EU standards implementation and dumping.

      Heard border lots are almost empty and the spike in shipments, co-mingling and reports of mislabeling are basically the horsemeaters dumping and stopping because they see the writing on the wall.

      Issue is not closed yet and the wild ones still need our attention as do the domestic equines….but they buyers of contaminated meat stolen equines and peddling dirty meat is close to be ending.

      Check the auctions….check the border hellhole lots…check them.


  8. RED ALERT: I just got a newsletter from The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition that said that “Horse Meat Scandal is having a ripple effect in Alberta. One kill buyer is saying that the pounds of horse meat we’re shipping has been cut in half. Bruce Flewelling, who sells horses for slaughter , said he was told last week by the facility he sends his animals to that it couldn’t accept any for the time being. Flewelling is know to sell to Bouvry in Fort MacLeod.
    This is what I meant a few days ago when I said that there needs to be a way to check auctions to find out if the horses are still being bought by kill buyers. I have a good idea that US horse meat was what was being mixed with the beef all over the EU. Since US horse meat is considered “cheap” this is what the companies would look for to use. I’ll bet to if all of the beef is checked it will contain Bute. If someone could see the names of the importers of the horse meat from Canada all the makers of food products in the EU countries that use meat would be on the list. Unless they all use a front company to cover up what they have been doing for years. I don’t think this is going to go away anytime soon and this is going to knock the bottom out of the slaughter plant in OK. Also in other states that had the same idea. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.


  9. Good comment Jan..
    “The argument of can’t afford feed is tired and old. What is hapopening is riders are raised with the idea that the horse is a vehicle, to sell because can’t get an outfit that matches the color, or want to jump instead of barrel race. Or even, hands so bad, the horse now tosses its head.

    We have few people relinquishing due to cost. Maybe those in the business dispersing – I’ve seen plenty of lots going through.

    The ones taken to auction are more than likely being traded or sold out for “newer” or “better.””
    Agree, Agree, Agree, so sick of this, I see it at so many barns, I am feeding and caring for the old and forgotten ones that would end up at the slaughter houses…there is so much apathy and the corruption in Big AG has to be exposed and changed, I see it here in CA, I can imagine what it’s like in OK 😦 we have our work cut out for us in this fight still…


  10. OK. has bills that would allow horse slaughter plants in their state. Ok. is also one of the largest Mustang long term facilities in the country. The BLM is having a conference next week and most of it’s commitee is pro-horse slaughter. It has been brought to the attention of the public that over 1700 Mustangs were sold to Mr Salazar’s neighbor and the man is a “kill buyer”(in Colo). There is no accounting as to where those Mustangs have gone. I’m sure when the horse advocates complete their meat inspections that will also be posted. I just can’t see why the cattlemen want horse slaughter to come back, you’d think it would cut into their “business”. I can see why they don’t want the Mustangs on Public/BLM land, seeing as they can put their cattle on it for like $1.40 a head but slaughter plants????Later, PatDate: Thu, 28 Feb 2013 11:55:56 +000


  11. It’s all so sickening. I do hope the Humane Society & other national organizations file any necessary lawsuits to prevent re-opening of slaughterhouses. What about PETA? Where do they weigh in on this issue? Can we start a national petition that can get to our politicians?

    I hope these budget cuts prevent hiring any more USDA inspectors. Currently, it appears to be known who is illegally shipping horses to MX & CN. We know where the staging lots are. Nobody in the gov’t seems to want to do anything about that. Geez, if these were heroin shippers, I bet they’d be arrested. What a disgrace!

    At the end of the day, I agree with Denise. At the core is that we continue to want to abuse horses in “equestrian sport”. Horses are chattel (property) that owners easily want to throw away when they don’t “perform” accordingly or are at the end of their “useful” life (confirmed by the stats in this article). We put bits in horses mouths…which control them with PAIN, use spurs, heavy saddles…inflict more pain. Then sadly they have to endure more pain going to slaughter. Why are there so many carcinogens present in horsemeat? Because these poor horses are forced to keep going with drugs. Pretty obvious! “Horsemen” & breeders will vigilantly defend their positions but there’s too much scientific evidence to prove the harm we do to these horses. We’ve knows it for thousands of years. ok, off my soapbox!!


    • PETA supports reinstatement of horse slaughter in the US rationalizing that transport is so cruel to be inhumane. They obviously never realized that the last slaughter plants to exist in the US were on the border of Mexico and one near the border of Canada. Makes we wonder if before those plants were closed, they advocated more plants be built in the US. Don’t ask PETA to. Jump in, they’ve already caused much damage with their misguided authority.
      Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T


    • Excuse me, Mo…I did not say what you summated or attribute to me.

      There are people that are kind, use bits WITH SOFT HANDS (depends on the bit or halter, honey) and euth humanely You ever seen an English spur?????

      I only gave my horses “drugs” when they were in pain from injury. I don’t show or race, so it wasn’t from performance related injury…just $hit happens…abscesses, kicks, illness and then there is the regular regime of drugs for AAEP suggested scheduled health care that makes them ineligible for the human meatman.

      I think the “sequester” is a disaster…. for everyone. We don’t have enough traditional food inspectors now.

      p.s. the US ain’t doing so well on the proverbial “Drug War” either….or guns,


  12. I could definitely be wrong about this because I know that the Quarter Horse breeders in New Mexico are completely out of control, but I have been been in touch with some vets and following a few breed magazines. It looks like domestic breeding is down in terms of foal production. Therefore, I fear this increase in number represets the sell-off of our wild horses and burros in long term holding or the possibility that ranchers have pulled some of our babies and mares off the range for breeding with their stock specifically for slaughter. It is also that some of the horses removed from the range may have separated from the herds rounded up on private property to add to ranch stock hoping to produce horses for Wallis World’s Industrial Dump.

    There should be a state-by-state count. I found one a few years ago, but have not been able to find it again. Geography can be very informative if you have an idea about what you are looking for.


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