Horse News

Oklahoma Lawmakers Vote to Allow Horse Slaughter

Source: Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY

The discovery in Europe of horse meat disguised as beef has intensified the debate over the slaughter of horses for food. Oklahoma just voted to allow it, but there are no federal inspectors.

(Click on Image to Enlarge)

(Click on Image to Enlarge)

The fight over using horses for food grew louder Tuesday when the Oklahoma Legislature voted to allow the operation of horse slaughterhouses.

The issue has taken on greater urgency since horse meat appeared, disguised as beef, in European outposts of Burger King and other restaurants there.

A USA TODAY analysis found that as much as 17% of the horse meat in Europe originated in the United States, even though no horse meat is legally produced here. Unwanted horses are shipped to Canada and Mexico, where they are slaughtered for meat.

Horse meat has been illegal since Congress ended U.S. Department of Agriculture funding for horse slaughterhouse inspections in 2006 at the urging of animal rights activists. That funding prohibition expired in 2011, but horses cannot legally be slaughtered for food because the USDA no longer has trained inspectors.

A bill now in Congress would make it illegal to slaughter horses for food or to ship them out of the country for slaughter. Last year, 166,572 U.S. horses were shipped to Canada and Mexico to be slaughtered for food, according to USDA and Agriculture Canada figures.

“Horses have been raised for sport, transport, security and companionship, but never for slaughter and consumption,” said Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat who introduced the legislation. “There are very few regulations on the drugs given to horses, and we cannot risk introducing dangerously toxic meat into our food supply here at home or abroad. We must stop the slaughter of these beloved animals and protect the public’s health.”

The Oklahoma action ends the state’s 50-year ban on slaughtering horses for human consumption. Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican, has said she is inclined to sign the bill.

No one in Oklahoma has applied for permission to slaughter horses, and even with the governor’s signature, horse slaughter couldn’t take place without USDA oversight.

State Rep. Skye McNiel, a Republican, said in an e-mail that she introduced the bill as “a much more humane way to treat these animals, to manage the population and to control the neglect that we are seeing when irresponsible owners decide they can no longer take care of their horses.”

Four states — California, Illinois, New Jersey and Texas — ban horse slaughter.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals issued a statement from Nancy Perry, senior vice president for government relations, expressing disappointment “that the Oklahoma legislature would welcome the grisly and predatory horse slaughter industry.”

“The ill-advised legislative gutting of Oklahoma’s law against the sale of horse meat for human consumption could not be more poorly timed, given the strong opposition from the majority of Oklahoma voters and the now well-documented dangers of toxic horse meat for consumers,” she said.

Europeans consumed 119,000 tons of horse meat in 2012, of which 21,250 tons came from U.S. horses slaughtered in Mexico and Canada, according to Keith Dane, director of equine protection with the Humane Society of the United States.

Animal rights groups and horse fanciers argue that horses have never been raised for meat in the United States and that, because they are routinely given drugs such as wormers and phenylbutazone for inflammation, their flesh is unhealthy for people to eat.

“American horses aren’t raised for food, they’re raised for pleasure and competition,” said Stephanie Twining, of the Humane Society of the United States. “In the United States we think of horses as pets and racehorses and celebrities.”

Janine Jacques, of the Equine Rescue Network in Newton, Mass., tries to find homes for unwanted horses, asks, “What are we going to do with 160,000 unwanted horses in the United States?”

Jacques, who teaches equine management at Mount Ida College in Newton, thinks slaughter plants are necessary but that more could be done to reduce the number of animals sent to them. She said, “If we don’t have slaughter as an option, you’re going to see a lot more abused and abandoned horses.”

11 replies »

    • Patricia, I think we can include Janine, right up there with PETA in “how to hurt our battle to end slaughter, 101”


  1. Miss Janine fails to recognize that every owner and state welfare agency has the right to humane euth via chem or qualified gunshot.

    Why do journalists NEVER question HCHS is the only answer.

    Oh…and HCHS equines are most DEFINITELY NOT unwanted….just ask a KB. Plus HCHS doesn’t control all overbreeder, irresponsible owner discards. And it certainly feeds the stolen equine criminal element.

    It’s about money and convenience; it certainly isn’t about a qualified food source.


  2. It is inherently cruel to slaughter horses in a modern industrial slaughter house. It is also unsafe for the people who work there, and that is why they become even more cruel to the horse.

    It is inherently unsafe to eat American horsemeat.

    I suppose this proves that our educational system has failed. These people are unable to look at the facts and draw a logical conclusion. The horses they want to slaughter are a more intelligent form of life than they are.


  3. Yeah, a rescue is not a rescue to me if they support horse slaughter. It almost an oxymoron to call themselves a rescue. We need to call them out on that.


  4. How in the world do people like McNiel continue to get away with that “more humane” line? Have NONE of the legislators seen a single one of the videos easily available?


  5. Just great Oklahoma!! Do you care, or realize how stupid you look to the entire world right now?? Because of your apparent ignorance, you have now opened the doors for any other state stupid enough to follow in your footsteps, which I’m sure will now happen. They were all just waiting for someone else to be first. God help our horses, God help us all!! It looks like the bad guys won, we lost, our horses have lost! And the rest of the world can now openly feast on our beautiful, toxic, tainted, poisoned, carcinogenic, beloved, friends & companion animals! DISGUSTING & SHAMEFUL! I wonder how profitable this will be, since the biggest consumer, the EU, has officially banned horses & their “meat” from being exported from America? So, I guess we all get to sit here, typing away, wiping away our tears, & nothing can or will be done to change things, or to stop this. Where were all the health professionals, doctors, pharmacists, & veterinarians, the ones who KNOW better than to let this slip through their hands, the potential deadly consequences of this “food safety issue”???? I’ll risk going to jail if Missouri, anywhere even close to my home or our horse, tries to open that horror here, I will go buy a gun, I will FIGHT BACK!!


  6. A rescue touting slaughter….How hypocritical..which is them or kill them?? What about working with the breeders, trainers and others that are the money makers here? If there are no slaughter houses how would they cull the horses out they find no longer profitable. I would bet my life that a good number of the horses that go to slaughter have not been abdoned by owners, but breeders and trainers who cannot squeeze one more penny out of the poor horse(s). I have owned 4 horses in my life time and all of them remained with me until their deaths. They were 32, 34, a 3 year old appy colt who died of colic and my current Arabian gelding that I saved from the “Killers” who is now in his 20’s. Most of us love and care our horses and are not traded off like old shoes or a piece of clothing. If the Govenrnor does sign it into law it can be challenged with an amendment. It could also go the route of being challenged by a certain percentage of Legislator. However, this seems to me to be a real miracle, but we all know that they happen. I hope Oklahoma politicians receive the rath of God if they do in fact begin slaughtering horses. If I lived in the state, I would be filming pictures on day one as the trucks roll in, making sure I filmed all the 2 story wooden junks in violation of the law. I would not ever be afraid of being arrested to protect the lives of our wonderful horses. One can only hope if enacted this law would be challenged to the extent of the law. I guess Oklahoma is a very rich state to assume tax payers are willing to pay all the legal costs involved..



  7. to Janine
    “Massachusetts Against Horse Slaughter”: “Friday, February 25, 2011
    Massachusetts State Senate bill seeks to end horse slaughter
    Massachusetts State Senator Stephen Brewer of Barre, MA has introduced a bill in the Massachussetts Senate in Boston. This humane bill will ban horse slaughter for human consumption in the state, as well as its horrific and deadly bulk transportation.
    State residents, equine rescues, animal lovers, and all who are concerned with the humane treatment of horses are called upon to actively support this forward-thinking and compassionate legislation.

    This bill was drafted by Equine Welfare Alliance and Animal Law Coalition and is fully supported by the Massachusetts chapter of Americans Against Horse Slaughter, and Senator Brewer’s bold support is highly commendable and much-appreciated. ”

    the article continues….. and you bet I support this…


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