Horse News

Animal Welfare Groups Plan Suit in Response to USDA Decision to Support the Slaughter of Horses for Human Consumption

“America’s horses are not raised as food animals…”

91(June 28, 2013)— The U.S. Department of Agriculture has given the green light for the grisly practice of horse slaughter to resume on U.S. soil. The agency approved an application for horse slaughter inspections under federal law at a plant in New Mexico. This news comes on the heels of the U.S. House and Senate appropriations committees’ votes to halt all funding for horse slaughter in FY 2014. The decision means that the federal government could potentially spend millions of taxpayer dollars to start up inspections at horse slaughter plants, only to have Congress terminate the process in the coming months.

image002In response to the USDA’s decision, The Humane Society of the United States and Front Range Equine Rescue plan to file suit immediately against the USDA to put a stop to this agency decision. The two groups previously informed USDA that they would take aggressive legal action against the agency, in light of the serious unresolved environmental and food safety issues surrounding horse slaughter.

Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation at The HSUS, said: “The USDA’s decision to start up domestic horse slaughter, while at the same time asking Congress to defund it, is bizarre and unwarranted. Slaughter plants have a history of polluting their communities and producing horsemeat that is tainted with a dangerous cocktail of banned drugs. We intend to hold the Obama administration accountable in federal court for this inhumane, wasteful and illegal decision.”

Hilary Wood, president of Front Range Equine Rescue, said: “America’s horses are not raised as food animals, and they receive numerous substances during their lives making them unfit and illegal for human consumption. Adding insult to injury, the suffering of the horses in the slaughter pipeline and the danger to humans makes this action more than inhumane. Horses bound for slaughter have many alternatives open to them including re-training, re-homing, and humane euthanasia. We remain committed to stopping this insult to justice and our sense of justice.”

The USDA’s approval is particularly surprising, considering the recent scandal in the European Union, where horsemeat was discovered in food products labeled as beef.  The operation of horse slaughter plants in the U.S. will make it more difficult to prevent the commingling between horsemeat and beef products that occurred in Europe.

Horses are raised as pets and for use in show, sport, work and recreation in the U.S. and are regularly administered drugs that are expressly prohibited by current federal regulations for use in animals intended for human consumption. For example, a common pain reliever routinely administered to all types of horses, Phenylbutazone, is known to cause potentially fatal human diseases, and if the animal has taken the drug, the meat is adulterated and should not be eaten. There is also no system in the U.S. to track medications and veterinary treatments given to horses to ensure that their meat is safe.

Any facility slaughtering thousands of horses will necessarily be processing the blood, organs and remains of animals whose tissues and blood may contain significant amounts of dangerous substances, which are either known to be dangerous, or which have never been tested on humans and therefore present completely unknown dangers. At least six applications for horse slaughter inspections have been filed with the USDA.


  • This month, the U.S. House and Senate Appropriations committees voted to block funding for inspections of horse slaughter plants. President Obama’s proposed FY 2014 budget also included a request for Congress to prevent tax dollars from supporting horse slaughter.
  • The HSUS and FRER also filed petitions with USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to declare horsemeat unfit for human consumption. USDA denied that petition.
  • According to a national poll conducted last year, 80 percent of Americans disapprove of horse slaughter.
  • “Kill buyers” gather up horses from random sources and profit by selling healthy horses for slaughter that bring the best price per pound for their meat. USDA reports show that approximately 92 percent of American horses going to slaughter are healthy and would otherwise be able to go on to lead productive lives.
  • The methods used to kill horses rarely result in quick, painless deaths, as horses often endure repeated blows to render them unconscious and sometimes remain conscious during the slaughtering process. When horse slaughter plants previously operated in the U.S., the USDA documented severe injuries to horses in the slaughter pipeline, including broken bones and eyeballs hanging from a thread of skin.
  • The Safeguard American Food Exports Act, H.R. 1094 / S. 541, introduced this year by U.S. Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Reps. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., is a bipartisan measure that would outlaw horse slaughter operations in the U.S., end the current export of American horses for slaughter abroad, and protect the public from consuming toxic horsemeat.

Media Contacts:

HSUS – Stephanie Twining, 240-751-3943,

FRER – Hilary Wood, 719-481-1490,


22 replies »

    • I was sent from Animal Protection of new Mexico go to web site they are telling folks to email this guy at the NM ENVIROMENTS DEPARTMENT to not Allow a permit, it has his name and email address AND they have the GOV. EMAIL ADDRESS AGAIN EMAIL HER, AND go to U.S. Congress facebook page I did and begged them to fix this…. we still have a chance it’s not a done deal YET!!!


  1. I offer this condensed version of an open letter from the past Mayor of a horse-slaughter town and suggest that letters/emails/calls be sent to the mayor, governor, chamber of commerce and others who may need to hear about this:

    “As a mayor who lived with this plague in her town for many years, who knows what the horse slaughter industry really is and what it does to a community please allow me to tell you what we experienced. The industry caused significant and long term hardship to my community which was home to Dallas Crown, one of the last three horse slaughter plants in the United States.
    All three plants were foreign-owned, and since the market for horsemeat is entirely foreign, the industry will always be dominated by these foreign interests. The corporations involved in this industry have consistently proven themselves to be the worst possible corporate citizens.
    The Dallas Crown horse slaughtering facility had been in operation in Kaufman since the late 70’s and from the beginning had caused problems both economically and environmentally. I have listed some of the specific issues below.
    I will gladly provide you with detailed reports from my former City Manager, Police Chief, and Public Works Director regarding odor and wastewater effluence violations at the Dallas Crown horse slaughter plant in the City of Kaufman.. The reports reference “decaying meat [which] provides a foul odor and is an attraction for vermin and carrion,” containers conveyed “uncovered and leaking liquids,” there are “significant foul odors during the daily monitoring of the area,” and “Dallas Crown continually neglects to perform within the standards required of them.”
    Therefore, in August of 2005, our City Council decided by unanimous decision to send the Dallas Crown issue to the Board of Adjustments for termination of their non-conforming use status. In March of 2006, the Board of Adjustments voted to order Dallas Crown closed, but the plant was able to tie the enforcement up in the courts until they were finally closed under state law in February of 2007.
    Dallas Crown repeatedly described itself as a “good corporate citizen.” I will be straightforward in asserting that they are the very antithesis of such.
    **Dallas Crown had a very long history of violations to their industrial waste permit, ‘loading’ the capacity of the wastewater treatment plant.
    **Dallas Crown denied the City access to their property for wastewater testing
    beginning October 1, 2004 until July 6, 2005, despite requirement by city ordinance, city permit agreement, and court order.
    **City staff reported that a $6 million upgrade to our wastewater treatment plant would be required even though the plant was planned and financed to last through 2015.
    **Odor problems resulting from the outside storage of offal and hides over several days persisted not only in traditionally African-American neighborhood known as “Boggy Bottom”, but at the nearby Presbyterian Hospital , the daycare center, and surrounding areas.
    **Transport of offal and fresh hides on City and state thoroughfares is conducted in leaking containers without covers.
    **City documents reveal an extended history of efforts to have Dallas Crown address various environmental issues. Reports include descriptive language including such as “blood flowing east and west in the ditches from your plant,” “It has been over 45 days [it had been 59 days] and no apparent cleanup has occurred,” “Your system has not improved and subsequently it has gotten a lot worse,” “Words cannot express the seriousness” of recent violations and the “adverse effects on the wastewater treatment plant,” and “Please be sure trailers are secured before leaving your premises to prevent spills,” noting also “bones and blood laying in front of the facility,” problems with bones and parts in neighboring yards and the attraction of “dogs and other animals.”
    **In response to 29 citations for wastewater violations, each accompanied by a potential fine of $2,000, Dallas Crown requested 29 separate jury trials, potentially causing yet another economic strain to the City’s budget. We could, of course, not afford to litigate in order to extract the fines.
    **Dallas Crown took 11 months to submit a mandatory “sludge control plan” to assist efficient operation of the wastewater treatment plant though City staff requested it orally and in writing many times.
    **The City Manager advised me that the City would have to spend $70,000 in legal fees because of Dallas Crown problems, which was the entire legal budget for the fiscal year.
    **During this period, Dallas Crown paid property taxes that were less than half of what the City spent on legal fees directly related to Dallas Crown violations.
    **Generally, Dallas Crown has the economic ability to prevail, to exceed the constraints of the City’s budget.
    Dallas Crown had a negative effect on the development of surrounding properties, and a horse slaughter plant is a stigma to the development of our city generally. I have since learned that these problems were mirrored at the other two plants. Fort Worth’s Beltex horse slaughter plant also violated Ft. Worth’s wastewater regulations several times, clogged sewer lines, and both spilled and pumped blood into a nearby creek (San Antonio Current, June 19, 2003 ). Texas State Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, whose district includes Beltex, and Rep. Toby Goodman, R-Arlington, fought hard against legislation that would have legalized horse slaughter in Texas in 2003.
    The horse slaughter plant in DeKalb , IL had a similar pattern. It was destroyed by fire in 2002, and rebuilt in 2004. It was charged and fined by the DeKalb Sanitary District almost every month from the reopening until its closing in 2007 under a new state law for consistently exceeding wastewater discharge guidelines. I can provide you with the documentation of those violations. Like Dallas Crown, Cavel refused to pay their fines for years.
    During this time, I learned that an estimated $5 million in Federal funding was being spent annually to support three foreign-owned horse slaughter plants! And when the Dallas Crown tax records were exposed in the city’s legal struggle, we found that they had paid only $5 in federal taxes on a gross income of over $12,000,000!
    Moreover, the parent company of Cavel has since moved its operations to Canada and continued to slaughter American horses. In Canada they have apparently become even more blatant, dumping huge untreated piles of entrails onto open ground and even using a tanker truck to discharge blood and refuse into a local river.
    I have mentioned only the pollution issue, but this is but one negative aspect of horse slaughter. I have subsequently learned of a USDA document containing 900 pages of graphic photos that show the horrors that the horses were subject to. Behind the privacy fences of these plants, trucks arrived continuously and on those trucks was every form of inhumane violation one can imagine from mares birthing foals to horses with eyes dangling from their sockets and legs ripped from their bodies.
    The more I learn about horse slaughter, the more certain I am: There is no justification for horse slaughter in this country. My city was little more than a door mat for a foreign-owned business that drained our resources, thwarted economic development and stigmatized our community. Americans don’t eat horses, and we don’t raise them for human consumption. There is no justification for spending American tax dollars to support this industry at the expense of Americans and our horses.


  2. The lawsuits may slow this up until the defunding can be signed into law. This may not be the only lawsuit filed, there could be others when it becomes known about what has happened. There may be factions in the USDA that are ranchers or their friends so this may not be so surprising.


  3. So will the USDA be testing each and every horse for illegal drug residues? Amazing how they can approve of slaughtering animals for human consumption that have had absolutely no ‘food-producing animal’ regulations applied to them, none, that is applied and enforced on every animal slaughtered for human consumption. Why bother having regulations and banned medications at all for any animal then? Just let the free for all begin.


    • No, they will be random testing just like they do cattle – per FSIS. The HSUS and FRER asked both the USDA and FDA to declare horse meat unfit for human food, but neither of those agencies did anything. Beats me!


      • Ok, So I have brought this is up time and time again, with cattle the random spot checks are ok-because most cattle come in from herds bought from the same places or farms, they are numbered and identified for the purpose of maintaining somewhat accurate records. However, what doesn’t make a lick of sense and somehow we have to wake FSIS to this situation. Without testing EVERY single horse there is NO way to be assured the meats are safe. The illusion of testing by just conducting random tests in based purely on the measures put in place for cattle slaughter coming from mainly one source. But in many cases these horses have never seen each other prior to the buyer purchasing them, or being in a auctionhouse. So when we observe this, what we are seeing is a deceptive practice concerning food safety. Without the testing in place of every horse they


      • are unable to accurately say the meat is safe. This issue is one the FSIS is NOT prepared to handle. Pro-slaughter advocates are first to say well NOT all horses are given anything bad. WE have to get through to the USDA and FDA, and FSIS this IS a more relevant issue because horses are each from a different location, and for those who bring in more than one from one location, each animal may have been in training, or brood, or pastured, or shown, or even worse treated for illness or injury with bute. So when they attempt to patronize us and whitewash this they are endangering people everywhere. I had someone respond to this and they stated that’s what worried them in their country, he asked if they checked all the meats that were hidden in the beef and they said they sample checked. That is NOT sufficient.


  4. I would ask that attorneys representing the anti-horse slaughter position look at international law implemented through federal agencies including DOI, USDA, EPA, DOS, DOD, the Smithsonian Institute, DOC to see if this decision is coming from a provision in international law that has been implemented since 1993 through federal agencies. The USDA has added international laws to its web site as they influence USDA policy. It is the international agricultural governance group through which at least some of the anti-wild horse, non-native, invasive, alien species status of North American native horses and burros have beem categorized world wide. The USDA site has been cleaned up a bit, but any attorney conducting a law-suit should be able to request what information was on this web site for at least the last six months and then before.

    It is difficult to move through the different COP’s, but it should not be difficult for an attorney. It is possible that the decision to go ahead and slaughter these horses is related to the eradication of a harmful non-indigenous, feral, alien, exotic, pestcan be done. The program to eradicate our wild horses was funded internationally through 2009 when it was dissolved. However, the work of this committee has been distributed through different committees.

    The responsibility of the USDA (APHIS) was to list all non-listed species on the official list of invasive species and to supply the name of an organization or expert with the status to make such a judgment. This was done, but the link to the expert source does not work, and if you can find the source through the back door, the site states right below the link that the listing is for another country, not the U. S. Of course, this disclaimer is absent from the USDA’s pages.

    This is bizarre. But the sources I have found indicate that we have two governments—one we elect and another that has been appointed to implement international law through federal agency policy. The next ten years of international law as well as land management plans for our federal agencies omit any mention of the presence or absence of wild horses.

    The scientist who engineered most of this for the 1992 UN CBD is still in a powerful, influential position within the U. S. scientific community and the eradication of our wild horses and burros is his international baby.


    • But this is not for wild horses specifically. Indeed, the plants named – in New Mexico, Iowa and Missouri will probably slaughter only domestic horses. Besides, the EU regulations prohibit any wild equids except Zebras. Besides, after July 31, the EU isn’t supposed to acceptt any of our horses without a lifetime medical history.


  5. It is possible to delete documents from a hard drive and destroy the hard drive, but it is pretty near impossible to remove documents from the Internet. You can remove them from a server, but the evidence that they were there, when, where, how, who leaves a digital trail.


  6. Would someone please start a FB page on the Food Safety Act so more people can see what this is about and who is supporting and who is not and what people can do???? FB advocates who are not rescuing horses are in need of something important to sink their teeth into. I am not good enough with a computer to do this. It would be a great project for those who have been working on getting this bill passed. It needs constant exposure. It is so important.


  7. Good, go file suit!! We have to keep fighting for the humane treatment of all horses, domestic and wild. I shared on face book.


  8. The crazy here, as many like Hilary at Front Range have said….”EQUINES ARE NOT FOOD ANIMALS!!!!!!!!” Why is this still being debated?????

    And Human Consumption Horse Slaughter (HCHS), is NOT, repeat NOT a disposal service for irresponsible owners and thieves.

    Why is it that the head of the FDA and Secretary Vilsack, USDA can’t collaborate and decide there is an irregularity in each organizations regulations about equines and the drugs they are regularly administered? Wouldn’t that deliberation delay this activity?

    Yes, this is about cruelty to equines, but this is more importantly about our food chain.

    Stoopid just never sleeps.


  9. I am just beside myself today in disbelief that this is going on today in our country. It amazes me how much people just walk around each day in their own little worlds having little to no idea what is happening around them; being pushed and pulled through life by the decisions being made for them each and every day by our ever non-compliant government. We good law-abiding citizens of this country, the majority opposed to horse slaughter, call and call, write, send emails, sign petitions, and form and conduct rallies to strongly get our voices heard and then this? They take our tax dollars and pay themselves with it, conduct atrocities like this, and then vote in more legislation to further benefit their plans and their pockets. I see many ugly situations arise if one of these approved plants attempts to open and operate. This is a volatile and extremely heart-felt situation that will definitely spark more than out-rage. Maybe we can all get involved in suing our government, a citizen’s lawsuit of sorts. I am truly more motivated than ever to get this law to ban horse slaughter passed.


    • Congress WILL almost certainly pass the amendments to defund horse slaughter plant inspections with the Federal Budget. We need to push them to get a move on and pass that Budget! One would think Vilsack could have found a way of waiting for Congress to go through the process since he knows the amendment is on BOTH proposed Budgets from Congress and President Obama’s proposed budget as well. Heck, Vilsack even had it in HIS proposed Budget. I can’t imagine WHAT he’s thinking!


  10. Without USDA inspection money, not enough inspectors now for agricultural/produce and meat inspections. So where is money coming from for additional inspections for horse meat.? This is a legal snafu, because of court case re permits, gov issued the permits but that does not mean the darn kill plant will ever, ever, process one single horse. The heathens might as well start collecting their children, dogs and cats and say, inmates??? to butcher to pay for their construction efforts. Disclaimer: I, of course, would never condone the butchering of children, dogs, cats, inmates. However, there are some horse killers out there…


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