Americans may recoil at the thought of eating horse meat, but other countries feel quite differently, as the sign above this butcher shop in Paris attests. Photo: Jacques Brinon/AP
Americans may recoil at the thought of eating horse meat, but other countries feel quite differently, as the sign above this butcher shop in Paris attests. Photo: Jacques Brinon/AP

Post by Allison Aubrey, The Salt at NPR Food (1/17/14)

When a federal ban on slaughtering horses to produce horse meat was lifted several years back, ranchers including Rick De Los Santos, a New Mexico rancher and owner of Valley Meat Co., stepped up to start operations with an aim to export the meat.

But, as we’ve reported, his plans for a horse meat slaughterhouse have hit major roadblocks. There have been lawsuits to stop him and others trying to get into the business. And plenty of stories about the ick factor evoked by the image of butchering a beautiful thoroughbred.

Now, given a bit of language written into the omnibus spending bill that was approved by the Senate on Thursday night, it’s seeming more certain that there will be no horse slaughtering on U.S. soil in the foreseeable future. The House already approved the spending measure, which now heads to President Obama for his signature.

The provision bans the funding of U.S. Department of Agriculture inspections at horse slaughter plants. And without inspections, slaughterhouses can’t be in business. Game over.

“Americans do not want to see scarce tax dollars used to oversee an inhumane, disreputable horse slaughter industry,” Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society argues in a press release. He has been lobbying for a ban on funding for horse slaughter inspections.

“We don’t have dog and cat slaughter plants in the U.S. catering to small markets overseas, and we shouldn’t have horse slaughter operations for that purpose, either,” Pacelle writes.

For retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), it’s a win he helped usher through.

“These incredible companion animals don’t deserve to be callously slaughtered for human consumption,” his office wrote in an email to The Salt. “We fought hard for the past three years to reinstate this ban to prevent slaughter facilities from reopening on American soil.”

The flip side of the argument is that horse slaughter is a practical way to handle the problem of abandoned horses. Horses can be very expensive to maintain, and when owners can’t afford them, it’s not unheard of for them to be sent to factories in Mexico and Canada.

That’s the argument put forth by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), who tried but failed to strike the ban on funding inspections from the spending bill.

“Without these facilities, aging horses are often neglected or forced to endure cruel conditions as they are transported to processing facilities across the border,” Inhofe wrote in a release. “This provision is counterproductive to what animal rights activists are hoping to achieve.”

And Inhofe is not giving up yet.

Before Thursday night’s Senate vote, Inhofe said he and Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OKla.) plan to introduce separate legislation that would lift the ban on funding for horse slaughterhouse inspections.

Copyright 2014 NPR.

Congress Blocks Slaughtering Horses For Meat In U.S. 17 January,2014NPR Food

  • Haggie

    What are we? Chopped liver?

    The Cows

  • bojimbo26

    You can slaughter cows and calves but not horses .

  • Debra Likes-Schroer

    Conventional meat supply in jeopardy due to accommodate horse slaughter inspection. In order to accommodate a foreign horse meat market that is becoming increasingly unpopular in Europe due to the unsafe aspects of the corrupt and toxic horse meat industry, Congressman Aderholt held a private conference with three other congress members, Pryor, Blunt and Farr to discuss whether or not to remove language from the Budget bill HR 2410 that forbids tax dollars being allocated to inspect horse meat. Twenty million plus dollars has been pulled from the conventional meat inspection program and we have all seen the deadly effects this has caused to our children and families. Please contact your congress member and remind him of the hundreds of meat recalls, the 1000’s of deaths and sickened citizens that have already resulted from these budget cutbacks to our conventional meat supply. USDA inspectors are at an all time low and our conventional meat supply drastically threatened.

  • Lauren Alyson

    Horse meat is generally toxic – as a horse person for almost 15 years I know personally that horses are given painkillers such as bute for lameness or other issues. Racehorses are also injected with other drugs during their racing careers and sometimes are sent straight to slaughter without enough time for these drugs to pass through their systems before they are processed. The FDA also determined that horses are not livestock like cattle – they are companion animals. In addition, the physiology and bodily structure of horses is entirely different than cattle. For instance, the way horses were slaughtered here in the US until 2006 and they way they are still slaughtered in Canada and Mexico oftentimes does not render the horse unconscious before it is bled out alive because the process is designed to work for cattle (though in many cases cows also suffer because the lines are forced to move far faster than they were actually designed to move.) Regardless of the actual barbaric process of slaughtering, the meat from American horses is generally toxic for humans. It is not the same as slaughtering cattle as those animals are not treated with painkillers or other drugs (usually) in their lifetimes. Also, many horse slaughter plants are owned by foreign entities and their profits have managed to circumvent the American tax system in the past. One Belgian-owned plant paid $5 in taxes here while it made millions in profit. (I’m on my phone or I would have provided the specific facts.) Usually conservatives condemn this sort of thing. And I’m no “liberal” in case anyone wants to go there. Taxpayers DO NOT want to pay for the inspections at these plants and they do not want these plants to exist in their communities. The plants are a danger to public health and they do not create American jobs. (By danger to public health I mean that if any waste water from the plant came in contact with the surrounding ground water for drinking it would be toxic for humans.) A plant in Texas destroyed tourism to a small town and created horrid living conditions for the people in that community (the Kauffman Letter from Mayor Kauffman at the time). Europe is in uproar due to finding toxic horse meat in their food chain. If horse slaughter begins again here in the US I would be very concerned that this meat might be mixed with or passed off as beef in the US. Further, prior to contrary belief, there is not an unwanted horse problem in the US. There is a surplus created by excessive breeding of Quarter horses and Thoroughbreds, with the bottom-line of the breeding industry being slaughter so rejects from these areas of the horse world can be made into meat for profit. The slaughter industry does not want skinny, sick or otherwise unhealthy animals – those animals are not profitable. They want fat, happy animals that have meat on their bones. These animals suffer on trips across the US for slaughter just as they do when they are shipped across our borders. This is only a win-win for the slaughter companies – it is not a worthy enterprise for any American. All in all, the information on the horse slaughter process in the media is not truthful. The farming/ranching industry wants horse slaughter to exist so that wild horses do not interfere with the cattle industry and the grazing of cattle on public Western (US) lands as well. Nothing good will come from this industry. It is pointless, barbaric and only a few people will profit. If you are actually going to support it you might want to get your facts straight.


    Lauren Alyson

    Purdue University senior, future attorney, former journalist and former equestrian

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor