Over the past month, the public has been in a frenzy over the European horsemeat scandal that has ensnared some of the biggest names in food production in the world: IKEA, Nestle, Sodexho, Burger King, Taco Bell and Tesco, to name a few. The appalling discovery that horsemeat has been co-mingled and passed off as beef in frozen food products distributed across Europe is bad enough, but when one factors in the human health concerns associated with the toxicity of horsemeat, it becomes obvious why everyone is in a panic.
American horses are not raised for food, and their meat is unsafe for human consumption. They are raised to be companions, sport competitors or work partners. Throughout their lives, horses are given medications and substances that are dangerous for people to consume and prohibited by food monitoring agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USDA). De-wormers, fly treatments and pain-killers full of chemicals that are banned for human consumption are given daily to horses on the track, in the show ring, and on the ranch.
These are the known toxic substances. There are also many drugs regularly used on horses that have never been tested on humans, so there is no way to know the potential hazards associated with ingesting these substances. Currently, there is no agency preventing horses from being picked up at auctions and trucked over the border to be killed, even though it’s known that slaughtering American horses for human consumption abroad poses a major health risk for consumers.
Horse slaughter not only threatens human health--it is a torturous nightmare for horses. There is no demand for this industry, so it remains relatively small and therefore horses are trucked long distances--regardless of whether plants are in the U.S. or across the border. These trips involve slipping, trampling injuries and death. Horses who survive this travel must then suffer at the hands of their butchers. Horse slaughter is inherently cruel and inhumane. Horses' instinctual flight response makes them ill-suited for stunning, so they often endure repeated blows and sometimes remain conscious during their dismemberment. In the past, USDA inspectors have discovered rampant violations and cruelty in domestic horse slaughter plants.
The USDA also found that more than 92 percent of American horses sent to slaughter are in good condition—they are healthy horses who could go on to lead productive lives. Horse slaughter is not a form of euthanasia, and it is a myth that only aging, unwanted or sickly horses are slaughtered.
While no horse slaughterhouses currently operate in the U.S., last year more than 160,000 American horses were trucked over our borders to slaughtering facilities in Mexico and Canada. The few domestic slaughterhouses in operation closed in 2007, when a federal ban on inspections was imposed.
Horse slaughter plants are far from clean/green enterprises. They are an economic and environmental nightmare, polluting local water supplies, lowering property values and filling the air with a foul stench. Five years after the closure of a horse slaughter plant in Kaufman, Texas, the community is still trying to recover from the damage caused by the plant.
What is the USDA doing to stop this terrible problem? Unbelievably, it is moving forward with processing one of the pending applications for a horse slaughter operation in the U.S. Roswell, N.M. should brace itself for a firestorm of public outrage and a tidal wave of horse cruelty should it become ground zero for horse suffering. The resumption of horse slaughter in the U.S. would undoubtedly result in the sale of meat containing life-threatening additives.
In 2012, the ASPCA conducted a poll which revealed that 80 percent of Americans strongly favor a horse slaughter ban. Past congressional actions on horse slaughter have demonstrated a strong, bipartisan desire to prohibit the killing of horses for human consumption, but Congress has failed to permanently end the export of live horses to neighboring countries for slaughter.
To ensure the prevention of harm to horses, consumers and communities, join the ASPCA and other animal welfare advocates in supporting The Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, introduced by Senators Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Representatives Patrick Meehan (R-PA) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). This new legislation will stop the transport of American horses to slaughter elsewhere, as well as prevent it from occurring here in the United States. It’s time for Congress to act!