Banning Equine Slaughter in the United States

On Feb. 14, Rep. Connie Morella of Maryland sponsored HR 3781, a bill that would make it illegal to slaughter horses for human consumption in the United States and prohibit horses from being transported to another country for slaughter. It also prohibits the transport of horseflesh intended for human consumption. The bill was co-sponsored by Representatives Benjamin Gilman and Maurice Hinchey of New York, Stephen Horn and Tom Lantos of California, Walter Jones Jr. of North Carolina, and Frank Pallone of New Jersey.

Proponents of the bill suggest that this will effectively end slaughter of horses in the United States and prevent slaughtering of U.S. horses in neighboring countries. Opponents of the bill say that this will cause only more suffering for those horses which are unwanted or unusable for physical or behavioral reasons.

In response to a similar resolution (HR 2622) filed July 25, 2001, the American Horse Council put forth a “white paper” outlining the reasons that the horse industry was opposed to such a bill. They summed up their stance by saying that, “The horse industry does not believe that a federal ban on processing horses for food will solve the underlying problem of unwanted horses. In fact, such a ban has a high probability of increasing the potential for abuse for those horses that are no longer wanted for whatever reason…If a horse cannot be transported to an auction because he may go to a processing facility, there is a high probability that he will become a candidate for neglect and suffer a much worse fate than humane euthanasia at a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)-regulated processing facility.

“As with all issues, it is important to keep a proper perspective,” the paper continues. “There are laws and regulations in effect to address welfare concerns regarding horses destined for human consumption. USDA must adopt and strictly enforce these rules, Congress must appropriate funds for their enforcement, and the industry itself must continue to establish, support, and fund alternatives.

“We must recognize that leading equine veterinary and regulatory organizations such as the American Association of Equine Practitioners, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and the USDA have experts who make professional recommendations and enforce regulations, ensuring that horses destined for human consumption are treated humanely and with dignity.

“A federally imposed ban is not in the best interest of the horse’s welfare,” the paper concludes.

It is estimated that in 2000, 73,000 horses were processed at federally regulated slaughter plants in the United States. Other horses were shipped to Canada and Mexico to feedlots and for slaughter. The American Horse Council estimates there are more than 6.9 million horses in the U.S., which means the number slaughtered is about 1% of the population.

We will keep abreast of this situation and report on the progress of the bill.

Find a copy of House Resolution 3781 (HR 3781 in the search) at

Connie Morella

Ben Gilman

Stephen Horn

Maurice Hinchey

Walter Jones

Frank Pallone

Tom Lantos

(For more on slaughter horses, see and

About the Author

Kimberly S. Brown

Kimberly S. Brown was the Publisher/Editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care from June 2008 to March 2010, and she served in various positions at Blood-Horse Publications since 1980.

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