Humane Society Refutes Horse Abandonment Claims

The Humane Society of the United States released a statement on March 16 stating that recent claims that thousands of horses have been abandoned in Kentucky are unfounded, and is calling it a campaign of fear mongering by a foreign-owned horse slaughter industry that is on its last legs in the United States. The Society stated proponents of horse slaughter frequently alarm the public about wanton abandonment to raise false and baseless concerns about a proposed ban on horse slaughter for human consumption.

At the annual meeting of the Kentucky Animal Care and Control Association March 16, the organization's president, Dan Evans, surveyed the membership about the situation. None reported an increase in abandoned horse reports or sightings.

"The notion that Kentucky is overrun with unwanted horses is absurd," said Pam Rogers, Kentucky State Program Coordinator for The Humane Society of the United States, who was at the meeting. "We are a state of horse lovers, and we want to protect our horses from being butchered and exported to foreign countries where horse meat is considered a delicacy. These claims made by the horse slaughter industry's lobbyists have no basis. This is just plain rumor mongering."

The reports surfaced after a federal appeals court decision closed down two horse slaughter plants in Texas. Equine welfare experts report that the horses bound for the Texas slaughter plants are now being shipped to a plant in Mexico to be killed. The only horse slaughter plant still operating in the United States--in DeKalb, Illinois--is importing horses from Canada for slaughter, underscoring the point that there is no surplus of horses available in the United States, the Society said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that 92.3% of American horses going to slaughter are healthy and in good shape--not starving or neglected animals.

The majority of Americans and members of Congress oppose slaughtering horses for human consumption. A bill in Congress--led by Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), Rep. John Spratt (D-S.C.), and Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.V.) in the House, and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) in the Senate--would protect American horses from this brutal industry. The House voted five times in favor of stopping horse slaughter in the last Congress, and the Senate voted to do the same by a two-thirds majority, but time ran out before the final authorizing bill could be enacted.

According to the Society, claims that a ban will lead to the starvation and abandonment of thousands are inaccurate. Horse slaughter was banned in California in 1998, and no corresponding rise in starvation and abandonment cases has been seen. Starving or abandoning horses is animal cruelty and subject to criminal prosecution under state cruelty laws.

The Society said cases of horse theft in California dropped by 34% because there was no longer an incentive to steal horses for the foreign meat trade.

Many horse owners facing difficult times reject selling their animals to slaughter. Instead, they can sell or adopt them, donate them to a rescue group, or have them humanely euthanatized by a licensed veterinarian.

Note to readers: The Horse has contacted officials in Eastern Kentucky and verified the presence of abandoned horses in strip mines there, as reported in an article by The Associated Press on March 14 ( The Horse is continuing to follow this story.

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