Horse Export Numbers Bring Focus Back to Federal Slaughter Ban

A Sept. 30 article and photographs in the Houston Chronicle examining horse slaughter procedures in Mexico has shifted the attention of animal welfare groups back to a federal ban on exporting horses for the purpose of slaughter. The article came in the wake of the Sept. 21 closure of Cavel International of DeKalb, Ill., the last U.S. horse slaughter facility.

According to the USDA Market News Oct. 4 report, 31,086 horses declared as animals intended for slaughter have been exported to Mexico so far this year. At this point last year the total was 6,391.

In an Oct. 4 press released entitled "Cruel Deaths in Mexico a Result of Closing U.S. Horse Processing Plants," the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reiterated its stance on horse slaughter and the ongoing efforts to cease it.

"Efforts by groups calling for an end to horse slaughter, such as the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), have led to the closure of the three remaining processing plants in the United States," the statement read. "Now, as the AVMA has repeatedly warned, horses are being abandoned in the United States or transported to Mexico where, without U.S. federal oversight and veterinary supervision, they are slaughtered inhumanely."

Mark Lutschaunig, VMD, director of the AVMA Governmental Relations Division, said that the AVMA does not support slaughter, but opposes bills banning slaughter because there are no provisions to take care of the more than 100,000 unwanted U.S. horses each year that are currently earmarked for slaughter

"Ideally, we would have the infrastructure in this country to adequately feed and care for all horses," Lutschaunig said in the statement. "But the sad reality is that we have a number of horses that, for whatever reason, are unwanted. Transporting them under USDA supervision to USDA-regulated facilities where they are humanely euthanized is a much better option than neglect, starvation, or an inhumane death in Mexico."

The HSUS also released a statement Oct. 4, entitled "Sen. Landrieu, Reps. Schakowsky and Whitfield Join HSUS to Renew Call for Passage of American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act," following a press conference at which video of the process used in Mexico was played. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), and Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), chief sponsors of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (S.311/H.R. 503), were on hand to speak about the legislation, which would ban the export of U.S. horses for slaughter elsewhere and would prohibit the resumption of the domestic horse slaughter industry.

"The recent Seventh Circuit court ruling upholding Illinois' ban on horse slaughter is a very positive step," said Sen. Landrieu in the HSUS statement. "But it is not enough--we must ensure that horse slaughter is prohibited in every state in America. Now America's horses are being beaten and dragged across the border into Mexico and Canada so that they can be inhumanely slaughtered for food. I will continue to fight in Congress to end this brutal practice and ensure that American horses will no longer be savagely slaughtered for human consumption."

About the Author

Erin Ryder

Erin Ryder is a former news editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care. She owns a portly gray gelding named Duncan and dabbles in several equestrian disciplines, with an emphasis on dressage.

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