How many horses are slaughtered in the US each year?

According to the USDA, the two slaughter plants in Texas killed 49,235 horses in 2003 for human consumption and about twenty thousand horses were transported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter.  Together, these numbers represent about 1% of the total number of horses in the U.S., and the entire industry is only .001% the size of the U.S. meat industry.  It is entirely foreign owned, and pays no corporate taxes or export tariffs.  The horse slaughter industry is economically insignificant.


What types of horses are being slaughtered?  Aren’t these old, sick horses?

According to 2001 field studies conducted by Temple Grandin, 70% of all horses at the slaughter plant were in good, fat, or obese condition; 72% were considered to be “sound” of limb; 84% were of average age; and 96% had no behavioral issues.  Slaughter plants do not want old, sick horses for obvious reasons.


Isn’t the transport of horses to slaughter regulated by the federal government?

Yes, and it is currently legal to transport horses in low clearance double-decker cattle trailers; legal to transport horses more than 24 hours without food, water or rest; and legal to transport horses without separating the stallions from the mares and foals.  Approximately 30% of horses are injured from fighting and transportation.


How are horses killed at the slaughter plant?

According to federal law, horses must be rendered unconscious prior to slaughter, usually by captive bolt.  However, some are improperly stunned, even with repeated blows, and are still conscious when shackled, hoisted by a rear leg, and cut across the throat.  The USDA specifies that 10% live vivisection is acceptable!  With their long necks and aversion to anything approaching their foreheads, many horses require multiple strikes. 


If horses aren’t slaughtered, where will all the unwanted horses go?

The annual number of horses slaughtered in the US dropped from over 300,000 in the 1990s to less than 50,000 in 2003, with no special infrastructure needed to absorb the thousands of “unwanted” horses that were not slaughtered.  Horses are being kept longer, sold to others, humanely euthanized, or donated to retirement and rescue facilities.  The “surplus horse population” is a myth.


Won’t banning horse slaughter mean more cases of horse abuse and neglect?

No.  In fact, both the Hooved Animal Humane Society (HAHS) and the Illinois Department of Agriculture reported that following the burning of the only slaughter plant in the region, abuse cases quit rising and went down between 2002 and 2003.  California banned horse slaughter in 1998, since that time horse theft has dropped 34% and cruelty reports have not increased (Dr. Carolyn Stull).  Texas, which had the only two slaughter plants in 2003, had among the nations highest rates of cruelty and theft.  The conclusion is clear, slaughter causes abuse and theft!