Prohibitions on Horse Meat Industry Lead to Cruel Unintended Consequence

While politicians have been unable to reach consensus on the war, civil liberties, and the environment, members were eager to act on a national crisis a few years ago: French people eating American horses. Members passed legislation to ban the slaughter of American horses destined for French tables. However, it now appears that the legislation has merely led to horses being forced into a grueling transports to the Canadian and Mexican borders for slaughter.

Both that state and the federal legislatures have been working on the issue of horse meat for years with laws passed to ban such practices for food. For full disclosure, I have been a critic of the federal effort as violative of federalism principles. For a prior column, click here I personally find the human consumption of horses to be repugnant. However, I do not view this as properly a federal question. Moreover, the legislation inevitably produced an array of unintended consequences when legislators tried to curtail the international market for such meat. While there were exports for human consumption, this meat was being used in the United States for zoo animals. However, the legislative action has led to the closing of the large horse slaughtering plants. This has shifted zoos to beef and other products.

The New York Times reports that the state and federal action has led to the closing of horse slaughter houses in the United States — shifting the business to Mexico where the horses face unregulated and worse conditions.

At the weekly horse auction here, No. 274, a handsome chestnut-colored draft horse, looked at the surrounding men while being led into a small ring. Two of the men looked back, calculating how much meat the animal’s carcass would yield, and started bidding accordingly.

There is no pretense about what happens to the horses sold in this area of the auction, known as the kill pen. Just a few months ago, many of them would have met their end at a slaughterhouse in neighboring Illinois. Now almost all will be shipped to Canada and killed there.

Amid pressure from animal rights groups, horse slaughter virtually ended in the United States last year, as courts upheld state laws banning it in Texas and Illinois, home to the nation’s last three horse slaughterhouses.

But there have been unintended consequences, including more grueling travel for tens of thousands of horses now being sent to slaughter in Canada and Mexico, where, animal advocates say, they sometimes face more gruesome deaths.

Sale and consumption of horse meat is illegal in states like California and Illinois. There were three large slaughter houses or abattoirs in the U.S. which largely supplied the meat to zoos as well as exports for human consumption to Europe, Mexico, or Japan. By 2007, all three abattoirs were closed.

Under the current rules, you can put down a horse and burn it, or you can sell the horse across the border — where it is eventually put down for its meat. The ability to prohibit such transfers was always dubious on a practical level. It merely requires a plausible horse buyer, who can decide later to sell the horse for meat.

For the full story on the recent movement of horses, click here

5 thoughts on “Prohibitions on Horse Meat Industry Lead to Cruel Unintended Consequence”

  1. Lisa,
    I realize that this is an old post, but PLEASE GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT. They are shot in the head once with a bolt gun. They die instantly. In Mexico, their spinal cord is severed at the base of the neck, leaving them paralyzed, but totally aware of what’s going on and still able to feel the pain as they slit their throat. They then hang them upside down till they bleed to death. Now…you tell me what’s more humane…

  2. how dare you!!!??? How can you justify shooting a horse 5 to 6 times in the head hauling it up by one leg ang cutting it up while its still alive as humane!!! This is what happens in a slaughterhouse. Sir let me say to you if you raise horses and still condone this barbarism you have no business owning any horses much aless any animals!!!

  3. Thanks again Mr Turley,
    My wife and I raise Quarter Horses and Arabians, and we live in Illinois, and while we are not happy about the need to slaughter horses, we do understand that there is an inherent need to do something about older, violent, or orphaned i.e. ownerless horses. We have adopted several over the years, but we can’t adopt them all. However, horses are LIVESTOCK, plain and simple. That does not mean that we love them less, or treat them worse. Around here it costs about $15/day to feed and house a horse. Multiply that by the horses that are ownerless, and it is considerable. Cavells in Dekalb, Il did their very best to euthanize those horses humanely, and they did a good job. It was lights on, lights out. No pain, nothing. Most of the carcases went to zoos, not France. It seems some people would foresake one species for another, and that seems wrong, too. We’re not ghouls of death, we are people of common sense, involved in the horse industry for a combined 85 years. All one has to do is look at Kentucky, where people set their horses free because they couldn’t care for them, and now they are roaming and breeding like rabbits. Seems to us that we just made a hard choice worse.

Comments are closed.