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Why the organizations opposing the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act are wrong

March 19, 2008

a paper by Duane L. Burright

Facts from the pro-slaughter brigade are easily disputed, especially when it states slaughter is saving "unwanted horses" from neglect or abuse. The trade is really about supply and demand.

As a horse owner, I have been involved in the fight to end horse slaughter in the United States since 2003. This task should be easy considering that Americans hold the horse in high regard, but believe me when I say this has been one of the biggest challenges I have ever faced. The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (AHSPA) has been pending in Congress for several years now but certain politicians, and groups claiming to know what is best for horses, stand in our way. Those groups are the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) and certain agricultural interests (mainly beef and pork producers); the politicians include Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), former Rep. Charles Stenholm (D-TX), and Senator Larry Craig (R-ID).

But the arguments used by these groups and individuals are not based on fact. Every statement they make is easily disputed.

A woman named Mary Nash once told me that the best way to fight the pro-slaughter side's myths is with facts which can not be disputed. Unfortunately, Mary lost her battle with cancer in July of 2005.

Over the years, I have come to know the following facts about the horse slaughter trade.

  • The horse slaughter trade is really about supply and demand, not saving "unwanted horses" from neglect or abuse.
  • The ban on horse slaughter is not a "vegetarian agenda" to ban the processing of beef, pork, chicken or other meat which is culturally accepted here in the US.
  • In the United States, horses are not regulated as food animals.
  • The horse slaughter industry is neither good for the local or national economy.
  • When confronted with facts the pro-slaughter side either repeats their claims or attempts to deceive the public.
  • The horse is a strong part of American culture.

A few years ago, I read a White Paper commissioned by the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation called "Horse Slaughter: An Unnecessary Evil." The title of that paper pretty much sums it up since horse slaughter is completely unnecessary in the United States.

The Supply and Demand Angle

The favored argument of the AVMA and AQHA is that if horse slaughter is banned horse welfare will suffer in the form of abandoned horses and horse neglect, but they fail to take into consideration USDA statistics which show that their dire claims have not happened in the past. Instead, these statistics show a business driven by supply and demand rather than unwanted horses.

The statistics that I mention come from the USDA;, they show that there was a sharp decline in the number of US horses slaughtered during the 1990s. According to these records there were 345,700 horses slaughtered for export in 1990; 10 years later in 2000 that number was 50,400. During this timeframe the number of horses slaughtered per year dropped by as many as 79,000.

Interestingly, there was no evidence of a rash of "unwanted horses." We did not see newspaper articles telling tales of starving abandoned horses.

Fast forward to now. Since 2002, there has been a steady increase in the number of horses slaughtered in the United States. In 2007, well over 120,000 American horses have been slaughtered for export to Belgium, France and other countries where horse meat is popular. This is due to increased demand, as evidenced by this excerpt from the article "France's horsemeat lovers fear US ban" which appeared in The Guardian on June 15, 2007.


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