June 18, 2008

A new study focusing on trends in horse slaughter has found that the number of horses killed in North America was determined by a demand for horse meat, primarily in Europe.

Horse meat is an expensive delicacy in many European countries as well as parts of Asia.

The study was recently completed by researchers working with Animal Law Coalition, examining trends in horse slaughter in the US, Mexico, Canada and other countries. The study relied on data available from the US Department of Agriculture, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other government and private sources from 1989-2008.

The findings contradict horse slaughter industry claims that horse slaughter controls the numbers of unwanted horses. Proponents of horse slaughter have insisted that if horse slaughter is banned, there will be large numbers of abandoned, unwanted horses. The study concluded, "Slaughter ... is useless as a tool for controlling the unwanted horse population and instead simply creates a ... market that competes with potential buyers of ...horses and encourages a continuous supply."

"The trends are irrefutable," said John Holland, senior analyst for AAHS (Americans Against Horse Slaughter). "We found that equine abuse levels are clearly linked to economic conditions but that slaughter trends were antithetical to them for most of the study period.

"We now see that what drives horse slaughter is the market for horse meat in Europe and Asia. American horses are killed for their meat and not because they are unwanted or abandoned. The demand for horsemeat creates a market where horse slaughter 'kill buyers' compete with other people who want to buy horses. This encourages owners to supply that market through over-breeding horses, for example."

The study's findings confirmed an earlier Italian study of horse meat consumption from 1995-2001.

"If slaughter of American horses for human food is made illegal, there would be less incentive to over-breed horses," Holland said.

"Those demanding horse meat would simply look to other countries for horses. The study also shows that the market has quickly adjusted to large decreases in slaughter in the past, indicating that there would be no significant or sustained increase in unwanted or abandoned horses."

This is the same study referred to in an earlier release by Animal Law Coalition that showed no increase in incidents of horse abuse and neglect following closure of horse slaughterhouses in the US in 2007. Proponents of horse slaughter had also long claimed that an end to horse slaughter would mean an increase in incidents of equine abuse and neglect.