The slaughter of horses is a controversial subject for many around the world. Horses are seen as intelligent animals, hard workers, and show the ability to form relationships with their handlers. Horse meat is also seen as a nutritious animal protein that is under-utilized in today’s global society.
92% of the horses that are sent to slaughter are in good condition and have the ability to live a productive life.
It has been shown that bans on horse slaughter actually decrease the homelessness of the horse population. Abuse and neglect statistics are also reduced when a ban is in place. When California banned horse slaughter in 1998, the theft of horses decreased by over 30%
Three Fast Facts About Horse Slaughter
1. It costs about $225 to handle a horse that is unwanted, either through sale, donation, or euthanasia of a sick animal. Disposal of the carcass, however, can run over $2,000.
2. Over 900k horses die every year and are safely removed from the population line, with more room available.
3. Over 99% of horse owners already use some form of euthanasia for their old or ill horses.
Takeaway: Whether for or against horse slaughter, the issues of this industry are the same as other animal industries where slaughter takes place. They seem to be amplified here, however, for several reasons. The intelligence of the animal, for example, drives stronger opposition to their slaughter. Because of their size and the rates of horse meat, more thievery takes place with these animals and that creates further issues. The problem is this: to slaughter a horse in a way that preserves the meat, it is often seen as cruelty. Even though humane methods of slaughter do exist, it is still a difficult process to watch.
Are There Options for Unwanted Horses?
1. 69% of horse rescue operations are either at or near their capacity.
2. 38% of the horses that are brought to a horse rescue operation are turned away.
3. The average cost to care for one horse per year is $2,300.
4. Over 144,000 horses were sent to slaughterhouses in Mexico or Canada from the United States in 2013.
5. Since 1989, the amount of horses taken to slaughter in the United States has decreased by 50%.
6. Horse abandonment in Colorado increased 60% in just 4 years.
7. The US horse slaughter industry generated over $65 million per year before it was banned in 2006.
Takeaway: The simple costs of an unwanted horse are sometimes too much for someone to handle. Considering the average horse owner earns less than $75k per year, it is understandable how a $2,000 rendering cost could be problematic. What isn’t being discussed, however, is the responsible ownership of a horse. If a horse is going to be owned and cared for until death, this fee must be budgeted as part of the responsibility. Claiming a lack of income as an excuse to abandon a horse is just as bad as the slaughterhouses that force horses up by a chain. Cruelty is cruelty.
Why Is Horse Meat Popular?
1. Horse meat has a similar amount of calories as other animal protein, although it generally has lower fat content and less cholesterol.
2. Horse meat has more than double the iron content than many other animal proteins, especially beef.
3. There is also more than double the amount of Vitamin B12 in horse meat than in beef.
4. Horse meat has a comparable level of Omega-3 fatty acids as foods that are recommended for consumption because of them, such as salmon.
5. There is 28 grams of protein, on average, per every 100 grams of ground horse meat.
6. Sodium nitrite is often used in horse meat to help preserve it for shipping.
7. Processed horse meat is often substituted for other meat products because it is a cheaper additive than other forms of animal protein.
Takeaway: Horse meat, when it is properly slaughtered from a horse that has been able to feed from the pasture and have high quality nutritious food supplements, is a high quality animal protein. The problem, however, is that a majority of horses don’t get these kinds of opportunities. Kill owners often purchase horses that are in good condition at auction for low prices and then sell the animal meat for profit. This creates a situation where the animal may be starved for several days, especially in the US, as transport to Mexico or Canada must occur. This degrades the quality of the animal, which in turn degrades the quality of the meat. Preservatives must be added, which can then negatively affect human health. The facts clearly show that the modern slaughter industry in North America is a viciously negative cycle for everyone involved.
1. $156 million in horse meat was exported from the United States in 1990.
2. Canada is currently considering legislation that would require medical records for all horses that would be entering the human food chain.
3. Horses receive many drugs for their health that are detrimental to the health of humans if consumed, most notably phenylbutazone and clenbuterol.
4. Most horses that are slaughtered for food in Canada are owned by their kill owners for less than 24 hours before paperwork is presented to the slaughter house or food inspector.
Takeaway: Setting aside the moral objections to eating horse meat, the issue tends to be the manner in which horses are slaughtered in combination with their actual care. It is cost-prohibitive for an owner to send their horse to slaughter, yet it isn’t feasible for a kill owner to have a full representation of medical paperwork in less than 24 hours of ownership. Right or wrong, there has to be a better way to handle this situation than what is currently being considered. With restrictions easing in the United States and legislation trying to shore up some of the issues in Canada, Mexico must also work on reforms or the horse slaughter industry will simply move a majority of the work down there.