Nearly 20 years ago, Congress first considered banning horse slaughter.
Since then, the last horse slaughter plant in the United States was shuttered in 2007, and Congress has declined, year after year, to fund horsemeat inspector positions, effectively barring new plants from opening.
Still, the slaughter of American horses continues.
Kill buyers haul semi-trailers of terrified horses to slaughterhouses to Mexico and Canada, where they have been documented having their throats cut while fully conscious. More than 90 percent of these exported horses are in “good” condition, according to a USDA study.
Even the slaughter pipeline is slowing, however. Since reaching a horrific, 20-year high of 166,572, the number of horses exported for slaughter has steadily dropped. In 2020, 37,249 horses were exported for slaughter.
For the more than 80 percent of Americans that oppose their slaughter, even one horse is too many.
Horses are sentient beings that have played a critical role in U.S. history and American culture. We have asked so much of them, and they have given so much in return. They remain our companions and partners in competition, work, and recreation, and those that roam our public lands remain a symbol of freedom known throughout the world. Slaughtering them is akin to killing bald eagles.
Horsemeat also remains a threat to human health. Because American horses are not raised to be eaten, they frequently are given any of dozens of medications banned for human consumption by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and by the European Union.
No regulations require the sharing of information about substances previously ingested by a horse up for auction. There, horses are often bought on the cheap by kill buyers with the intent of sending them to slaughter.
After almost two decades, an end may at last be in sight.
During the last Congress, anti-horse slaughter legislation amassed 237 House and 22 Senate cosponsors. Though the legislation wasn’t voted on in either chamber, momentum is clearly building.
In Joseph R. Biden, the White House is now occupied by a president who cosponsored anti-slaughter legislation while in the Senate.
Ending the horrific slaughter of American horses has bipartisan support. It has no real opposition. And the bloody business of sending horses to inhumane deaths across our borders is itself dying.
It’s time for Congress to end it by banning horse slaughter at home and closing the slaughter pipeline for wild and domestic horses and burros, for good.
Cory Golden serves as advocacy and communications coordinator for Return to Freedom Wild Horse Conservation, a national nonprofit advocacy organization that operates the American Wild Horse Sanctuary in Lompoc.