The number of equines in the US is approximately 10 million, which includes all domestic breeds, mustangs and wild burros. The number of equines sent to slaughter in 2015 was 126,000. This represents a little over 1 percent of the total population. Between 2014 and 2015, there was a 34% decrease in horses shipped from the US to Mexico due to the EU ban on horsemeat from Mexican slaughterhouses. Important to note that the equine not being shipped to Mexico were not redirected to Canada, as the number of equine being shipped north is also declining.
The power the slaughter industry has can be derived from overbreeding by the 2 largest breed registries which are the Quarter Horse Association and the Jockey Club. In 2015, 62,000 foals were registered by the Quarter Horse Association and 22,000 foals by the Thoroughbred Association. The total number of Quarter Horses in the US is approximately 2,415,000 while the Thoroughbred population is approximately 1 million. By far, the majority of horses going to slaughter are Quarter Horses with 75 percent being the standard number. Most of those going to slaughter are between 5 and 10 years old and in good health. Overbreeding is a substantial cause for so many equines going to slaughter.
Cattlemen and other livestock producers are also staunch supporters of horse slaughter. They have lobbyists as well as former Congresspeople and Senators working hard for them. The argument used is the “slippery slope”; if we end horse slaughter then other livestock slaughter is at risk.
Stemming the flow of equines going to slaughter has proven to be difficult as it is an economy sustained by overbreeding. The first bills to make their way through Congress concentrated on the transportation of equines for slaughter and the cruelty and neglect associated with said transportation. Neither the House bill nor the Senate bill made it out of committee. In 2014, the Safeguard America’s Food Exports (SAFE) Act was introduced as a measure to end the flow of America’s equine and their tainted meat to foreign slaughterhouses.
There are over 300 drugs that can be given to equines that state “not for animals intended for food” due to the toxicity to humans. Yet, over 100,000 of America’s equines, filled with toxic medications, are sent to Mexico and Canada for slaughter and eventually for human consumption.
There are numerous resources online, and groups whose life’s work is data collection and investigation, all in an effort to end horse slaughter. Dominion Equine Welfare finds the following links to be the most accurate when it comes to statistics, historical information, education and calls to action.
Animals Angels: http://www.animalsangels.org/
Equine Welfare Alliance: http://www.equinewelfarealliance.org/
Kaufmann Zoning (Mary Nash’s website): http://www.kaufmanzoning.net/
Animal Welfare Institute: https://awionline.org/content/horse-slaughter