Wild Horses: Slaughter
The dilemma facing policy makers and citizens is what to do when there are too many wild horses. Shrinking wilderness and encroaching urban space reduce habitat for horses. In this section, you'll explore some of the options.
Although most Americans aren't comfortable with the option of slaughter, it is, unfortunately, a realistic part of the wild horse story. For thousands of years, humans have eaten horse meat. Processing wild horses into chicken food in the 1930s reached its peak, when nearly 30 million pounds of horse flesh were canned. In fact, for nearly 30 years, federal policy was the unregulated exploitation of the wild horse herds.
Since 1980, well over 4 million American horses have been slaughtered in the U.S. and Canada and their meat exported to Europe and Japan for human consumption.
Today, an average of over 100,000 American horses are slaughtered annually at U.S. and Canadian plants. It is estimated that more than a third of all slaughter-bound horses in the U.S. were bred for racing*. They are either no longer competitive or just don't make the grade. Other horses that end up in the slaughtering plants include: camp, show, "backyard", rental, Amish, urban carriage horses, PMU mares and foals, unwanted pregnant mares, and barren broodmares.
Most horses sold at auction are bought by "killer buyers" (middlemen for slaughter plants) and go straight to slaughter. Very little horse meat is used in dog food. It's too expensive with some cuts selling for over $20 US per pound.
80,000 North American PMU mares ("Pregnant Mare's Urine") produce urine that is used in the manufacture of the estrogen replacement drug, Premarin. The majority of surviving foals born to these PMU mares are considered by-products and are sold for slaughter.
Slaugter Houses are on the Decline
An increasing number of Americans have become aware of the slaughter industry, and in the 1990s' decade, the number of equine slaughter plants in this country has decreased from fourteen to four.
But there are still an average of over 100,000 American horses being slaughtered here and in Canada annually.
REMAINING EQUINE SLAUGHTER PLANTS IN THE U.S. & CANADA
California Takes Action
In 1998, California became the first state to ban horse slaughter. Californians voted overwhelmingly to pass "Proposition 6", a state initiative to prohibit horse slaughter for human consumption, punishable as a felony.Other states may soon follow Calfornia's historic lead.
State and nationwide polls have shown that the vast majority of Americans are strongly opposed to horse slaughter:
- In 1995, a national call-in TV poll resulted in 93% of callers agreeing that "the killing of horses for meat be banned."
- In 1997, a state-wide poll taken in California revealed that 88% of those questioned were opposed to horse slaughter.
- In 1999, a poll conducted in New York State yielded the following results:
- 91% considered horses companions or recreational or sporting animals.
- 72% would never eat horse meat.
- 73% believed that the manner in which horses are slaughtered is cruel and inhumane.
- 81% personally opposed the practice of horse slaughter.
Due to many factors, statistics show a steady decrease over time in the number of horses slaughtered.
NUMBER OF HORSES SLAUGHTERED BY YEAR
Do you think slaughter and the commercial use of horsemeat is a good solution to the wild horse dilemma?
*11/21/1999 Lincoln Journal Newspaper