Animal Welfare Groups Plan Suit in Response to USDA Decision to Support the Slaughter of Horses for Human Consumption


91(June 28, 2013)— The U.S. Department of Agriculture has given the green light for the grisly practice of horse slaughter to resume on U.S. soil. The agency approved an application for horse slaughter inspections under federal law at a plant in New Mexico. This news comes on the heels of the U.S. House and Senate appropriations committees’ votes to halt all funding for horse slaughter in FY 2014. The decision means that the federal government could potentially spend millions of taxpayer dollars to start up inspections at horse slaughter plants, only to have Congress terminate the process in the coming months.

image002In response to the USDA’s decision, The Humane Society of the United States and Front Range Equine Rescue plan to file suit immediately against the USDA to put a stop to this agency decision. The two groups previously informed USDA that they would take aggressive legal action against the agency, in light of the serious unresolved environmental and food safety issues surrounding horse slaughter.

Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation at The HSUS, said: “The USDA’s decision to start up domestic horse slaughter, while at the same time asking Congress to defund it, is bizarre and unwarranted. Slaughter plants have a history of polluting their communities and producing horsemeat that is tainted with a dangerous cocktail of banned drugs. We intend to hold the Obama administration accountable in federal court for this inhumane, wasteful and illegal decision.”

Hilary Wood, president of Front Range Equine Rescue, said: “America’s horses are not raised as food animals, and they receive numerous substances during their lives making them unfit and illegal for human consumption. Adding insult to injury, the suffering of the horses in the slaughter pipeline and the danger to humans makes this action more than inhumane. Horses bound for slaughter have many alternatives open to them including re-training, re-homing, and humane euthanasia. We remain committed to stopping this insult to justice and our sense of justice.”

The USDA’s approval is particularly surprising, considering the recent scandal in the European Union, where horsemeat was discovered in food products labeled as beef.  The operation of horse slaughter plants in the U.S. will make it more difficult to prevent the commingling between horsemeat and beef products that occurred in Europe.

Horses are raised as pets and for use in show, sport, work and recreation in the U.S. and are regularly administered drugs that are expressly prohibited by current federal regulations for use in animals intended for human consumption. For example, a common pain reliever routinely administered to all types of horses, Phenylbutazone, is known to cause potentially fatal human diseases, and if the animal has taken the drug, the meat is adulterated and should not be eaten. There is also no system in the U.S. to track medications and veterinary treatments given to horses to ensure that their meat is safe.

Any facility slaughtering thousands of horses will necessarily be processing the blood, organs and remains of animals whose tissues and blood may contain significant amounts of dangerous substances, which are either known to be dangerous, or which have never been tested on humans and therefore present completely unknown dangers. At least six applications for horse slaughter inspections have been filed with the USDA.


  • This month, the U.S. House and Senate Appropriations committees voted to block funding for inspections of horse slaughter plants. President Obama’s proposed FY 2014 budget also included a request for Congress to prevent tax dollars from supporting horse slaughter.
  • The HSUS and FRER also filed petitions with USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to declare horsemeat unfit for human consumption. USDA denied that petition.
  • According to a national poll conducted last year, 80 percent of Americans disapprove of horse slaughter.
  • “Kill buyers” gather up horses from random sources and profit by selling healthy horses for slaughter that bring the best price per pound for their meat. USDA reports show that approximately 92 percent of American horses going to slaughter are healthy and would otherwise be able to go on to lead productive lives.
  • The methods used to kill horses rarely result in quick, painless deaths, as horses often endure repeated blows to render them unconscious and sometimes remain conscious during the slaughtering process. When horse slaughter plants previously operated in the U.S., the USDA documented severe injuries to horses in the slaughter pipeline, including broken bones and eyeballs hanging from a thread of skin.
  • The Safeguard American Food Exports Act, H.R. 1094 / S. 541, introduced this year by U.S. Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Reps. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., is a bipartisan measure that would outlaw horse slaughter operations in the U.S., end the current export of American horses for slaughter abroad, and protect the public from consuming toxic horsemeat.


  • Media Contacts:

HSUS – Stephanie Twining, 240-751-3943,

FRER – Hilary Wood, 719-481-1490,


Habitat for Horses is a 501.c.3 nonprofit equine protection organization supported solely by donations. As of today, June 28, 2013, we have 170 donkeys and horses under our care, plus one ornery, old mule. Most of them are here because law enforcement removed them from their previous owner. Our ability to rehabilitate and rehome them comes from the financial support of people like you. Please support us by making a donation for the horses we all serve. Click HERE to donate

AUTHOR: Jerry Finch
  • Judy Wendt

    Please help fund these nonprofit organizations to be able to file this suit to PREVENT the 3 horse slaughter plants (New Mexico, Missouri, Iowa)from being able to open as soon as July 1st.

    Both the accusations that the previous violations of the Federal Clean Water Act by Valley Meat will continue, and proving that the horse meat is toxic will not stop the plants from opening because evidence will need to be collected for court. However, that these houses of horror are extreme cruelty and violate state and federal animal cruelty laws can be filed as an injunction.

    Please go to: and/or the HSUS website! Hopefully some of the other rescues and big animal organizations (ASPCA, Doris Day) will also pitch in with their hundreds of thousands of donors.

    June 28, 2013
  • Hannah Dalton

    Judy is absolutely right! We need to donate to these marvelous organizations who are stepping up and doing the bidding for the horses. Secretary of AG had every opportunity to deny the Roswell permit- convicted felon who lied on his application, yet he caved. We must stop these house of horrors. These sentient and beautiful creatures deserve so much better. A sad day indeed but the war is just beginning.

    June 28, 2013
  • Nancy Albin

    This is truly a very sad day to know that our leaders are capable of such an evil action. But, what really gets to me. Is that my eyes are seeing that who had control over all has weakened so much that the Judges have lost to the DMV & now our President has lost to organizations like BLM etc… Im numb but sick. What do we tell our children?

    June 28, 2013
  • Nancy Albin

    sorry i know im writing shit but i …. am not making sense right now because i have herds of horses all around me & they all just had babies little innocent babies that all i know is they are next & i cant do anything to help them or protect them from what is in there future & their eyes are so full of curiousity & life & i know what is gonna happen to all of them I see it everyday I don’t know how I can hide them from these monsters & i can’t live with myself if i become like everybody else & just go on with my happy lil life with my happy lil job , kids, husband etc… knowing this is happening almost on my property! riddle me this “How” do we live with this?

    June 28, 2013
  • alittlesunshine

    State and county lawmakers and law enforcement need to be pressured to enact laws banning horse slaughter. If the states won’t step up to the plate, then go after each county that tries to open up a plant. Feds and the slimebags who use them to get their way need to be stopped by more localized powers who DO have the power to intervene, don’t be fooled. Remember this incident between Sheriff DeMeo of Nye County and the BLM?

    Missouri and Iowa are also trying to get plants opened up, so there are 3 states and 3 counties to focus on.

    June 29, 2013
  • Nancy B

    This deeply emotional rollar coaster ride is nauseating, heart breaking, sickening. Sometimes I just want off this ride! Just wanna shut it all out, shut it all off… the computer, the news, the emails, the stories, pictures, videos, good news, bad news, worse news, the back and forth, the ups and the deep, dark and spiraling downs. I just wanna shut it all off, have a stiff drink, a long smoke, an old rerun of Little House or The Waltons. Just forget about it… for a little while.

    Out in my barn I hug the horses; my Rose and Beau and Red and Buster Brown. My companions for many years. They are each so unique. Each so special, smart and even funny, especially Beau. They are beautiful! They are loved and cared for and about. And they are no different than the ones in the photos, on the feed lots, in the trucks. The pictures of the horses going through the slaughter pipeline look like the ones I share my life with here at home. And I know they are each so special and unique and deserving of peace in their hearts and in their lifes, just like my own are. And I feel their fear, these horses betrayed, their pain, confusion as they wonder whats going on and why are they here? What have they done? Where are their people? The ones they served, the ones they trusted.

    Sometimes it’s overwhelming and feels helpless, hopeless. But even when I do try to turn it all off, it’s still in my head, on my mind. The horses. They can’t turn it off. They can’t make it stop, not even for a little while. They have no say on what happens to them or their futures. They are at the mercy of whomever happens to “own” them. (What a foolish notion, that such a magnificent creation should be “owned” by a mere, mortal human).

    Though I sometimes become overwhelmed by sadness and circumstance for the plight of horses, I am continually nourished and encouraged to not give up by all of you. The others who can also hear them and know them. Those who fight for them and speak for them. Those who write and keep us informed. Those who rescue and save and mend and feed the broken ones that can be reached, recovered, rescued and saved. And thank you Jerry as you are, and do, all of these things and more.

    Sometimes I almost forget there are more of us then them. So I will pray. I will read and I will share, and I will sign and call and write. I will not ever stop caring, I will never give up. A wise woman once told me to pick your battles carefully in life. The horses are worth the battle… every time.

    June 29, 2013
  • Ronnie

    Those wanting to open horse slaughter plants are ALWAYS low-lifes. I am vehemently against horse slaughter. But just the thought that my tax $$$ could be used to benefit a known scum, De Los Santos, causes rage. My tax $ so he can benefit from his already known, extremely inhumane, slaughter of animals! So he can continue to flagrantly foul the earth & water with waste. And being allowed to open for only a few months until the 2014 Appropriations USDA defunding takes place @ 10/13!?! For sure, Santos will be shoving horses down the chute to kill box real fast. Conscious slaughtering, 100’s per day, so he can get the max profit until needing to close.

    June 30, 2013