Calls for alternatives to slaughtering horses


Chris Heyde / Animal Welfare Institute / March 22, 2013

is1273668177The Animal Welfare Institute applauds Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for joining the Animal Welfare Institute and the majority of Americans who feel there are better, more humane, more responsible options for horses nearing the end of their lives or their careers than being slaughtered for meat.

Secretary Vilsack, while speaking with reporters earlier this week, called on Congress to come up with other ways for this country to handle aging horses than to slaughter them for meat for human consumption. Secretary Vilsack, a former governor of Iowa, noted that in his home state horses work with inmates in prisons, and that this helps prisoners acquire job skills for when they rejoin society.

AWI has long advocated this kind of alternative to slaughter, along with many others such as therapeutic riding, riding school programs, or even second careers in a variety of equestrian sporting events. These alternatives are a way to provide second careers for horses, while making a valuable contribution to society and the economy. In 2009, AWI screened a documentary called Homestretch on Capitol Hill, highlighting a very successful prison rehabilitation program involving rescued horses.

According to the Indiana Department of Corrections website, their “program helps end needless abuse and slaughter of retired race horses by providing humane, viable rescue programs, including permanent retirement and private adoption for thoroughbreds at the end of their racing careers. Offenders are taught equine skills and not only maintain these animals, but also help retrain them so they are suitable for use in qualified handicapped and other therapeutic riding programs.” This laudable program is not only beneficial to the horses; it is a boon to the prisoners and to society. The recitative rate for prisoners participating in the South Carolina Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s Second Chances program at Wateree River Correctional Institute in South Carolina was dramatically reduced when compared to the rate for prisoners in the general population of the same institution. Those not in the horse retirement program were many times more likely to commit additional crimes and return to prison.

“We commend Secretary Vilsack for his sensible decision,” noted Chris Heyde, deputy director of government and legal affairs for AWI. “USDA has not been attempting to regulate, and thereby sanction, this brutal business for 6 years, and it is important to move forward not backwards.”

An additional factor that weighs heavily in favor of Secretary Vilsack’s call for humane alternatives is the federal government’s growing budgetary crisis. If the Department of Agriculture were to resume inspection of horse slaughter facilities—something it has not done for several years—the department would be forced to divert limited manpower and funding in order to finance the effort because Congress did not provide additional funding when it removed the annual prohibition on inspecting these facilities. The timing could not be worse, given the current congressional emphasis on shrinking, not expanding, government expenditures.

“A recent national survey found that over 80 percent of Americans support a ban on horse slaughter and Secretary Vilsack is right in representing that position,” said Heyde. “AWI urges everyone who supports an end to horse slaughter in favor of more humane and responsible alternatives to write Secretary Vilsack at AWI’s Compassion Index and urge him to work with Congress on passage of the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act.”


AUTHOR: Jerry Finch
  • Sue

    I commend Vilsack for his suggestions.
    Personally, I have rescued two senior horses, and will continue to do so until I can no longer continue to properly take care of them.

    March 23, 2013
  • Dana

    We need to remember that horse slaughterhouses are NOT intended for the purpose of euthanasia/disposal of unwanted, aged, sick horses. They are solely for the slaughter of horses for their meat which in turn sends profits into the hands of the buyers and the slaughterhouses. A horse that is at the end f its life or sick beyond rehabilitation can be put down by an owner or vet at any time as has been done for hundreds of years . As caretakers for these magnificant creatures that is OUR responsibility and should remain as such.

    March 23, 2013
  • Finally, thank you to Sec. Vilsack, this is what needs to be done like you said there are so many alternatives, other than just throwing them away to be tortured!!

    ALL the horses deserve that from us all!!!
    It is our responsiblity to care for our animals other wise you should not have any the owners need to be accountable and BREEDERS….

    March 23, 2013
  • Marcia

    At least one piece of good news. I wish there were local groups who would help with horses who are too sick or too old for adoption and that would help end their lives with humane euthanasia. Nothing much sadder than helpless and unwanted horses and other animals with no rescue or decent end to their lives on this earth.

    March 23, 2013
  • Robynne Catheron

    Ditto, Dana and Debbie. Aside from the overbreeding associations, far too many of the horses are coming from folks who simply don’t want that particular horse anymore, and could care less about its future. Another batch of horse owners that frustrates me are the ones who dump the horse on the local rescue (most of whom cannot turn their back on an unwanted horse), not because they can’t afford euthanasia, but because they would rather spend that money on something more fun. Jerry, to whom
    can people send their valid, reasonable, and practical ideas?

    March 23, 2013
  • Lorrie

    And who would want to eat the meat of “sick/diseased” horses? No one ever mentions all the nurse mare foals estimated at 10,000+ a year born to die/throw away for the Thoroughbred industry because the Jockey Club refuses to allow AI or embryo transplant for TB horses breeding; only live cover is allowed.

    March 23, 2013