Claim:   Legislation passed by the U.S. government allows horses to be slaughtered for food in that country.


Examples:   [Collected via e-mail, November 2011]

Did President Obama really legalize the sale of horsemeat for human consumption? Can people really kill horses and eat them?


Origins:   Although the practice of consuming horsemeat was once fairly widespread in the U.S., it has been rather uncommon since the mid-1940s. In recent years the sale and consumption of horsemeat has not technically been prohibited in the U.S., but in 2006 (after efforts to ban horse slaughter outright failed) Congress passed a measure that cut off funding for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspections of horses and horse slaughterhouses, thereby effectively ending the

production of horsemeat (for domestic or foreign consumption) in the U.S. — meat that cannot be inspected cannot be sold.

The last three horse slaughterhouses in the U.S., in Illinois and Texas, were shut down by state laws in 2007. However, efforts by individual states and Congress to stop the slaughter of U.S. horses for food didn’t necessarily end the practice entirely, as in recent years well over 100,000 horses have been hauled off from the U.S. to slaughter plants in Canada and Mexico annually.

A huge spending bill passed by Congress and signed by President Obama in November 2011 was stripped of an amendment to continue the ban on funding inspections, thereby opening the way for horse slaughtering plants to begin reopening in the U.S. However, the issue is still somewhat up in the air, as the spending bill allowed for the funding of USDA inspections of horse slaughterhouses but didn’t allocate any additional money to the agency for that purpose:

[The spending bill] did not, however, allocate any new money to pay for horse meat inspections, which opponents claim could cost taxpayers $3 million to $5 million a year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture would have to find the money in its existing budget, which is expected to see more cuts this year as Congress and the White House aim to trim federal spending.

The USDA issued a statement saying there are no slaughterhouses in the U.S. that butcher horses for human consumption now, but if one were to open, it would conduct inspections to make sure federal laws were being followed. USDA spokesman Neil Gaffney declined to answer questions beyond what was in the statement.

Proponents of the measure maintained that since the U.S. has an excess horse population which is being taken off for slaughter in other countries, it would be better if that activity took place here in the U.S. where it could be monitored by the USDA:

Rep. Tom Cole, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said he voted against [Rep. Jim] Moran’s amendment to continue the ban.

Cole said numerous horse owners in his district are “pretty unanimous that they want the means to deal with an excess population.”

He said opponents of domestic horse slaughter “are letting their hearts overrule their heads.”

Rep. Jack Kingston was one of the members of a House-Senate committee who

worked to strip out the amendment.

“We wanted to allow horse slaughter again in America because of an unanticipated problem with horse neglect and abandonment,” he said.

“The number of horses exported for slaughter really just offset whatever Jim Moran thought he was going to save from slaughter,” Kingston said.

He said horse slaughter has never really stopped but simply moved to Canadian and Mexican plants.

“But we can’t monitor horse slaughter in a plant in Mexico or Canada. And so we don’t know if it’s being done humanely or not because the USDA obviously doesn’t have any jurisdiction there,” Kingston said.

“Along the way, these horses are having a rough transit. USDA does not have the jurisdiction over how the animals are treated along the way,” he said.

In March 2013, Oklahoma legalized the slaughter of horses for meat exports (a practice which had banned in that state since 1963), but processing plants there are still awaiting authorization by the federal government to begin operations.

Last updated:   1 April 2013


    Colberg, Sonya.   “Horse Slaughter Plants in the Very Early Stages of Planning, Proponent Says.”

    The Oklahoman.   27 November 2011.

    Jonsson, Patrik.   “Way Cleared For Horse Slaughter to Resume in US After 5-Year Ban.”

    The Christian Science Monitor.   29 November 2011.

    Juozapavicius, Justin.   “Horses Could Soon Be Slaughtered for Meat in US.”

    Associated Press.   30 November 2011.

    Parker, Sheila.   “Horse Slaughterhouses Could Soon Reopen In The U.S.”

    WSAV-TV [Savannah, GA].   30 November 2011.

    Spain, William.   “U.S. Ban on Horse Slaughter Lifted.”

    Market Pulse.   28 November 2011.

    Reuters.   “Oklahoma to Allow Horses to Be Slaughtered for Meat.”

    29 March 2013.