Last year slaughtering horses for food became illegal in the United States. Slaughterhouses in Texas and Illinois—the only ones active in the United States—shut down, and appeals to state and federal courts have failed. Those are the facts. And the facts are about all anyone can agree on in this polarizing issue.
While the idea of horses being slaughtered and shipped overseas for food seems repugnant to many veterinarians, most equine doctors see the ban as a tragedy. It means that old, sick, and unwanted horses are being abandoned in fields and left to die. Or they're being dropped off at rescue organizations that can't afford to take care of them. The result: More horses are alive, but more horses are suffering.
Do you support the U.S. ban on the slaughter of horses for food?
Small animal practitioners are ambivalent (see the data at left and on the following pages). Some are disturbed by the idea of these companion animals being turned into food for foreign markets. And now that unwanted horses are being shipped across the border to Mexico for slaughter, they want that banned too. Small animal veterinarians who responded to our survey wonder why this country would think it's OK to slaughter horses for food when we balk at the idea of eating cats and dogs. It just doesn't make sense to them. What's more, a majority of small animal veterinarians support the ban despite the AVMA's strong opposition to it. Following are the statistics and some of the comments from supporters and opponents of the ban. They may give you insight into those on the other side of the divide.
I support the ban
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"It's barbaric to use horses as food."
"I support the measure as long as the horses can't be exported to Mexico for slaughter, which adds the stress of transport."
"These animals should be placed in rescue facilities to live out their normal life spans."
I oppose the ban
"All the ban has done is flood the market with low-dollar horses that no one is taking care of."
"The ban is a classic example of emotion over logic. The AVMA and AAEP's support of legitimate horse slaughter was portrayed as cruel."
"Clients who can't afford either treatment or euthanasia no longer have the option of U.S.-regulated transport to U.S. slaughterhouses via auction. Now the horses are abandoned."
Source: 2008 Veterinary Economics Business Issues Study