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Horse slaughter is the practice of slaughtering horses for meat. These animals come from auctions, private sellers, and from wild herds. Sometimes these horses are sick and injured but they can also be for sale by their owners. Most are brought to the slaughterhouses by contract buyers who collect horses from all across the country, also known as kill buyers. Horses that are killed for reasons other than human consumption go to the knackers' yard.

Many people do not agree with the slaughter of horses, perceiving horses as companion animals like cats and dogs, or deserving special status like sacred cows in Hinduism. Many horsemen do not consider horses to be meat, but rather athletes.

In most countries where horses are slaughtered for food, they are processed in a similar fashion to cattle, i.e., in large-scale factory slaughterhouses (abattoirs). The animals are rendered unconscious by being shot in the brain with a metal rod, using a captive bolt stunner - pneumatically or cartridge driven. They are then killed by being exsanguinated ("bled out") by severing the jugular vein or carotid artery while suspended by the rear leg by a heavy chain shackle. Horse slaughter is similar to beef slaughter except for the fact that the overhead rail that the dressed horse carcasses ride on during process is two foot higher than a feedlot beef dressing line to suit the varying sizes of the carcasses. These are then butchered, that is, cut into smaller pieces for easier handling. The residue may be rendered to make the fats usable.

Sale and consumption of horse meat is illegal in California, and Illinois is considering a similar measure. Horse meat supplied by three abattoirs in the U.S. was sold to zoos to feed their carnivores, and was exported to Europe, Mexico, or Japan for human consumption. In 2007 two horse meat abattoirs in Texas were ordered closed. Later that year, an abattoir in Illinois, reported to be the last horse meat abattoir in the U.S., was closed.

There is an effort in the United States to create a law, the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, designed to stop the slaughter of horses for human consumption. On September 8, 2006, the House of Representatives passed a bill which, had it also passed the Senate and been signed by the President, would have made killing horses for human consumption an illegal practice in the United States.

Most people in the US are not aware that horses are slaughtered there for human consumption in other countries. According to some of these polls, in New York, 64% of people polled believed that slaughtering horses for meat was illegal, while in Indiana, 91% believe that horse slaughter should be banned. In Texas 89% of voters are unaware that horse slaughter goes on in their own state.

Prior to 2007, three major equine slaughterhouses operated in the United States: Dallas Crown, Inc. in Kaufman, Texas; Beltex Corporation in Fort Worth, Texas; and Cavel International, Inc. in DeKalb, Illinois. All with Belgian ownership, although Multimeat NW has also been listed as French and Dutch owned. Velda NV owns Cavel, Multimeat NV owns Beltex and Chevideco owns Dallas Crown.

The slaughterhouses exported approximately 42 million dollars worth of horse meat per year. Since the human consumption of horse meat is generally considered unacceptable by the majority of the United States populace and is illegal in several states, most of the horses slaughtered for this purpose in the United States were exported to other countries, such as France, Belgium and Japan, where the meat is considered a delicacy. As prominently stated on their website, Dallas Crown “provides Carnivore Diet for zoos and wildlife centers across the United States”.

The Department of Transportation have officers at the enforcement points to ensure proper transportation of the horses, but has no jurisdiction beyond transportation matters. Horses that are severely lame or disabled are not accepted at the plants. Haulers are supposed to be fined for horses that arrive with any sign of abuse. Horses are transported in trailers that are straight, gooseneck or double-decked meant for cows and pigs, making it impossible for the average sized horse to stand properly. A 1998 survey commissioned by the USDA/APHIS to determine where welfare problems occur during horse transport to slaughter found severe welfare problems in 7.7% of the transported horses, with a majority from conditions caused by owner neglect or abuse rather than transportation. There are US Department of Agriculture (USDA) laws governing the transportation of horses to processing plants.

Two bills, H.R. 503 in the House and S. 1915 in the Senate, were introduced last session to prevent the slaughter of horses for human consumption in the United States. H.R. 503 was passed in the House on September 7, 2006. The bill was anonymously blocked from a vote in the Senate, so both bills died at the end of the session. H.R. 503 and S. 311 were introduced January 17, 2007. The text of the bill reads:

A bill to amend the Horse Protection Act to prohibit the shipping, transporting, moving, delivering, receiving, possessing, purchasing, selling, or donation of horses and other equines to be slaughtered for human consumption, and for other purposes.

A separate bill ensures that none of America's wild mustangs are sent to slaughter.

On February 22, 2007, Rep. Robert Molaro introduced a bill, HB1711, to the Illinois General Assembly to prohibit the transportation of horses into the State for the sole purpose of slaughter for human consumption.

On March 28, 2007, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that it was illegal for horse slaughterhouses to pay the USDA for their own health inspections. The next day USDA pulled their inspectors from Cavel, effectively ending slaughter of horses for human consumption in the United States.

Judicial Ruling in the United States-

On January 19, 2007, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans overturned a lower court's 2006 ruling on a 1949 Texas law that banned horse slaughter for the purpose of selling the meat for
food on grounds that the Texas law was invalid because it had been repealed by another statute and was pre-empted by federal law. However, a panel of three judges on the 5th Circuit disagreed, saying the law still stood and was still enforceable. On March 6, 2007, without comment or dissent, the 19 judges of United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit rejected a petition by three foreign-owned slaughter plants seeking full court review of a three-judge panel's January 19, 2007 decision.

In June of 2007, a federal judge refused a request from the nation's last operating horse slaughterhouse, located in Illinois, to remain open. As of July of 2007, a legal dispute over an Illinois state ban on killing horses for food remains unresolved .

The last remaining horse slaughter plant in the country was effectively shut down Sept. 21 when a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled an Illinois law banning horse slaughter for human consumption is constitutional.

The ruling comes four months after Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed the law, overwhelmingly passed by the Illinois State Senate earlier this year.

Belgian-owned Cavel International immediately filed a federal lawsuit contesting the ban. While the lawsuit was pending, the slaughter plant was allowed to operate, killing hundreds of horses a week.

Cavel has the option to appeal to the United States Supreme Court, but it is likely that the justices will refuse to hear the case, as they did earlier this year when two Texas slaughter facilities appealed their respective closures.

As of September 2007, bills introduced in the U.S. Congress (H.R.503 and S.311), known informally as the "American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act", are being considered by congressional committees. The description of these bills is "To amend the Horse Protection Act to prohibit the shipping, transporting, moving, delivering, receiving, possessing, purchasing, selling, or donation of horses and other equines to be slaughtered for human consumption, and for other purposes." These bills can be viewed and their status tracked via a Library of Congress to follow Legislation in Current Congress.

Controversy in the United States -

There are 200 organizations that oppose the proposed ban on horse slaughter. Included in this group are the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), the largest breed association in the world; the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP); the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA);[16]; and numerous animal agriculture groups. Included in the animal agriculture groups are organizations representing the interests of traditional food animal industries, such as cattle, sheep, and pork, who are concerned that banning any animal for slaughter will lead to endangering their industries.

An argument is that abuse would multiply if the horses were not slaughtered. However, according to a report from UC Davis, there was no increase in cases of horse abuse in California when horse slaughter was banned. Another argument is that banning horse slaughter in the US will result in that the horses instead have to endure a long trip to either Canada or Mexico to be slaughtered.

There are over 500 organizations such as the Society for Animal Protective Legislation and Sterling Silver Farm Equine Rescue that support the abolition of horse slaughter. The Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing industry strongly opposes horse slaughter. Other equine organizations in favor of the slaughter ban are the National Show Horse Registry, National Steeplechase Association, Inc., Palomino Horse Association, Int., and United States Eventing Association. Many equine adoption and rescue groups such as the Animal Miracle Foundation, also oppose slaughter for human consumption.


Info source - Wikipedia.com

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