For immediate release
LOMPOC, CALIFORNIA — A total of 19,989 American horses were shipped to slaughter plants in Mexico or Canada in 2022, according to government statistics.
While this represents a 14.7% decrease from the previous year, the foreign slaughter pipeline continues to be a shameful open secret with only an unscrupulous few profiting from its cruelty.
Return to Freedom Wild Horse Conservation, a national nonprofit advocacy organization, strongly urges Congress to finally pass a permanent ban on horse slaughter in the United States and on the export of American horses for purposes of slaughter.
“More than 90 percent of American horses shipped to slaughter were in good condition before suffering grueling journeys to foreign slaughterhouses, according to one government study,” said Neda DeMayo, president of Return to Freedom (RTF). “It is long past time for Congress to close the legal loophole that results in the needless deaths of so many of America’s horses.
“This is an inexcusable betrayal of the bond Americans share with the descendants of the horses that helped build our country and shape our culture.”
During the last Congress, a proposed horse slaughter ban received the backing of 225 bipartisan House cosponsors before special interests stymied its progress.
From filthy holding pens to the killing floor, the road to horse slaughter is anything but humane. Horses and other equines are transported long distances in overcrowded trailers without food or water. They endure terror and pain. In foreign slaughterhouses, horses have been documented having their throats cut before being hung upside down while half-conscious as their blood drains out.
Congress should also act now because:
— More than 80 percent of voters consistently oppose horse slaughter in polls – opposition that holds strong regardless of political affiliation.
— Advocates have succeeded in keeping horse slaughter plants closed within the United States closed since 2007 with the help of Congress. Lawmakers have consistently supported language in annual Agriculture Appropriations bills blocking horse slaughter; however, this de facto ban does nothing to protect thousands of American horses from being shipped over our borders to foreign slaughterhouses.
— The number of American horses exported for slaughter peaked at 166,572 in 2012. That number has since plummeted because of broader public knowledge of the issue, increased attention to equine aftercare and retirement, and a growing number of quality rescues and sanctuaries.
— A horse slaughter ban is supported not only by RTF and the nation’s largest animal welfare organizations but by horse industry organizations like The Jockey Club, the Breeders’ Cup, Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association and the New York Racing Association.
— A horse slaughter ban would protect human health. Most horses shipped to slaughter are domestic horses that receive dozens of veterinary medications deemed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to be unsafe for human consumption.
— And of particular importance to many Americans: the thousands of horses shipped to slaughter annually include an unknown number of wild horses and burros that once freely roamed our public lands.
Wild horses and burros have been protected by federal law since 1971, and Congress has repeatedly barred the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service from killing captured healthy wild horses and burros or selling them to slaughter. Yet wild horses and burros lose those protections and are no longer tracked by those agencies after they are sold or adopted out.
In recent years, the BLM has paid out $1,000 per horse to increase adoptions. That program has resulted in documented cases of wild horses and burros being held until title is passed before they are sold at auctions where kill buyers are waiting.
RTF encourages the public to contact their members of Congress to urge them to pass a federal ban on horse slaughter and the export of any horse for slaughter.
“Continuing to allow American horses to be sold to slaughter sends a message that their lives are disposable,” DeMayo said. “Horse slaughter leaves open the door to the worst in us. It gives an easy out to irresponsible people who poorly manage, overbreed, neglect, starve and abuse horses.”
Return to Freedom Wild Horse Conservation (RTF) is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to wild horse preservation through sanctuary, education, conservation, and advocacy since 1998. It also operates the American Wild Horse Sanctuary at three California locations, caring for more than 450 wild horses and burros. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates about wild horses and burros on the range and at our sanctuary.