Veterinarians believe horse owners have a responsibility to provide humane care for their horses throughout their horses’ lives. Unfortunately, some horses may become unwanted because they are no longer serviceable, become infirm or dangerous, or their owners are no longer able to care for them. Retirement facilities and adoption groups offer options for some of these unwanted horses, which may be placed in new homes and/or retrained for new “careers.” However, there will always be horses for which new homes or retraining are not available. Responsible options for these unwanted horses include euthanasia followed by appropriate disposal of the carcass to minimize risks to public and environmental health associated with drug residues, or humane slaughter.
Consumption of horsemeat by humans is a cultural and personal choice; the veterinarian’s primary focus is on the health and welfare of the horse throughout its life. That said, our veterinary associations believe the humane slaughter of horses is preferable to a life in discomfort and pain, inadequate care, or abandonment.
Horses destined for slaughter should be handled and transported to the processing facility in a humane manner. Use of local slaughter facilities is preferred to avoid welfare risks (e.g., physical and mental stress, injury) associated with long-distance travel. Horses should be humanely slaughtered consistent with the requirements of the country in which the horses are being processed.