The number of U.S. horses slaughtered in North America has dropped nearly 40 percent since its peak in 2007—the last year horses were processed in the United States after a federal district court ordered the Department of Agriculture to stop inspecting horse slaughter facilities.
According to the USDA's latest figures, released in March, 88,276 horses were slaughtered in North America during 2009—a decrease of 38 percent from the decade high of 140,911 horses processed in 2007.
From 2001-2009, the mean number of horses slaughtered each year was 97,954. So while this past year's total is below average, the number of horses slaughtered in Mexico and Canada is historically high, making up for the lack of production in the United States.
This divisive issue continues to inspire legislative actions on both sides of debate, which is being played out at the state and federal levels.
The Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act—H.R. 503/S. 727—is still pending in Congress. It would prevent any horse slaughter facility from operating in the United States as well as prohibit the shipment of horses to other countries for processing.
As of mid-April, three states—Idaho, Wyoming, and South Dakota—had adopted bills or resolutions relating to this issue while six other states continued to consider their own pro- or anti-horse-slaughter legislation. Tara Southwell, state policy analyst in the AVMA State Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Department, compiled a list of these measures. They are as follows:
California Joint Resolution 22 would petition Congress to support federal legislation to protect American horses from slaughter for human consumption. This resolution was adopted in the California Senate and is pending in the House.
Florida H.B. 765 and S.B. 1708 would make it a felony to knowingly transport, distribute, sell, purchase, or possess horse meat for human consumption that is not clearly stamped, marked, and described as horse meat for human consumption, or horse meat that is not acquired from a licensed slaughterhouse. These bills are pending in the Florida Senate.
Idaho S.B. 1316 amends existing animal cruelty laws to provide that specified laws should not be construed as interfering with the humane slaughter of equids. This bill has been signed by the governor.
Idaho Joint Resolution 104 would urge Congress to oppose federal legislation that interferes with a state's ability to direct the transport and processing of horses. It would also encourage Congress to discontinue language in the yearly appropriations bill that has effectively ended the processing of horses in the United States. This resolution was adopted in the Idaho Senate and is pending in the House.
Illinois H.B. 4812 would remove the prohibition on horse slaughter and require that horses entering the state for immediate slaughter be accompanied by a consignment direct to slaughter at an approved equine slaughter establishment. This bill is pending in the Illinois House.
Illinois House Resolution 1022 would urge Congress to oppose bills that would criminalize the possession, shipment, transport, purchase, sale, delivery, or receipt of any horse with the intent that it be processed for human consumption. This resolution is pending in the Illinois House.
Illinois House Resolution 1058 would urge all members of Congress to oppose the continuation of horse slaughter in the United States. This resolution is pending in the Illinois House.
Kentucky Concurrent Resolution 47 would urge members of Congress to oppose legislation that interferes with a state's ability to direct the transport or processing of horses and to support horse processing facilities. This resolution is pending in the Kentucky House.
Missouri H.B. 1747 would require the Missouri Department of Agriculture to register and pay for USDA inspections of all establishments that process or sell horse meat for human consumption. This bill has passed the Missouri House and is pending in the Senate.
Oklahoma Concurrent Resolution 1045 would urge Congress to oppose federal legislation that interferes with the ability of a state to direct the transport or processing of horses. This resolution passed the Oklahoma House and is pending in the Senate.
South Dakota Concurrent Resolution 1003 urges Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to reinstate and fully fund the USDA's horse slaughter and processing facilities inspection program and to enact legislation facilitating the resumption of horse processing and slaughter in the United States. This resolution has been adopted by the South Dakota House and Senate.
South Dakota S.B. 151 would provide for a study of the feasibility of establishing an equine processing facility in the state. This bill is pending in the state Senate.
South Dakota Concurrent Resolution 4 opposes the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act and urges Congress to defeat the measure. This resolution has been adopted by the state House and Senate.
Wyoming H.B. 122 provides that livestock and feral livestock, including horses, may be sent to slaughter as an alternative to taking animals to auction. It also provides for the state's livestock board to set up agreements with licensed meat processing plants to process the meat from slaughtered livestock. The meat is to be sold to a state institution or to nonprofit organizations for no more than the board's cost for disposal, processing, and delivery, and to for-profit entities at the market rate of processed meat. This bill has been signed by the governor.