From “The Cattleman”
Texas and Southwest Cattle Raisers Association
October, 2003

Why We Need Horse-Processing Plants
By Susan Wagner  

T he slaughter of horses is such an emotional issue that those in favor of keeping the last two U.S. processing plants open have not gotten much attention. 

But the fact is, there are some good arguments in favor of the plants made by people and organizations that are intimately involved with raising, owning and caring for horses in a responsible and compassionate manner. Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association is working to keep the plants open. Other organizations with policy supporting processing include the American Quarter Horse Association, American Association of Equine Practitioners, and the American Veterinary Medical Association. 

AQHA and AVMA endorse the American Association of Equine Practitioners' policy, which says:

"A small percentage of horses are ultimately unwanted because they are no longer serviceable, are infirm, dangerous, or their owners are no longer able to care for them. 

"The AAEP recognizes that the processing of unwanted horses is currently a necessary aspect of the equine industry, and provides a humane alternative to allowing the horse to continue a life of discomfort and pain, and possible inadequate care or abandonment.

"In addition, the AAEP recognizes that the human consumption of horsemeat is a cultural and personal issue and does not fall within the purview of the association."

The American Horse Council is neutral because it has members on both sides of the issue. But Brooke Robinson, who has served as ANC's director of legislative affairs, says, "A federally-imposed ban is not in the best interests of the horse's welfare. "If a horse cannot be sold at auction because it may go to a processing facility, there is a high probability that it will become a candidate for neglect and suffer a much worse fate than humane euthanasia at a USDA-regulated processing facility." 

Others are concerned that if horse slaughter is banned here, it will simply move across the border to Mexico where there are no federal inspectors monitoring treatment and no TSCRA inspectors looking for stolen horses.  Robinson also points out problems with euthanizing horses and burying them on site. 

"The cost of paying a veterinarian to euthanize a horse and a shipper to transport the horse's carcass to a rendering plant may be too high.... In addition, the disposal of a horse's carcass is an environmental concern. In many areas, state or local laws make it illegal to bury a horse on private property or to dispose of the carcass in a landfill." 

Robinson says there are also broader ramifications.

"If not considered livestock, horses would not be protected by the regulatory framework that currently underpins equine welfare in the United States and the network of federal, state and local authorities that enforce these laws and regulations."

Furthermore, horses would no longer benefit from federal and state monies spent on research for equine disease prevention and assistance to local research and regulatory programs. Such research is dependent upon continued classification as livestock.

Processing plants serve a definite need for a small percentage of horses.
There are 6.9 million horses in the United States. In 2001, 62,000, (0.9
percent) were sent for processing.