Paulick Report | 04.22.2013 | 4:31pm

Horses in pens at a horse slaughter auction
Horses in pens at a horse slaughter auction

As part of its efforts to protect American horses from inhumane treatment of slaughter plants, a council of reputable and influential horse breeders from around the U.S. has announced its support for the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, H.R. 1094/S. 541. The Responsible Horse Breeders Council, formed by The Humane Society of the United States earlier this year, urges Congress to pass the bipartisan legislation, which would prevent the introduction of horse slaughter operations in the U.S., end the current export of American horses for slaughter abroad, and protect the public from consuming toxic horsemeat.

Horses suffer greatly throughout the slaughter process, from long-distance transportation in trucks designed for cattle and pigs, to inhumane stunning and slaughter methods. Furthermore, horses are gathered for slaughter from random sources, and there is currently no system in the U.S. to track medications and veterinary treatments given to horses to ensure that their meat is safe for human consumption.

Staci Hancock, a council member whose farm raised Kentucky Derby winners Gato del Sol (1982), Sunday Silence (1989) and Fusaichi Pegasus (2000), said: “My fellow council members and I care deeply about the horses we breed. We want to ensure that they are treated humanely throughout their lives, and slaughtering them is far from humane. The council urges Congress to pass the SAFE Act in order to protect our horses from a brutal, unintended end, and to protect consumers from health threats posed by the consumption of these horses.”

Keith Dane, director of equine protection for The HSUS, said: “Responsible horse breeders recognize that passage of the SAFE Act would make great strides toward improving the treatment of American horses by preventing them from being snatched up by a predatory horse slaughter industry. These dedicated horse breeders are an integral part of the horse industry, and we hope that Congress responds in kind to the chorus of support for this legislation.”

The council’s first action after being formed in January was to encourage other horse breeders to sign the Responsible Breeders Pledge, to help protect horses from neglect, starvation and slaughter by reducing the number of surplus horses in the United States and agreeing to serve as a safety net and take back or assist with any horse they have bred who becomes homeless or is at risk for slaughter This month, the number of breeders who have signed the pledge reached more than 1,000.


  • The SAFE Act was introduced in March by U.S. Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Reps. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.
  • The methods used to kill horses rarely result in quick, painless deaths, as horses often endure repeated stuns or blows and sometimes remain conscious during their slaughter and dismemberment. These equines suffer incredible abuse even before they arrive at the slaughterhouse, often transported for more than 24 hours at a time without food, water or rest, in dangerously overcrowded trailers where the animals are often seriously injured or even killed in transit.
  • The USDA reports that approximately 92 percent of American horses going to slaughter are healthy and would otherwise be able to go on to lead productive lives.
  • Horses are raised for use in show, sport, work and recreation in the U.S. and are regularly administered drugs that are expressly prohibited by current federal regulations for use in animals intended for human consumption. For example, a common pain reliever routinely administered to all types of horses, Phenylbutazone, is known to cause potentially fatal human diseases. There is no known safe level for consumption of these drug residues in horse meat.
  • Horse breeders can join the initiative here or email Horse owners can also use this list to search for their horse’s breeder in the event that they need assistance in continuing to humanely care for their horse.